Shaping the mining industry globally

mining industry

Mining sector: shaping the industry globally – In today’s globalised world, technology is increasingly essential for companies to be highly competitive and to prosper. The technological readiness pillar of the South African National Development Plan measures the agility with which the economy adopts existing technologies to enhance the productivity of its industries, with specific emphasis on its capacity to fully leverage information and communication technologies (ICTs) in daily activities and production processes for increased efficiency and enabling innovation for competitiveness.  No industry or sector is immune from the growing need to use innovation as a competitive advantage.

By Brand South Africa Board Member Rick Menell

With regard to one of South Africa’s oldest industries, the mining sector, the Mining Indaba is a key platform where critical commentary on South Africa’s economic outlook and particularly the outlook for the mining sector comes under the spotlight. Mining accounts for 12% of total investment in the South African economy. When indirect multipliers are considered, the total fixed investment in the SA economy flowing from mining activity reaches a significant 25% of total investment.

When compared to the other BRICS economies, South Africa is one of the top ranked economies that have firm level technology absorption which is advantageous as it increases competitiveness.  South Africa is ranked as the best BRICS economy in terms of availability of the latest technologies.  We are also at the forefront of adopting and having access to the latest technologies.  This creates optimism that South African businesses are proactive in adapting to new technology and therefore more aware of the need to be competitive. Such an ethos would help us achieve our economic growth and development goals.

South Africa also ranks highly in terms of technological readiness. All of this suggests that South African businesses will be able to attract interest from investors. Technology plays an important role in production and that is advantageous to South Africa’s economy.

As South Africa hosts the annual Mining Indaba from 9-12 February 2015, we must reflect on how technologically savvy we are in terms of the mining industry?

Technology in mining

The mining industry is the third largest sector in the South African economy after the agriculture and industrial manufacturing sectors. It accounts for approximately 8% of GDP and creates approximately one million jobs (500 000 direct and 500 000 indirect). The importance of the sector to the South African economy necessitates that its various role players within their respective mandates, enhance its competitiveness.

The development of new technologies benefits every major component of the mineral industry, including exploration, mining, mineral processing, beneficiation, associated health and safety issues, and environmental issues. Therefore, technology development needs to be focused on those areas that are critical to the entire value chain.

In order to address some the of challenges associated with labour-intensive drill-and-blast mining, as conducted on the major South African gold and platinum mines, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has developed architecture called AziSA, an isiZulu word meaning ‘to inform’.

Drill-and-blast mining is often not tightly managed due to the lack of good information about what is going on underground. As a result, mining operations tend to be dangerous and unhealthy as well as expensive. In addition, there are human-resource challenges at all levels due to the lack of appropriately-skilled workers. AziSA is intended primarily for the design of systems that will operate in underground mining environments in which there is limited power and communications infrastructure. As a by-product, the AziSA architecture will also enable a communications infrastructure that covers all places where people are working.

Mechanised mining also seeks to implement the use of machinery to drill and extract minerals and metals. This technology seeks to increase South Africa’s competitiveness by increasing productivity and upskilling miners who will be trained and educated to operate and maintain highly specialised equipment.

This mechanisation is used to reduce the threat of physical harm to humans and to give greater access to reserves that would otherwise be too dangerous to explore.

The South African mining industry has had its fair share of challenges recently.  However, what is clear is that South Africa is committed to using technology and innovation to ensure we keep pace with global industry standards and in some areas, especially with regard to robotics and mechanisation, to actually set industry standards globally. –


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