MTE Exhibitions got their 2021 campaign underway in the Emalahleni Coalfields of Mpumalanga on Wednesday 21 April 2021. This was the first time the team had ventured outside their office building since December last year.

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After being grounded due to Covid-19 for most of 2020, the mobile outfit took to the road in November and early December last year to do what they do best: serve the South African mining industry and its suppliers. Amid rising Covid-19 infections and in keeping within government regulations, the flexible and agile MTE managed to pull a couple of rabbits out the hat when they hosted consecutive events first at Steelpoort, the centre of the Eastern Limb of the Platinum Belt, in November 2020, and again at Ngodwana, close to Nelspruit early in December 2020.

But then the second wave of Covid-19 put a brake on MTE’s plans for 2021, as government enforced strict measures and limited the amount of people allowed at events and gatherings. Ironically, Covid-19 restrictions has counted in MTE’s favour and has given the company a distinct advantage when it comes to hosting events and exhibitions.

While mega exhibitions and events around the world have been postponed or cancelled for at least the next year or two, MTE has been able to regroup and still deliver their personalised high impact shows within traditional mining hotspots in South Africa – and they will be able to do so for the rest of the year, even if further restrictions hamper economic activities.

The nature of the MTE concept does not lend itself to massive crowds and what has been coined ‘super spreader’ events. Space is limited, and instead, the company focuses on getting the most accurate information about what products are needed by mines, and in turn informing their clients and suppliers about what those mining companies really require. It is a bespoke, personalised offering, and it speaks to the mining industry’s wants and needs. At the same time, Covid-19 restrictions is not a challenge for MTE. Being an outside event, it is easy to maintain social distance, and with constant monitoring and sanitisation stations everywhere, MTE follows all pandemic control protocols.

Wednesday 21 April was thus a big day for MTE, for the coal miners of Emalahleni, Middelburg and Ogies, and for suppliers and service providers. Last year was a slog for most, and it dragged on into 2021. Although there has been a bit of respite in terms of Covid-19 restrictions in South Africa, the coal miners were still struggling to get their tonnes on rolling stock and into Richards Bay for export.

MTE Emalahleni (Witbank) 2021 pictures. Photos by MTE

MTE Emalahleni (Witbank) 2021 pictures. Photos by MTE

However, with the early autumn highveld sun pounding down on the orange and yellow MTE tents on Wednesday, all the decision makers and managers attending the event, could be forgiven for just one day, for putting all their worries on ice and just enjoying a typical South African event – as it used to be in the days before Covid-19. With the smell of ‘boeries’ on the braai and the crack of one or two other essentials in the background, a number of general managers and mine managers could decide on how new technology can make their operation more efficient, or how they could deploy drones, for example, to manage their ever-growing stockpiles.

Laboratory suppliers and mechanical engineering suppliers are essential in the colliery-rich region of Mpumalanga and these exhibitors had a once-in a lifetime opportunity to meet face-to-face with engineering managers and coal managers from Eskom, all made possible by Andrew Macnamara and his MTE team.

The Covid-19 freeze has resulted in a bubbling enthusiasm for business to meet face-to-face, and the visitor numbers at MTE’s first show of the year are proof of this. Although there was a limit on boots through the gate due to the pandemic, the Witbank mining fraternity came through in larger numbers than in 2019. They were in a jovial mood, and most of all both visitors and exhibitors made the most of the four hours of interaction.

The South African business community is starved of these types of events. MTE has always been able to connect suppliers and the mining sector, but with mega exhibitions being cancelled due to Covid-19, MTE has become an essential part of any marketing campaign.