JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Mining technology is being given a Fourth Industrial Revolution boost through the new partnership struck between precious metals mining company Sibanye-Stillwater and the Wits Mining Institute.
Wits Mining Institute director Professor Fred Cawood outlined in a news release on Thursday that Sibanye-Stillwater’s R15-million investment had resulted in the creation of the Sibanye-Stillwater digital mining laboratory, which would host the institute’s chair in digital mining and mine automation.
In addition, the institute had established a steering committee to align research with the university’s plans that action twenty-first century mining advances.
Tranches of R5-million over the three years to 2019 will be channelled into the DigiMine project, the mining automation chair, student bursaries, laboratory enhancement and strategic research into the mine of the future.
“This country remains rich in resources, which will only be brought to book through significant technological development and changes in mining methodology,” said Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman, who emphasised mining’s need for new skills and specialised knowledge as it moved into the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“We need to create the platform for greater innovation through expanded research and education by leading institutions such as Wits,” added Froneman, who is supporting the quest for safe, sustainable technology-enabled access to deep reserves.
The aim of the chair in mining automation is to draw in researchers from diverse disciplines to meet mining’s many technological challenges and ensure that the curriculum of mining engineers is adapted appropriately for twenty-first century South African mining operations.
DigiMine’s current themes are communication technologies for the underground environment; underground surveying, mapping and navigation technologies; health, safety and security technologies; information technology and system integration for visualisation; and real-time mine information modelling for smart economics.
Each theme provides opportunities for postgraduate research, with some projects working on world-first technologies.
Critically, the funds will support currently under-funded postgraduate study in addition to undergraduate support and capital projects.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Postgraduate Affairs Professor Zeblon Vilakazi made the point that postgraduate students become captains of industry and influencers within their chosen fields through dedication to academic life and transfer of knowledge to the marketplace.
The financial boost from Sibanye-Stillwater also makes provision for capital projects through a R1-million a year allocation at the discretion of the vice-chancellor.
“We recognise that it is equally important to provide for the growth and improvement of university facilities which will best equip the teaching staff with the best technology needed to deliver world class teaching and establish the capacity to increase university involvement in industry research,” said Froneman.
Sibanye-Stillwater has over the past three years provided financial support to 53 needy, deserving students in their early years of study and provided vacation work opportunities to 248 students from second year onwards.