Anglo American’s Kumba Iron Ore business is embarking on modernisation using its FutureSmart Mining programme, which is aimed at bringing its overall mining business in line with new innovations and technology to mine safer and more efficiently.
Speaking at a recent event hosted by mining networking platform Africa Mining Network last month, Kumba Iron Ore CEO Themba Mkhwanazi stated that, in parallel to the Chamber of Mines’ modernisation programme – the Mine 2030 initiative – Kumba Iron Ore was aiming for a “whole new way” of mining through its FutureSmart Mining programme.
He said this programme was about not only using innovations in mining but also delving further into how the company approaches the “full set of challenges” faced by any mining company, including safety, environment, social expectations in host communities and building cooperative relationships with all tiers of government.
Mkhwanazi stated that the FutureSmart Mining strategy envisaged a mine that was automated, integrated, operated under lower-cost margins, concentrated and flexible, and used less water.
Further, he noted that the modern mine of the future would exploit automation, as well as cease the use of explosive blasting, instead using advanced drilling and cutting systems to increase productive hours in removing material from the working face.
Producing less waste material will hinge on the Concentrate the Mine aspect of FutureSmart Mining, thereby integrating a number of enabling technologies to extract more metal or minerals more precisely.
Another topical environmental matter was bringing mining operations in line with using less water to the extent that operations were waterless, said Mkhwanazi.
Big data also has a key role to play in modernising mine operations. “The intelligent mine uses advanced ‘big data’ analytics and machine learning to reveal new patterns and trends, from mine to market and sensor to boardroom,” he stated.
In terms of iron-ore operations worldwide, Mkhwanazi pointed to operations in Brazil, that use automation in heavy-haul railway operations to increase productivity and decrease costs. In Australia, a major iron-ore producer replaced more than 100 trucks through an investment of $8.1-billion in a truck-less system using conveyor belts, he noted.
He added that iron-ore producers in Australia had also introduced integrated remote operations centres, which significantly improved throughput and reduced costs.
The mining industry needed to move fast to stay competitive, emphasised Mkhwanazi, elaborating that Kumba Iron Ore was embracing technology. “In 2014, we developed a technology strategy to deliver on our business strategy of being a safe, long-term, low-cost producer of high-quality iron ore.”
Since 2014, the miner has spent more than R500-million on its FutureSmart Mining strategy.