BELFAST, Mpumalanga (miningweekly.com) – Diversified resources company Exxaro Resources on Thursday broke ground on its R3.3-billion “smart” Belfast mine, in Mpumalanga.
The mine is the first of its kind in South Africa and will have a digital twin – a complete digital replica of the mine that will allow management and the contracted company to connect to and manage it from anywhere.
Further, maintenance teams will be connected to certain machinery to analyse and pick up problems early – resulting in increased safety and reduced downtime.
Addressing delegates at the sodturning event, CEO Mxolisi Mgojo said the mine has been 20 years in the making.
He added that the Belfast mine would help take Exxaro to the epicenter of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“There is a misperception that the connected world is about the rise of machines. We believe it is about empowering people and powering lives,” Mgojo stated.
According to Exxaro, in the future, the digital twin could possibly make operational decisions on its own, where artificial intelligence would manage the mine.
The miner further noted that the possibilities of autonomy would open the mining profession to the disabled, as robotics eliminate the need to go underground.
The mine will start producing thermal coal in 2020 and will create 6 000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and operation over its 17-year life.
It is expected to contribute R39-billion to local gross domestic product (GDP) over the life of the mine.
Construction, which began seven months ago, is expected to take 24 months to complete.
The mine will produce 2.7-million tonnes a year of A-grade thermal coal for export.
“This investment is in line with the call by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has challenged local companies to take the lead in investing in South Africa as part of his drive to raise $100-billion in investment over the next five years,” Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtshweni said at the sodturning.
She added that the investment would induce much-needed economic activity in Belfast and in the Emakhazeni municipality, whose economy is mostly boosted by its agricultural sector.
“The biggest challenge facing our country and our economies at national and local level is to get investment that will induce economic activity.
“Exxaro’s belief in revitalising small towns and upskilling its workforce will ensure that this objective is achieved and that our people do not become economic migrants of bigger provinces like Gauteng,” the Premier added.