JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Following a period of marked disintegration of mining research in South Africa, there is now a positive new thrust emerging from the research, development and innovation (RDI) units active at the Mandela Mining Precinct in Carlow Road, Johannesburg.
These RDI teams are making use of the exciting new technologies sweeping the globe as part of a new bid to make mining safer and more efficient.
Their keenness was catching at last week’s Southern African Mining Supply Chain Conference and Strategy Workshop, which was hosted by the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and the Mandela Mining Precinct, in partnership with mining supply chain clusters, alongside the Local Southern African Manufacturing Expo at Nasrec’s Johannesburg Expo Centre.
Those who addressed this gathering did so against the credible background of the new thinking taking place at the precinct.
‘Minds for mines’ are being put to work at this jointly funded public–private partnership. The energies of government and business representatives, as well as equipment innovators and service thinkers are being harnessed to provide longevity to the declining South African mining industry.
This important journey must be walked together to mark the end of mining’s fragmented past. Advances that need to be delivered include:
- safer, healthier and more efficient mining;
- the creation of new era jobs linked to advancing technologies and unconventional equipment; and
- cost efficiencies.
It is important that short-term quick-wins are trumpeted from the rooftops to provide confidence to government and business to invest in what is needed to take mining to the next level, for the benefit of the South African people.
Mining’s success will mean greater industrialisation through the development of mining equipment and the introduction of services relevant to South Africa and the South African Development Community (SADC), a predominantly mining region.
Strategy centres on the South African mining, extraction, research, development and innovation (Samerdi) platform, which aims to maximise the return on South Africa’s mineral endowment through collaborative and sustainable research and innovation, leading to the development of new mining technologies.
Samerdi served as an input document at the Mining Phakisa of 2015, when it was decided to direct South African mining away from potential disappearance through the implementation of an effective modernisation programme.
All over the world, mines are being constrained by depth. Creating mining solutions for mining at depths of 4 km, 5 km and 6 km would result in South Africa becoming the ‘go-to country’ for ultra-deep mining technology and equipment.
Hard-rock narrow reef is also a crucial South African challenge. The country’s hard-rock orebodies are typically 220 MPa, compared with a global average of 160 MPa, and they are also much narrower, typically about 800 mm high, compared with 1.5 m.
There is potential for successful new technologies to be marketed into the SADC, Africa and then the rest of the world, into which the Mandela Mining Precinct can extend the theme of RDI collaboration.
Last week's Southern African Mining Supply Chain Conference and Strategy Workshop initiated conversation, collaboration and shared strategic thinking in the development of South Africa’s local mining supply chain, which is being firmly underpinned by Mining Charter III.
The presentations and the workshop focused on practical strategies towards the development of existing capacity and capability in South Africa to meet the needs of local and regional markets.
Skills need to be honed and the needs of regional markets met for capital goods, consumables and services.
Mandela Mining Precinct-based Vuuma Collaborations directed the workshop towards arriving at practical solutions, while SiMINE, another initiative, put the focus on the establishment of a test bed for the mine of the future.