The conclusion of the Mining Innovation and Research Battlefield 2024 at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town has revealed Grace Akinyi, Founder of Women in Mining Kenya, as the deserving winner. The competition, organised by the Development Partner Institute (DPI) and Investing in African Mining Indaba, provided a platform for innovators to present solutions to challenges in the mining sector.
Akinyi’s winning pitch focused on empowering women in Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) by introducing biodegradable cellulose gloves as a straightforward yet impactful solution to mercury contamination. The Battlefield centred around the theme of identifying responsible collaborations between large-scale, small-scale, and artisanal mining and their application to the just energy transition.
Five finalists, selected from global submissions, presented their concepts at Mining Indaba, the world’s largest African Mining Investment event, receiving recognition and exposure among industry experts. Judges, comprising experts from across the mining sector, acknowledged the strength of all presented concepts and their potential positive impact on the landscape of the just energy transition.
Akinyi’s winning innovation involves producing biodegradable gloves from bacterial cellulose derived from coconut waste. The gloves provide a sustainable solution to the issue of mercury in ASM gold mining, offering a safe and eco-friendly method for processing gold in communities. She received a USD$25,000 research grant, sponsored by BHP Xplor, to further develop and refine the design and production of the biodegradable gloves over the next 12 months.
The event not only aimed at solving industry challenges but also focused on empowering young innovators for the future. Even for non-winners, the process provided valuable experience, industry connections, and increased visibility, contributing to the development of future industry leaders.
In her role as the Battlefield Master of Ceremonies, Sheila Khama, DPI non-executive Director and mining industry expert, highlighted the significance of innovation in the context of decarbonisation, mining, and the transition to clean energy. She expressed excitement about bringing together young innovators from Africa and beyond to contribute to shaping the future of the planet.
Florence Drummond, Executive Director of DPI, emphasised the multifaceted purpose of the Battlefield – not only to mine untapped solutions for industry challenges but also to empower and strengthen young leaders, industry professionals, and academia for the future of the mining industry.