Mines of the future

McKenzie Plant Hire operates a total of four Bell Equipment articulated dump trucks at Marble Hall Mine.

I recently had the opportunity to meet with a representative ofa leading original design manufacturer (ODM) that specialises in collision avoidance technologies for a prominent supplier to the African mining industry.

He tells Equipment Africa that autonomous equipment is the future of mining, as it will enable the industry to overcome many of the challenges it currently faces. This includes ensuring safe operations while pushing tonnages in extremely challenging economic environments.

He believes that South Africa is extremely suited to these technologies.

Not only will it remove people from harm’s way, but it has a crucial role to play in upskillingthe country’s labour force and help attend to many of the political issues that currently plague the industry. Automation and advanced mechanisation promote higher paid positions and safe working environments, which are both key to a sustainable industry.

Policymakers have already identified the important role that collision-avoidance technology can play in boosting safety on site, and this ODM has an offering that is very suited to this market. It is has just completed its test phases – ahead of its imminent commercial launch.

Noticeably, policymakers are also turning their attention to the many quarries and pits in South Africa that produce materials for construction activities. They have not been as regulated in the past, with stretched authorities focusing on the formal mining industry instead.

It is well known that the load and haul functions at surface mining operations are among the most risky, and enterprising blue-chip mining companies have and continue to plough significant time and resources into mitigating this hazard through the implementation of advanced technologies.

Collision-avoidance technology forms the basis of most of their research and development endeavour in the field, but it is just the building block of so much more to come.

Although a contentious subject, mines are exploring ways of eliminating, or at least mitigating human exposure to risky sections of their operations.

Reputable international original equipment manufacturers of drilling, as well as load and haul equipment have already made major strides in the field globally and have even collaborated with bluechip mining companies in South Africa to lay the foundations for autonomous mines.

It is our view that policies geared at promoting low level skills are short-sighted. Productivity can only be boosted through the adoption of advanced technologies that also play a meaningful role in addressing the socio-economic challenges facing the country.

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David Poggiolini


David Poggiolini
David Poggiolini is a South African technical and business writer focusing on public and private-sector driven infrastructure development programmes in Africa. Over the past 15 years, Poggiolini has written extensively on transport, energy and water infrastructure. He also keeps a very keen eye on resource extraction industries on the continent, including mining, oil and gas, as well as forestry.
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