SiMINE @MandelaMiningPrecinct, located Carlow Road, Johannesburg, effectively offers two core services – experiential mining simulation and a ‘test-bed’ for Mining 4.0 principles and systems – to improve the industry, says SiMINE director Gary Lane.
He explains that SiMINE, a purpose-built mining simulation centre that was launched alongside the Mandela Mining Precinct last month, incorporates a physical mining simulation game with a digital twin to replicate the interactions and dynamics of a “complex mining value chain”.
The centre will also host networking and knowledge-sharing platforms, act as a test-bed for Mining 4.0 technologies using its digital twin simulation and extol the virtues and values of mining to local youth, says SiMINE partner and Vuuma Collaborations director Harry Sinko.
Lane notes that SiMINE approached the Mandela Mining Precinct in 2017 to discuss its value proposition of visually representing the entire mining system and incorporating new elements and components to simulate what the system of mining could become in the near future.
The SiMINE offering physically represents the interconnected activities of mining, the organisational structure, the levels of work and the work and management routines, together with what are the key performance indicators for each role, to effectively manage the mining system.
Lane notes that SiMINE’s reasoning for co-locating at the precinct is that it wants to form part of the process of disrupting the mining industry. “Disruption is not going to be solved by any individual company or vendor; there’s going to be a need for collaboration from multiple stakeholders. That is what the precinct is about . . . and that is what we want to be a part of.”
The SiMINE team comprises a multidisciplinary collaborative team well-versed in the complexities of mining operations, which has allowed for the development of a physical mining simulation and a supporting software platform that represents all the challenges of managing a complex mining operation.
SiMINE’s game simulates ore extraction, loading and hauling, material processing, inventory management, product loading, order fulfilment, distribution to customers and supporting functions.
In the game, participants have to ensure that their simulated mining company achieves its production targets efficiently and profitably.
SiMINE partner ESTEQ Mining developed a digital twin of the actual physical simulation, enabling participants to understand the dynamic system, identify constraints and test interventions and options to improve performance.
Lane notes that the digital twin enables SiMINE to collaborate with industry to accelerate change and adoption of new approaches, as it will provide a complete digital replica of any mining operation or system.
“For example, if a company were to design a piece of equipment and wanted to see what could happen if it were introduced into an established mining system, or if a company wanted to see how to effectively manage asset maintenance strategies, equipment or work processes . . . the simulation enables you to test, run scenarios, and tweak parameters.”
Lane notes that the game is aimed at all levels of leadership, aspiring mining engineers and the youth. He tells Mining Weekly that mining companies are overloaded by initiatives and solutions to their perceived problems, and that SiMINE will enable CEOs and upper management to see the entire system, while learning the fundamentals of systems thinking, such as value stream mapping, understanding value adding and non-value-adding activities, understanding constraints, and the impact of performance variation.
“The result is a focused strategy and intervention that add incremental value to the Mining 4.0 vision,” Lane comments.
He adds that the gamified approach is more effective from a learning perspective – it ensures that participants retain more information. It is also a more attractive and fun introduction to mining systems for primary to tertiary students.
“There’s going to be a shortage of people who have digital skills in the near future . . . and we as the mining industry are transforming and competing with other industries for these scarce skills,” says Lane.
SiMINE consultant Antony Mello adds that this potential skills gap necessitates that basic digital skills and the benefits of such skills are taught to children at basic education level, rather than at tertiary level.
Mello notes that SiMINE, having hosted a group of learners from Realogile Secondary School, in Alexandra, last month, is looking to form ongoing partnerships with schools and tertiary institutions to provide students with a clearer understanding of how a mine operates, the fundamentals of systems thinking and potential career paths within the mining sector.
Sinko adds that SiMINE will leverage video communications company Zoom’s Web conferencing technologies to create the ‘TED Talks of mining,’ called ‘Open Source Mining’. Lane envisages mining executives and industry stakeholders using hybrid collaboration environments to interact and discuss challenges within the industry.
Augmented, virtual and mixed reality also offer the mining industry opportunities in maintenance, design review and real-time performance management. South African Collaboration partner GESS is pioneering this initiative. It has developed a real-time augmented reality for an openpit mining operation that will be on display at the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy’s Digitilisation in Mining conference later this month.
Lane notes that the digital revolution offers many opportunities for the mining industry, but that SiMINE will expose the mining industry to the world of systems thinking, which is already “mature” in the motor manufacturing and aerospace industries.