What does the future hold for mines?

Today’s mines are increasingly getting mechanised, with automated systems becoming popular by the day

The downward trend of the commodity prices spell doom for the global mining fraternity, but African economies seem to be bearing the full brunt due to their commodity-driven economies. While for mines this means less profits, it is equally daunting for governments as this translates into shrinking revenues and petite economic growth.

Fears are fraught as to what the future holds. But, one thing for certain; mining companies are rethinking investment plans and headcount at their operations. Today’s mines are increasingly getting mechanised, with automated systems becoming popular by the day. With amplified technological evolution, the role of mechanisation and automation is vital for overall productivity and efficiency amid notoriously challenging operational conditions.

The call for automation at mines sounds improbable in an African environment where closing the unemployment gap is still the first consideration, even if it means at the expense of a business.

One needs to understand that mines will go out of business as long as this labour first approach is still the way to go. Many think to the contrary but one of the ways to save mining businesses from going under is to let them mechanise and automate systems.

This also allows the human to become the supervisor, rather than the direct means of control. This also translates into critical training regimes at mines to align the workforce with the core competencies of being able to operate the high-tech machines employed to undertake the job at hand.

For me, safety and productivity are secondary benefits of this approach. I believe the primary benefit is the ability to transform people’s lives for good. For the African continent as a whole to be at par with these industry trends, there needs to be a paradigm shift. Governments need to understand what’s at stake here.

The time for far-reaching decisions is now. The rest of the world is moving towards mechanisation and automation. Africa needs to make the step to remain competitive and to be able to attract those mining investments. It comes back to the culture. Who wants to do it? Who wants to be first? It will be not an easy feat but the long-term returns for the economy, the workforce and the industry at large, are enormous.

Meanwhile, original equipment manufacturers are positioning themselves to make a positive impact with their high-tech offerings for an industry under siege. Clever machines are here to help mines remain profitable in the face of hard times! We are fast moving in a new mining era!

 Thina Bhebhe

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