A picture placed by Vodacom on a presentation slide at the Vodacom Mining Engagement event held at the Hilton Hotel in Sandton on Thursday declared, “The Digital Mine”. However, the mining sector is well-known for being slow to change but Vodacom seems to be preparing to push the industry into the digital age.
This is no coincidence.
South Africa offers potential growth opportunities for the Connected Mine due to the country developing large-scale mining projects, and seeking solutions to deal with safety and health issues, etc.
Vodacom on Thursday announced its intention to join forces with the Mining Precinct@Carlow Road and mining sector in general to make use of its technology in order to help solve some of the critical challenges identified by the mining industry.
The connected mining market size is expected to grow from $3.84 billion in 2015 to $9.98 Billion by 2020, at an estimated compound annual growth rate of 21.0% during the forecast period, according to Markets & Markets (M&M).
What is a Connected Mining?
Connected mining refers to the use of technology to achieve better productivity and safety, as well as reduce operational costs for a mine site. It includes remote-controlled robotic machinery for mineral extraction, which is referred to as telerobotic mining and reduces the risk for miners, according to research house Technavio analysts.
The deployment of smart mining solutions helps mining companies to minimise their labour expenses and increase the production efficiency by real-time monitoring and communication.
Speaking at the Vodacom Mining Engagement event, Nkululeko Magadla, managing executive for Vodacom Business Large Enterprise Segment said: “As a leader in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Vodacom intends to partner and collaborate with the mining sector in finding possible solutions that can best help respond to some of the challenges faced by the mining sector.”
“Vodacom has capability beyond fixed and mobile services that could be applied in the mining sector in order to help address some of the challenges affecting the mining sector across the country,” says Magadla.
Explaining on how Vodacom Business intends to partner with the Mining Sector, Magadla said that some of the capabilities include Internet of Things (IoT) platform for aggregation and analytics, digital health capability to help support health screening at the edge and Big Data as a Service.
He added that Vodacom has strong generic IoT capabilities and would like to work with the mining sector in order to define industry specific solutions that can help address specific problems amongst these health and safety, mining efficiency and productivity.
“In order for us to be able to provide suitable solutions, we will collaborate with the Mining Precinct in several areas to research solutions across a range of technology interventions,” said Magadla.
The Mining Precinct@Carlow Road, programme manager for Real-time Information Systems (RTIMS), IIoT, and Digitalisation, Jean-Jacques says: “With the valuable support and guidance of many of our Collaborators, such as the Chamber of Mines, the DST, the DTI, MEMSA, the CSIR, and our major SA Mining Houses, we will be able to complete our industrial and applied research work for RTIMS in its 1st year of execution (March 2018).”
The Mining Precinct@Carlow Road hub houses representatives from 44 organisations that are active in mining and mining research in South Africa, creating an accessible and relevant mining research and development hub. Funded by the Department of Science and Technology and housed at the CSIR in Johannesburg, the facility is also available for technology demonstrations on site.
The mining precinct creates a space for researchers from various institutions and organisations to collaborate and work together, enabling greater access to researchers and mining staff.
Jacques said: “We have made good progress in our efforts of identifying viable, and coherent components for a Mining IIoT Framework, which is holistic in its approach. Much work still lies ahead and key to the success of solving SA’s mining challenges within an ever-evolving Digitalisation and Industry 4.0 environment, will require active and sincere collaboration among many Industry-reliant participants.
Jacques adds “that it is a collaboration of the willing and so is pleased that Vodacom is willing to engage and be involved this collaboration with the Mining Precinct@Carlow Road. We look forward to continued interactions in this regard”. Digitalisation and real-time information systems will undeniably change the Health and Safety dynamics in mining, and the many challenges.
“One fatality or one injury is one too many, and so aspirations are high that as we progress from modernised mines to digitalised mines, to eventually intelligent mines, every stakeholder needs to re-think positioning, products, solutions, and participation, to jointly deliver on this aspiration for South Africa’s mines”.