The University of Pretoria’s (UP’s) Department of Mining Engineering last month 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 the humanities.
The centre aims to be a leading research centre and to conduct relevant research through a sound science and technology approach to generating solutions continuously, 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 at an exponential rate rather than the linear rate typical of the previous revolutions.
Webber-Youngman asserted that universities had to align themselves to develop research and academic programmes to accommodate the new skills necessary for success in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
According to the World Economic Forum, there are ten skills required to succeed in the current revolution, which Webber-Youngman highlighted UP would be aligning itself to.
These 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 were all related to people and that people would become increasingly important in dealing with the challenges associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
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 the South African Mining, Extraction, Research, Development and Innovation strategy, as well as partnering with mining houses and private companies.
The centre is currently working with the MHSC to develop a missing persons locator system; establish a test and simulation capability and a standard verification method to evaluate collision management systems; and develop rock mass condition assessment tools and 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.