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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Anglo American partners with Wits University to transform the Johannesburg Planetarium into a world-class digital hub for public benefit

Anglo American and the University of the Witwatersrand (“Wits”) today launched a partnership to refurbish, expand, and digitalise the 62-year-old Johannesburg Planetarium into a modern, multidisciplinary research, training, and science education hub. The refurbishment of the historical Johannesburg Planetarium into the new Wits Anglo American Digital Dome will support efforts towards digitalisation and the regeneration of the City of Johannesburg as a smart city.

Designed by leading Artificial Intelligence (AI) researchers, scientists, digital artists and quantum computing engineers, the Digital Dome will enable university students and the broader public to learn and be exposed to the wonders of applied science, including:

  • Enabling researchers to map multi-layered biodiversity data, as well as sensitivity to human activity, such as climate change;
  • Providing access to the public to explore the universe with telescopes (like the Square Kilometre Array) with seamless comparison to state-of-the-art simulations of the evolution of galaxies, stars, and black holes; and
  • Inspire new ways of visualising and presenting complex datasets.

Education and training are integral to Anglo American’s Sustainable Mining Plan, which commits the company to a holistic range of ambitious goals that are shaping how our stakeholders experience our business. These include how we can best create Thriving Communities by focusing on better health, education, and employment opportunities. Moreover, Anglo American is a forerunner in developing and applying technology and digitalisation through its FutureSmartTM Mining Programme to improve sustainability outcomes.

Duncan Wanblad, Chief Executive of Anglo American, said: “For a very long time now, supporting equitable access to education has been a priority for us as a business. As one of Africa’s leading Universities, Wits continues to play a vital role in providing access to education, not only to its students but the broader South African public too. The new Wits Anglo American Digital Dome will be a truly world-class and accessible centre that will inspire generations to take an active interest in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and the digital arts. I am also delighted that this project tangibly builds on our legacy in Johannesburg by contributing towards the City’s aspirations to become a Smart African City.”

Together, Wits and Anglo American have invested R75 million to fund the first two stages of the three-stage project that will open to the public in 2024. The project will support the City of Johannesburg’s urban regeneration by preserving the building that will house the Digital Dome – which is the iconic green roof seen by thousands of motorists daily along Johannesburg’s major freeway, the M1 South.

Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice Chancellor of Wits University and Fellow of the Royal Society (UK), said: “For many researchers across various fields, data is becoming more complex and multi-dimensional. A hub like the new Wits Anglo American Digital Dome will home in on a more intuitive and immersive understanding of big data – allowing students, researchers, and the public to visualise data in real time. Anglo American’s support and partnership for this endeavour is a testament to the company’s enduring commitment to building a better Johannesburg and country, with education at the heart of it all.”

Further information about Anglo American’s longstanding support for education and training programmes across the length and breadth of South Africa:

  • Wits and Anglo American share a unique history and relationship – from 1896 when the university offered services to De Beers through the then South African School of Mines in Kimberley. Since then, both organisations have played a role in helping transform South African mining through education, training, and advocacy.
  • In 1974, Anglo American committed to establishing a tertiary education institution specialising in technical subjects in Kwa Zulu Natal – now known as the Mangosuthu University of Technology of South Africa. In partnership with the traditional Prime Minister of the AmaZulu Nation, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The objective of this undertaking was to increase black mechanical, civil and construction, electrical and chemical engineering technicians at a time when the country’s education policy did not allow for such.
  • At the start of the millennium, and working with the Alexandra Education Committee, Anglo American provided support and funding to academically talented children from the impoverished township of Alexandra in Johannesburg, giving them the opportunity to complete their secondary schooling at well-resourced, functional schools in other suburbs.
  • Recognising the importance of diversifying STEM-related fields, Anglo American partnered with Stellenbosch University in 2001 to support the SciMathUS Post-Matric Programme. This programme aimed to address the historical challenge of too few black people entering tertiary education for training in natural and applied natural sciences.
  • In partnership with Rhodes University and NGOs that support early-childhood development, Anglo American partnered to develop a Parent Support Programme to educate and empower parents across South Africa to effectively support the education and healthy development of their young children (aged 0 to 5 years).
  • Historically, Anglo American has supported select research projects led by leading South African and global researchers. One of these is Professor David Block, who was elected as Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of London at the remarkable age of 19. He later went on to lead the Anglo American Cosmic Dust Laboratory at Wits University.
  • In June 2022, Anglo American extended its extensive and ambitious education programme in South Africa. By 2027, the company will have invested more than R1 billion in improving educational outcomes in South Africa, with the ultimate target for schools in its host communities to perform within the top 20% of state schools nationally by 2030 – per the ambitions of our Sustainable Mining Plan. This includes supporting its beneficiary schools with access to ICT and technology infrastructure to enhance equity of education through digitization and prepare learners to participate in the digital economy.

More details of Anglo American’s Sustainable Mining Plan are available here.

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