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5 Technologies That Could Save SA Mining
14 June 2018
5 Technologies That Could Save SA Mining

South Africa’s mining industry has had a rough decade: Plummeting revenues, skyrocketing operating costs, political and regulatory upsets, and numerous accidents claiming human lives. 

The question is, while we can be prepared to a certain extent for unplanned events, through life insurance for example, can anything be done to save the SA mining industry? 

The answer is “yes” and in this article we explore the five technologies that the new Johannesburg-based Mandela Mining Precinct hopes will put South African mining on a positive trajectory once more.

 

1. Digital gaming

Video games can teach fighter pilots to fly planes, so why not use them to teach CEOs to manage mines? SiMINE, an “experiential” mining game from local management consultancy Vuuma Collaborations, aims to do just that. 

Through this simulation game, CEOs can understand where the constraints in their specific operations are, especially if they invest in a digital twin or replica of their mines. In this way, they can implement effective solutions that address their mines’ unique challenges.

Facilities like the University of Pretoria’s Kumba Virtual Reality Centre can also simulate rock falls and other risky situations and train people to respond to them.

 

2. Robots

The further away miners are from rock faces, the safer they are. One option is to send in a machine first, which could tap the rock to see how stable it is, or which could be equipped with sensors to detect the presence of hazardous gas. Another is to transition to a semi-remote mining environment, in which the person operating mining equipment at the rock face can operate it from line of sight (rather than next to it) or via video footage.

Plus: reducing the number of people underground and the length of time they are down there pushes down water and electricity consumption, and ultimately costs. 

 

3. Seeing through rock

Another idea is using radar to “see through” rock. After the Second World War, South Africa was a world leader in radar technology. Researchers at the new precinct, who will partner with industry, government and universities, aim to “see ahead of the rock face, which eliminates surprises”.

 

4. Going digital

Managers need information about what’s going on underground in real time. Although seismic monitoring already exists, improved environmental monitoring of air quality, noise, dust and gas will make a big difference. It is also important to get real-time information from expensive capital equipment to ensure optimal efficiency all the time. This isn’t currently happening at South Africa’s older, traditional mines.

 

5. Mining without explosives

Blasting alternatives such as devices that could chip, cut away, or drill holes into rock without exploding it, and particularly ones that don’t require people on-hand to operate, could make closed and even abandoned mines viable again. Not to mention making working conditions safer.

It would also mean that staff wouldn’t have to leave the mine and waste precious time while the toxic fumes settle, or the rock stabilises, which is the case after blasting with explosives, and that more of the ore body could be used.

Technology can help us be better prepared for the future – as proven by these examples in the mining industry. Similarly, life cover enables you to be more prepared for the unforeseen by providing for your family when you no longer can’t. Old Mutual iWYZE offers a range of affordable, comprehensive and reliable life insurance policies. Get an Old Mutual life insurance quote today.  
 

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