In a sea of charcoal grey and navy suits at the 2019 Mining Indaba, Gwede Mantashe’s socks provided a welcome burst of red, as he took his seat on stage. Asked later about the significance of the attire, the mineral resources minister simply said: “it’s trending”. (Statement socks certainly are in vogue, and trendy trade unionists who have also opted for red ones have been known to make a splash on Twitter.) Another well-known name eager not to miss another fad was Anglo American. The mining giant gifted delegates with stainless-steel straws, so that they could enjoy liquid refreshment without the guilt of adding to the global plastic pollution problem. Of course, statement socks and reusable straws are all part of a rapidly changing world — one in which the age-old mineral resources sector has to transform if it is to survive. If there was a theme for the first day of the Indaba, the largest mining conference in the world which kicked off in Cape Town on Monday, this was it. The fo...

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