African miners embracing Sandvik’s high-tech solutions

Mining Weekly correspondent Kim Cloete interviewed executives from global engineering group Sandvik on the sidelines of the 2020 Investing in African Mining Indaba. Video and editing: Nicholas Boyd.

21st February 2020

By: Kim Cloete

Creamer Media Correspondent


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High-tech and global engineering group Sandvik is helping greenfield mining projects in Africa to power ahead using automation and digitalisation aimed at making mining safer and more efficient and sustainable.

“If you look at the global automation footprint, Africa is using some of the most sophisticated technology, compared to the rest of the world. All the greenfield projects are starting off with this intention,” said Sandvik West Africa VP Nuhu Salifu.

Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology offers equipment and tools, and service and technical solutions for mining and rock excavation. It covers rock drilling, rock cutting, crushing and screening, loading and hauling, tunnelling, quarrying and breaking and demolition.

“Automation is being embraced in the mining industry. The advantages are very clear. We are able to drive sustainable mining businesses which are more environment friendly,” said Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology Southern Africa VP Simon Andrews. The company is committed to investing in research and development and, as a result, has created a working environment which has boosted efficiency and helped to bring consistency to mining operations, says Andrews. Its mine automation systems range from single equipment to full fleets.

With the help of Sandvik, artificial intelligence is being deployed in mines. An example is its advanced analytical cognitive data processing and modelling based on data that is generated by sensors on loaders and trucks.

Technology is able to proactively identify maintenance problems before something breaks. This has led to both time and cost savings. Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology, together with IBM, launched OptiMine Analytics in 2019, which has helped greatly in transforming data into improving processes.

“Automation brings consistent results. You are also able to use the technology in remote areas and adapt it to any part of the world,” said Salifu, who has seen the technology successfully used in remote parts of Mali, in West Africa.

“You will have an operator sitting in an office environment or a containerised environment operating machines remotely. These can be anything from automated drills to loaders and trucks.”

Andrews says it is vital to partner with its customers for a digital mine future.

“Our customers starting with greenfield projects adopt digital as a principal way of working, rather than the conventional way of mining. The Intelligent series is more expensive than conventional machines to start off with, but the efficiencies kick in very quickly and, very soon, it far outweighs the capital initially spent.”

While trucking automation has been around for a long time, a combination of algorithms, high-tech advances and experience has helped to vastly improve the way loaders are optimally loaded with minerals – from copper to diamonds and gold.

The company also recently acquired privately owned Newtrax, a supplier of leading technology in wireless connectivity, which is able to monitor and provide insights into underground operations, including people, machines and the environment.

Ventilation on demand is another innovation and ensures that air is channelled to targeted areas.

While experience is still greatly valued, digitalisation is opening up new career paths, with greater appeal for a new generation of young people who are able to operate machinery remotely from an office instead of at the coal face, or immerse themselves in data analytics.

Various levels of products and Sandvik solutions on automation and technology have been rolled out in African countries such as Ghana, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor



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