MINES OF THE FUTURE

Popular Mechanics South Africa|July/August 2020

MINES OF THE FUTURE
Intelligent systems, robotics, big data and 3D printing, in one way or another, have influenced most major industries, and advancements in these spheres are set to have a key impact on mining.
TIANA CLINE

AS THE WORLD moves towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the exponential growth of disruptive technologies is fundamentally changing many industries, and mining has not been left in the dust. From big data to connected helmets, autonomous robotics, and 3D printing, technology today means more intelligent, digital, automated and sustainable ways of mining. Here are some of these technologies, and how they are changing the future of mining around the world.

DEBSWANA’S DIAMOND DATA

Debswana Diamond Company owns and operates four diamond mines in Botswana (Orapa, Letlhakane, Jwaneng, and Damtshaa). As a world leader in gem diamonds, Debswana produces a lot more than precious stones – it generates a huge amount of data. Microsoft has been working closely with them to unlock the full potential of this valuable resource.

‘Debswana generates a massive quantity of data at its mines from the vast amounts of machinery and applications used at its facilities, but it often experienced machine failures and unpredictable performance despite having a robust maintenance and repair strategy already in place,’ explains Wale Olokodana, Cloud and Enterprise Lead, Microsoft EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). ‘This made business processes slower and led to significant losses of revenue.’

‘Now, through the dashboard created on the Azure platform, Debswana is able to quickly and easily manage its data. It provides the capability to predict any problems, saving the diamond producer greatly on time and costs.’

Olokodana adds that as the modern mine starts to integrate more digital technologies into the business, allowing for a more connected environment, massive amounts of data will start to be pumped out in real-time. Leveraging this data successfully will be key to the success of any mine and the industry.

‘Through the transformative power of AI [artificial intelligence] and IoT [internet of things], enabled by the cloud, mines can become much more agile, and energy- and cost-efficient, while also improving on safety and security,’ adds Olokodana. ‘With cloud computing, mining can ensure that this data is collated and managed effectively and is used for better business decision-making.’

This is especially crucial during a time when the global mining industry is just starting to recover from one of its most difficult periods in decades.

‘Cloud computing, including hybrid cloud, will help to smooth out and optimise supply chains, allows for ease of recovery, and of course improves efficiency, which is key for profitability,’ concludes Olokodana.

IoT AND PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS

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July/August 2020