Mine mechanisation and automation accelerating in South Africa and globally, says Sandvik

SIMON ANDREWS Mining companies have realised that it is no longer good enough just to have high-tech equipment in operation at their projects

NIEL McCOY One of the biggest challenges in the implementation of mechanisation and/or automation pertains is to the dwindling skills base in mines management structures

24th March 2017

By: Ilan Solomons

Creamer Media Staff Writer


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The mechanisation and automation of mines in South Africa and globally are accelerating, with ancillary support services, such as information technology (IT), information transfer and data analysis, among others, taking on greater importance, says mining equipment and services provider Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology Southern Africa sales VP Simon Andrews.

He says that mining companies have realised that having high-tech equipment in operation at their projects is no longer sufficient, optimisation is called for. Therefore, miners are seeking to thoroughly understand how the equipment operates, how equipment functionality can be optimised and how to best use the data that is collected from these machines.

Sandvik business development key account manager Niel McCoy adds that, in the African context, mines need to focus on their mining methods and apply the ones that are most suitable to mechanised and automated mining operations.
“It is also critically important to establish [the] level of mechanisation and/or automation [that] can be applied to particular mines,” he emphasises.

McCoy points out, however, that one of the biggest challenges in the implementation of mechanisation and/or automation pertains to the dwindling skills base in the management structures of mines.

“We are aware of a number of large, Africa-based greenfield mining projects that are currently being developed and that are to be fully mechanised operations. However, there are only a handful of experienced mechanised mining professionals left on the continent, which is bound to create operational challenges sooner or later,” he comments.

Sandvik is, therefore, currently “focusing its efforts” to provide miners with the required informational management tools to effectively manage their operations. “You simply cannot manage what you cannot measure,” McCoy emphasises.

He remarks that the company’s information management systems are playing a “critically important” role in ensuring that mining companies effectively and efficiently operate and monitor their equipment.

McCoy says that Sandvik, as a company, continues to evolve from being solely an equipment supplier to the mining industry to one that provides a comprehensive service that ensures that mining firms get optimum value from using their equipment.

“Tailored solutions for our customers is what differentiates us in our field,” McCoy asserts.

Additionally, Andrews says, Sandvik is intensifying efforts to upskill its clients’ technical teams to manage and maintain the company’s equipment on-site. “This empowers not only our customers but also their employees, because it increases their skills and, subsequently, increases confidence in their ability to work with our Sandvik machines,” he states.

Andrews further highlights that, this year, the company, in conjunction with its customers, is also increasing the number of equipment maintenance education and training programmes it runs in the local communities in which they operate. He explains this will provide local community members with new skills and improve their ability to find work at other nearby mining operations.

Meanwhile, McCoy tells Mining Weekly that Sandvik will be launching a rapid mine development system (RMDS) in October. He says that the RMDS will be a nondrill and -blasting system that will instead use hard rock cutting technologies.
“I believe this will be a serious game changer for the industry, as it will significantly improve the time it takes to develop mines,” McCoy enthuses.

Additionally, Andrews reveals that, in line with the Mining Charter, the company intends to begin manufacturing certain products in South Africa during the course of this year. The company is currently examining where it will establish a manufacturing facility and the types of equipment to be manufactured.

“It is more than just complying with the rules and regulations of industry. This makes better economic sense for us, owing to the weakness of the rand and [as we have] the skills base in South Africa to produce cost-effective, high-quality equipment,” Andrews states.

He says, although Sandvik has already started small-scale local manufacturing in South Africa, a formal announcement about large-scale equipment production in the country is expected to be made later this year.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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