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Collaboration emphasised as mining sector modernises

19th November 2021

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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As South Africa’s mining sector makes steady progress towards digital transformation ambitions, delegates at the latest Huawei Mining Summit reiterated the need for partnership and collaboration to shift the industry into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In line with this, the exploration by delegates of the role of collaboration in driving mining modernisation concluded with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Mandela Mining Precinct (MMP) and information and communication technology giant Huawei, entrenching further partnerships in the sector.

The MoU will enable Minerals Council South Africa, through the MMP and Huawei, to install and test WiFi 6 kits in underground mines towards the development of a digitalised mining industry.

Planning is also under way that will enable research teams to define and test various scenarios at a suitable mine in South Africa.

Huawei’s willingness as a partner to examine solutions that others do not pursue and the technology giant’s collaborative problem-solving mindset is what attracted MMP to partner with Huawei, says MMP programme manager Jean-Jacques Verhaeghe.

“With all these shiny new technologies available to us, it can be easy to lose focus on what is really important to a mining company when embarking on digitalisation.

“Partners need to really look at what difference these technologies are going to make in moving crucial benchmarks forward. Ask yourself, how is this technology going to help a mine make progress in its quest for zero harm or how is it going to help give them that extra one metre advance per shift?” he continues.

Royal Bafokeng Platinum information management manager Karina Geyser says that technology partners working with clients in the mining sector need to make the effort to ensure they have a clear understanding of the environments their clients work in.

“As a partner supporting clients in the mining space, if you have not been underground, you know nothing. You need to understand what modernisation in mining actually means, what the drivers of evolution in the industry are, and the specific barriers,” she says, adding that innovation does not happen in a siloed space, but is rather enabled by collaboration and facilitated through communication and idea-sharing.

The mining company is also building a partnership with Huawei and various other stakeholders to help it drive its digital strategy forward.

Beyond collaboration, the mining sector also needs to develop robust corporate-level digital strategies to provide direction in their digital transformation journeys, Geyser continues.

“We often make the mistake of only employing pockets of excellence with regard to digitalisation but you need to understand your business throughout the entire value chain to really enhance it with emerging technologies,” she says.

Echoing these sentiments is Huawei vertical solution manager Gys Malan, who says that the mining sector needs to be cognisant of fitting the right technologies to the right processes to really make an impact when integrating digital solutions into their business.

“What businesses often do is find a solution that has been successful in a specific environment and try to apply it to all of their business requirements and then they find that they cannot achieve their business goals. The objective is to take the correct solution and fit it to the relevant business requirements.”

Further, of growing importance is data in digital transformation. Data is an increasingly valuable commodity in the digital economy and in a capital-intensive industry such as mining data analytics can generate immense value by improving productivity, efficiency and effectiveness, says Huawei fifth-generation (5G) marketing manager Mark Williams.

“Data is the key to smart mining and your ability to use and exploit data will be a key market differentiator. Mines already generate vast amounts of data; the challenge is that they do not have access to it in real time.

“Any device you have without connectivity means nothing. 5G enables you to extract data from the source to the destination in real time so you can use all these emerging technologies to conduct predictive and prescriptive analysis, which will completely change your operations with a flick of a finger,” Williams concludes.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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