Technological advances aim to improve sustainability

22nd September 2017

By: Nica Schreuder



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By implementing modern mining techniques, new technologies and energy management systems, South Africa-based diversified resources company Exxaro is prioritising environmental protection, which sees it employing tailor-made solutions at each of its projects, says Exxaro coal operations executive head Nombasa Tsengwa.

She highlights reverse-osmosis (RO) water treatment plants as one of the company’s many mitigating technologies. RO plants employ water-purification technology involving a semipermeable membrane used to remove ions, molecules and larger particles from drinking water affected by coal mining. Other technologies employed by Exxaro include advanced water-balance management and water recycling at its processing facilities.

The company also rehabilitates its operations in innovative ways. Tsengwa highlights the backfill system implemented at the Limpopo-based Grootegeluk coal mine, which helps to dispose of coal mining waste back into the pit and not on external waste dumps.

“Exxaro also implements advanced energy management systems, as well as in-pit crushing and conveying systems at Grootegeluk, which reduces our energy and emissions footprint,” she adds.

Meanwhile, the company’s forward-thinking strategies aimed at mitigating the detrimental effects of mining on the environment can in large measure be attributed to increased technological innovations in the mining industry, she says. “At Exxaro, we have made good progress with enhancing productivity, lowering cost, reducing our environmental footprint and making our operations safer for everyone.”

Exxaro is driving a programme to enable the company to do so using technologies such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and, in the future, augmented reality. Tsengwa explains that these efforts will enable the company to make better operational decisions and improve safety.

“A good example is the use of advanced analytics and augmented reality to do predictive maintenance. “With these technologies, we can intelligently predict problems before they happen and aid our maintenance team to tend to issues faster and safer.”

Tsengwa says these technological advances will assist in reducing process waste and downtime, while providing a safer and more productive environment for Exxaro employees.

The technologies will also benefit surrounding communities in which the company operates, most notably in terms of training and development, Tsengwa concludes.

Edited by Samantha Herbst
Creamer Media Deputy Editor




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