Embracing legal management technology will help create a better future for African mining companies – and their lawyers – by protecting their biggest asset, ensuring compliance, and unlocking new opportunities, say mining and tech experts Robert Botha and Teresa le Roux.
“A couple of years ago there was some hype about legal project management, which I still think is extremely relevant, but it has not been included as, in my mind it should be, into your broader project plan, your PMBOK plan,” explained Botha, who held senior positions at top mining companies and law firms before establishing Integrated Mining Solutions (INMISO) Consulting. “I don’t think enough is being done. There’s a gap that we need to fill.”
While Botha and Le Roux say in-house legal teams may use a variety of technology to assist their work (eg: life cycle management, invoice auditing systems, filtering, external counsel appointment monitoring), there’s a key gap in relation to managing the mining projects.
“I think where the struggle comes in between in-house legal department technology and your strategic or high-level board, is that lawyers are hesitant to use legal technology,” commented Botha. “Their work is to do the legal stuff, so once you introduce legal tech, for them it can become a burden if they do not realise the value or are sometimes very unwilling to learn.”
This is a change management issue that needs to happen, say Botha and Le Roux, while acknowledging that some of the current legal and compliance tech may be too complicated and time-consuming to use. “Lawyers don’t want to spend two hours inputting stuff into a system, where they could have spent two hours drafting an agreement or speaking to outside firms.”
Meanwhile, other parts of the mining business may be using technology, but working independently and not integrating information, making keeping on top of compliance difficult, and potentially putting their biggest asset – their mineral rights – at grave risk.
“We still find a lot of the mining divisions working in silos – the person managing health and safety, the person managing land management, or mineral rights,” noted Le Roux. “We try to get tech there that gets people to see what is actually going on, there on the ground, so that anybody who opens the app can immediately see where their compliance requirements are and can relate back to other divisions working within the same piece of land or same space.”
With its expert mining consultants, INMISO offers cutting edge, streamlined and cost-efficient solutions, including developing a technology tool for mineral rights management that can be used globally and can be tailored to specific markets and mines, such as South Africa.
“This technology sets out a roadmap for you to follow,” explained Le Roux. “Once you’ve been through the decision tree at the end of it you will know if you are compliant or the steps you need to take to become compliant. We try to take the guesswork out of it.”
Africa is a unique continent of unique countries, said Botha, and it’s vital anyone mining there understands the culture and how Africa operates in order to tailor legal technology to fit.
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