The Mandela Mining Precinct (MMP) has announced the three winners of phase 1 of its Isidingo Drill open innovation challenge. They are Novatek, HPE and Fermel.
Fermel is a Gauteng-based manufacturer of mechanised machinery for underground hardrock and flameproof mining operations.
Novatek is a South African developer and manufacturer of rock-drilling and mining machinery.
HPE is a South African designer and manufacturer of high-pressure water hydraulic (oil-free) mining equipment, energy-saving products and valves.
The three companies, selected from a shortlist of 11 entities that all submitted concept designs, will now enter phase 2 of the challenge, where they will, over the next 60 days, develop proofs of concept of their various rock drills.
Phase 3 of the project will provide a 90-day window for the development and testing of the successful prototype drill(s) in a real mining environment.
The hope was that government’s Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) would assist with the development of the prototype(s), said Research Institute of Innovation and Sustainability (RIIS) executive Clen Cook on Thursday.
Speaking to Mining Weekly at the announcement of the three winners in Johannesburg, he said the aim was to have a new type of rock drill operating on a South African mine in 2019.
“We wanted the process from concept to completion to happen in six months,” he added.
RIIS is a boutique innovation consulting firm and partnered with MMP on the roll-out of the project.
MMP is a public-private partnership established with the key mission to improve research, development and innovation in the mining sector.
The Isidingo Drill challenge aims to encourage the rapid design and prototype of a new and innovative rock-drill concept to be used in underground mining.
The aim is to develop a rock-drill that weighs less than 16 kg (as opposed to the traditional 28 kg); does not use compressed air as an energy source; enables the parallel drilling of holes and which can be set up and dismantled in no more than 10 to 15 minutes.
“With the potential of becoming a widely-used new technology in deep-level mining and elsewhere, the challenge incentivises entrants to rethink the decades-old mining drill technology,” commented Minerals Council modernisation and safety executive Sietse van der Woude.
Faster and more precise drilling could reduce fall of ground incidents, thus contributing to a safer mining environment. Lighter equipment would also open job opportunities to more people, including women, he noted.
“If we get this right, it will be good for suppliers, mining companies, employees and the country. Aside from sparking innovation, the challenge encourages new players to emerge. It is about a shift in the perception that mining is a sunset industry."
The Minerals Council is an active supporter of the Isidingo Drill challenge.
MMP co-director Alastair Macfarlane described the Isidingo Drill challenge as the MMP’s pilot innovation challenge, with a list of around 12 other potential challenges waiting in the wings.