JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The University of Pretoria’s (UP’s) Department of Mining Engineering has launched its Mining Resilience Research Centre (MRRC) at the Hatfield, Pretoria, campus.
The centre will take a multidisciplinary and holistic research approach to address the challenges facing the South African mining industry, seeking the input of UP experts in the disciplines of not only mining engineering but also others, such as information technology, law and humanities.
The centre aims to be a leading research centre and conduct relevant research through a sound science and technology approach to generating solutions continuously and, thereby, improving quality.
It further aims to strengthen its national and international profile through the establishment of sound sustainable business and other collaborative relationships and, finally, to become financially independent in establishing itself as a sustainable research organisation.
UP Department of Mining Engineering head Professor Ronny Webber-Youngman highlighted in his speech at the launch that the world was now in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which he pointed out was unique in that it was progressing in an exponential rather than the linear rate typical of the previous revolutions.
“It is disrupting almost every industry in every country and transforming entire systems of production, management and governance, and the role of disruptive technology will be significant in future.”
Webber-Youngman asserted that universities had to align to develop research and academic programmes to accommodate for the new skills necessary for success in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
According to the World Economic Forum there are ten skills requisite to succeed in the current revolution, which Webber-Youngman highlighted UP would be aligning itself toward.
The skills include complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgment and decision making, service-orientation, negotiating and cognitive flexibility.
Webber-Youngman pointed out that these skills are all related to people and that people would become increasingly important in dealing with the challenges associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“People think that robots are going to take over everything, which is not the truth,” he quipped, pointing to a report by global financial services firm PwC, which states that there are five things machines will not be able to do. These include, in ascending order, emotional intelligence, creativity and innovation, leadership, adaptability and, finally, problem solving.
The MRRC’s immediate focus will be on growing its international collaborative research network, establishing strong internal associations, continuing contract research and consulting for organisations such as the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) and South African Mining, Extraction, Research, Development and Innovation (Samerdi), as well as partnering with mining houses and private companies.
The centre is currently working with the MHSC on developing a missing person locator system; establishing a test and simulation capability, and standard verification method to evaluate collision management systems; rock mass condition assessment tools; and developing mining illumination standards for mobile equipment operating in South Africa’s openpit and underground mines.
In future, the MRRC will look at assessing the feasibility of reducing diesel particulate matter exposure by replacing and/or converting all Tier 0 diesel motors with more efficient Tier 2 and Tier 3 engines. It will also look at developing a mobile immersive training centre to help increase exposure and interest to mining-related careers.
With Samerdi the MRRC, in collaboration with the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, UP, the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Johannesburg, will provide research and development into themes such as advanced orebody knowledge, modernisation of current mining, mechanisation of the gold and platinum sectors using drilling and blasting, nonexplosive rock breaking, real-time information management systems and human factors.