Research towards the digitalisation of mining in SA


The Mandela Mining Precinct, supported by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), is working on an innovation that will improve safety and efficiency in the mining sector.  The Mandela Mining Precinct is a public-private collaboration between the DSI and the Minerals Council South Africa. Hosted and managed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the precinct is working towards the revitalisation of mining research, development and innovation in South Africa to ensure the sustainability of the industry.


Mining continues to be hazardous, and the Real-Time Information Management Systems (RTIMS) programme aims to reduce risks by developing a 360-degree holistic offering to digitalise the South African mining industry.


Digitalisation enables the right information to reach the right place or person at the right time, with RTIMS collecting and relaying information digitally between tagged equipment and people underground and above ground, ensuring ongoing communication for improved efficiency and safety.


RTIMS technologies range from a visual positioning system (which incorporates proximity detection, collision avoidance and predictive analyses), to an enterprise architecture framework that is expected to enhance operational efficiency using new technologies alongside people.


RTIMS is expected to take the country's mining sector into the future through a host of applications that get data to the surface, and then analyse it so that action can be taken.


The RTIMS team, under programme manager Jean-Jacques Verhaeghe, are laying a very important foundational framework for the digitalisation of the mining industry, which will prepare individual mining companies for the 4th industrial revolution from a technology and data consumption perspective.


CSIR engineer Stephen Marais, who is involved in the visual positioning system, sees RTIMS addressing government and industry concerns about safety.  He explained that the end goal is to have everything and everyone tagged, and then produce a floor plan using 3D technology and a lidar backpack to minimise accidents.  It is envisaged that miners will interact with one another and all sorts of equipment, much like soldiers who have audio-visual equipment attached to their helmets.


All of the RTIMS projects' concepts were tested in 2019 and they will soon be deployed at a suitable operational mine site so that their performance in real underground conditions can be examined.


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