New director, Letisha van den Berg, is living her dream as she takes the helm of ASPASA (Association of Aggregate and Sand Producers) bringing a positive new dynamic to this well-established and respected organisation.
Letisha recalls a conversation several years ago when she startled Collin Ramukhubathi, who had been interviewing her for a position at Afrimat, revealing that her ambition was to head up ASPASA one day. As an up-and-coming multi-skilled manager that was evidently not the answer her soon-to-be colleague and mentor had expected.
Now, having fulfilled most of her ambitions in various roles, including various managerial safety roles within some of the smallest and medium mines locally, she could not turn down the opportunity to apply when her name was put forward as a possible candidate by her peers.
Since her first interaction with the then newly-established association in 1998, Lerisha has attended hundreds of meetings and workshops along the way and become known for her in-depth knowledge of everything surface mining as well as no-nonsense approach to issues that affect the industry.
Those who have misjudged her petite stature and friendly smile when dealing with controversial topics or challenges to the sustainability of the industry have done so at their own peril. Letisha is a fighter when necessary but is otherwise known as a keen strategist, hard worker, industrious leader and a fair and uncomplicated character.
These traits will surely be displayed when she takes on the new role and gets to grips with all the opportunities and threats the industry is facing and will face in years to come.
“I plan to build from the strong base that was laid before me. We will assess where we stand in terms of our members and how we can add more value and broaden our appeal to the surface mining market including smaller role players.
“Having started my career on a small mine I understand the challenges and how difficult it is to reach compliance with limited resources and being measured according to the same legislation and processes. We need to find the small non-ASPASA members and get them onboard. Cost is also a factor for these mines, so we will relook at the levy model in order to make it more affordable at all levels.
“Lobbying on behalf of the industry and ensuring we always compete on a level playing field still remains a priority. We will intensify our efforts in dealing with issues like illegal mining, technicalities regarding the payment of royalties and other matters. Importantly, we want to ensure that legislation is written specifically for our mines rather than the current one-size-fits-all approach as this has a direct impact on members’ abilities to comply.
“To do this ASPASA will work closely with state, tripartite structures nationally and regionally to make our voice heard. I also plan to work more closely with related industry bodies such as the Institute of Quarrying, Minerals Council, construction industry bodies and others.
“Once we have reviewed our services and communications we will also look at regions including the tripartite forum of the Mine Health and Safety Council. There will be more collaboration with members including roadshows and visits – I like getting my boots dirty,” Letisha smiles.
“Developing SMME’s and up-and-coming youngsters will also be a focus. Plans are already being developed to package compliance and quality documents that will assist SMME’s to meet requirements. Simultaneously, the development of the next generation of surface miners is being planned with learnerships already being investigated and planned for the near future.”
Letisha continues that there are many challenges that still need to be met and many opportunities that need to be made available to ASPASA members. The safety of women in mining, one-size-fits-all mine legislation and the tough economy spring to mind, as well as opportunities that exist in working with government and industry to unlock upcoming construction contracts.
“I am bringing in a lot of energy and want to incorporate the expertise of every generation into our organisation to share information and build knowledge for the future. With the interaction of all role-players in the association, we will grow from strength-to-strength,” she concludes.