Perlman: Whenever you have mining, you have miners, but apparently not always.
Creamer: We are looking at manless mining developing in the Northern Cape at a diamond mine called Finsch, which is already quite a hi-tech mine.
Picture this; by mid year 2004, if you went 630 m underground, you would find a concrete road on which normal-looking hauling trucks would be travelling. But, if you looked closely, you may be forced to wipe your eyes as there will be no driver. The operators are moving towards driverless, fully automated, trucks. It is a mixture of Nordic nous and South African savvy being introduced. A very well prepared concrete loop is being laid, which has to be hard wearing, because these trucks will travel inch perfectly. The trucks are currently going through their paces at Tampere in Finland, and have been doing so for the last 12 months. They are being programmed to travel the exact route that they will do at Finsch mine, which is 165 km north west of Kimberley. Eventually load-haul dumping will also be automated.
The project is part of a R2,1-billion investment by De Beers.
Perlman: Now Martin, when we talk about our democracy, we think of institutions and buildings. Parliament in Cape Town and the Union buildings in Pretoria. Joburgs new Constitutional Court is almost complete. I believe it is going to carry for some people that same kind of status.
Creamer: Many observers believe that the new Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, where the Old Fort is located, is going to have great prestige value. They believe it will definitely be equal if not greater to the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town and the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The 11 Constitutional Court judges will move in during January. Then, on Human Rights day next year the Constitutional Court will be officially opened. The court will form the focal point of a much bigger complex called Constitutional Hill, where there will be museums and heritage sites.It is landmark location as it is where some of this country’s struggle icons were once imprisoned, including Nelson Mandela and well as Mahatma Ghandi. The old Fort, itself, is expected to be a great draw card for a tourism and, in the next decade, Joburg’s City fathers believe that something like 300 000 people will come through the area every year.
Perlman: We are on the eve of the world celebration of 100 years of flight and it is perhaps refreshing to recall that South Africa’s firs locally build aircraft was made out of wood. Tell us about that.
Creamer: On Wednesday December 17, 2003, the world will commemorate 100 years of powered flight. It was then that the brothers Wright, Wilbur and Orville made their historic flight in the Wright flyer. I think it remained in the air for 12 seconds and covered a distance of 36,5 m. We have come a long way from then. But it is interesting to note that it was only seven years later that South Africa actually got flight going. It wasn’t a South African that flew, it was Albert Kimmerling of France who was invited out here by the East London Council and sponsored by an engineering company to come and do some flights. A year later , John Weston became the first person living in South Africa to gain pilot certificate. He was very keen on building an aircraft, and started building them between 1905 and 1908. He just couldn’t get things going until he formed a joint venture with a French company, which resulted in the Weston Farmans. It was only in 1935, however, that Victor Smith and his friends got together and they produced the aircar. The plane was made entirely from wood. Of course they where quickly over taken by innovations in the rest of the world, and South Africa has never been able to catch up. We arrived at the tail end, and now 100 years later all I think we produce globally is a tail plan for the hawk and that is done at Kempton Park and large components for the Gripen series and components for helicopters. So, we are hanging in there as a niche player.
Perlman: Nice trip down memory lane there to wrap-up the last visit to the coal face for the year 2003. Martin, to you and everyone at the Engineering News and Mining Weekly a very blessed and successful Christmas and New Year. Martin will be back with us on January 16, 2004.