JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – A three-dimensional (3D) visualisation model of the large South Deep gold mine is poised to be the high point of a series of modernisation steps taken by the Gold Fields operation, which last week helped the share price of the Johannesburg- and New York-listed gold mining company to take its highest single leap in 16 years.
The 3D model will be used to point the way forward for the already fully mechanised gold mine, where production improved 42% in the three months to September 30. (Also watch Creamer Media video attached).
The technology will provide the edge to change cost structures fundamentally and make mines safer.
“We’re going to build a 3D model of the mine that shows where the mine is, where it's been and where it’s going,” Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland told Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly Online.
Investors, directors, management and employees will be able to scrutinise every aspect by going on virtual tours of the mine, which descends 3 km below surface west of Johannesburg.
“You will go on an underground tour while sitting in the boardroom, where you can actually see yourself going down the haulages, look around, see the distress cut, see the hanging wall,” Holland told journalists.
What-if scenarios are possible once all the mine data is captured to the lowest level and simulation will identify bottlenecks and opportunities and provide answers to the number of tons that can be moved underground.
Gold Fields, which has invested $1-billion in South Deep since taking over the large mine seven years ago, is heavily involved in skills training and also solar solutions to put 100 MW at the disposal of the mine, which has a 50-year horizon ahead of it.
At Gold Fields’ St Ives mine in Australia, both aerial and underground drones produce visual data for machine learning and mining software.
Shortly, Gold Fields will be able to automate geology mapping, ground support design and load-haul dumper controls in Australia.
In five years, there is a distinct possibility that Gold Fields will have driverless trucks in its Australian mines, for which planning will begin soon.
“There’s a whole dynamic about how you reskill your people and South Africa needs to get on this bus. Before it picks up too much speed, we better jump on.
There will be an impact on jobs but if we don’t do something different, the impact will be so much greater.
“All the stakeholders have now started to come to terms with the fact that if we’re going to survive as an industry, we have to change the way that we mine.
“The reasons that Australians are now able to operate trucks from control rooms in Perth is not because it’s a nice thing to do; it’s actually to survive.
“These steps are taken because businesses have to be re-engineered to continue to be relevant at prices that are a third of what they were at the peak,” he told Mining Weekly Online.
In South Africa, a different way to mine the country’s platinum and gold resources will have to be found.
Mining them conventionally over the next 30 years will not be a viable proposition.
“Yes, we are late, but thank goodness companies themselves have started doing things in the absence of associations of the past and thank goodness South Africa has initiatives like Phakisa and other initiatives through the Chamber of Mines. It’s not enough yet but it’s a start.”
The company intends taking full advantage of all the data and analytics software packages to formulate different ways of mining orebodies quicker.
Technology collaboration in the company’s South Africa, Australia, West Africa and South America regions is being worked out.
Technology company Cyest is providing simulation and information for interrogation at South Deep.