Mandela Mining Precinct showcases better rock drills for uptake by SA mines

Group picture L-R: Ulrich Kienle, HPE Director; Fatheela Brovko, CSIR Mining Impact Area Manager ; Martin Pretorius, MMP Programme Manager; Julian Wills, Novatek Drills Managing Director



The Mandela Mining Precinct (MMP) today displayed two lighter, significantly faster, quieter and more energy-efficient rock drills at its premises in Johannesburg, showcasing new technology that could offer safety in South African mines.


The drills were manufactured by two local original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), Hydro Power Equipment (HPE) and Novatek, as part of the MMP's industry innovation challenge, the Isidingo Drill Design Challenge.


They underwent several weeks of underground tests at Impala Platinum in Rustenburg, successfully demonstrating that they could be used in the harsh underground environment of South African mines. Drilling is a primary function of mining, but existing technology has presented mines in South Africa with various challenges, including fatigue experienced by drill operators owing to the time required to assemble and disassemble a heavy rock drill.


Moreover, traditional drills used in gold and platinum mines are extremely loud and place operators very close to the rock face being drilled. This presents various occupational health and safety risks.


HPE and Novatek each independently designed, prototyped and tested a rock drill that satisfies the production and occupational health and safety requirements of gold and platinum group metal mines. The challenge has brought South Africa a step closer to improving efficiencies and safety in mining, while creating new opportunities for local OEMs to operate within the mining value chain.


The Mandela Mining Precinct is a public-private partnership between the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Minerals Council South Africa.  Managed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the initiative is aimed at revitalising mining research, development and innovation in South Africa to ensure the sustainability of the industry.


The DSI Chief Director: Technology Localisation, Beneficiation and Advanced Manufacturing, Beeuwen Gerryts, said the basic premise of open innovation, as cited in the Department's White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation, is to make the innovation accessible to all active players so the knowledge or outputs can circulate more freely.


"Through the MMP's first open innovation challenge, we are proud to present the mining industry with two innovative rock drills that have demonstrated faster, more efficient and, importantly, safer drilling," he said, encouraging the mining industry to continue supporting local OEMs.


"The Isidingo Drill Design Challenge was intended to promote a culture of innovation among local manufacturers," said Sietse van der Woude, Minerals Council South Africa Senior Executive: Modernisation and Safety, "and what we have seen during the underground tests demonstrate the understanding by our OEMs that innovation is a key guiding principle for achieving a modernised mining industry."


"The MMP has a mandate to modernise the mining industry through directed research, development and innovation," said MMP Director, Johan Le Roux, adding that bringing new technologies to the market is an important cornerstone of the MMP's strategy.


"Our strategy allows us to take a 360-degree approach to our research, not only considering human-centric design principles, but also, through the Successful Application of Technologies Centred Around People (SATCAP) research programme, promoting people-centric modernisation by including mine employees in the design and development of equipment," he said.

 Drill: HPE Drill


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Ntombenkosi Dyosop

MMP Communications Manager

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About the MMP


The Mandela Mining Precinct is the largest public-private partnership of its kind in South Africa. It is a partnership between the Department of Science and Innovation, and the Minerals Council South Africa. The initiative is jointly hosted and managed by the Minerals Council and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.


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