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MEMSA Mind Shift 2024 - Innovation, digital technology and skills in the SA mining supply chain

FUNDING INNOVATION Moderator JA Engineering CEO and MEMSA board member Matimba Mahange with panelists from left: HSRC senior research specialist Dr Rodney Manga, Fabchem Mining Group CEO Freddy Mugeri, RIIS CEO Davis Cook and Sibanye Stillwater head of technology and innovation Alex Fenn

Members, speakers and guests Tebogo Kale, Lehlohonolo Molloyi, Tsaone Kgosietsile, Siphiwe Ndwayi, Kgosi Mmoloke, Amos Manaka and Bokang Kalepa, enjoying the networking opportunity ‘Your network is your net-worth’

INNOVATION IN HARD ROCK MINING (NAVIN SINGH AWARD) Buraaq Mining’s SAM Kader accepts the award from MEMSA board member and Drill Rod Specialist MD Christiana Zondi and awards sponsor Spoor & Fisher’s Louw Steyn

TOUCHSTONES FOR THE YEAR Moderator Dr Umeesha Naidoo from the IDC with panellists from the left: dtic director: sectors division Yusuf Timol, Minerals Council South Africa senior executive for modernisation and safety Sietse van der Woude, Mandela Mining Precinct executive director Julie Courtnage and CSIR Future Production: mining executive manager Bongi Ntsoelengoe

7th June 2024


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This year’s MEMSA conference, aptly themed ‘Smart Solutions for People and Planet’, brought together experts and thought leaders from the mining industry to share insights and advancements in technology that drive safety, sustainability and efficiency.

Department of Science and Innovation chief director Beeuwen Gerritts opened the conference and invited delegates to under-take a “mind shift” to reimagine the minerals industry, emphasising the importance of local entrepreneurship and innovation in achieving sustainable and technologically advanced mining practices. 

Speakers highlighted how digital capabilities such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data are transforming the mining industry, making operations more efficient, safer and more sustainable, and how multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder collaboration, involving entrepreneurs, inventors, engineers, manufacturers, researchers and investors can 

foster innovative solutions and new opportunities in the mining sector. 

In his keynote address on ‘Innovation in a Time of AI?’ Wits Mining Institute’s Professor Glen Nwaila reflected on the difference between novelty and innovation.

Putting our Heads Together: Collaboration for Innovation’ and ‘Mining Technology for an Energy Transition’ invited industry expert panellists to dig deep into these very topical discussions.

Interactive sessions facilitated by Julie Courtnage of the Mandela Mining Precinct, broke the ice and had participants thinking creatively together. The day ended with the Gauteng: Province of Innovators cocktail networking evening overlooking the Johannesburg skyline and sponsored by the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency.

“The mine lifecycle modernisation progresses when we start using data to move from descriptive business intelligence systems toward predictive analytics, and lastly into automation and automated decisions,” said Professor Frederick Cawood on ‘Modernising the mining life cycle through digital innovation: Automation considerations for hard rock mining.’

The Innovation for Mining awards, sponsored by patent and legal firm Spoor & Fisher, celebrated impressive technological advancements and highlighted thematic technologies.

Digital Solutions for Mining

Engineering and product development company Simera Trace’s Digital Ore Identification and Tracking System offers a blast resistant smart sensor block that mimics the behaviour of specific ore. During blasting the tracers shift with the ore offering real-time tracking of tools and equipment and miner location during emergencies. Captured data enables the optimisation of ore grade control and prevention of ore dumping as waste. Rural, black-owned companies are being trained and empowered as service providers to mines. 

Innovative use of Data

The Digital Business Case Evaluation and Tracking Tool, including Mine Intelligence Engine and Sensor Analytics Application (DX BC Tool) by technological and digital processing company Digital Twin (Pty) Ltd uses Excel based calculations and reporting while the app tracks the performance of implemented initiatives against expected benefits. The web-based sensor analytics platform ingests, stores, analyses and displays data, providing digital initiative evaluation (financial/non-financial) at the mine or across several mines.

Collaboration for Innovation

Minerals processing provider Gravitas Minerals’ coal recovery processes entered  a collaboration with Fraser Alexander three years ago. This collaboration gave life to a -6 mm coal duff system with the goal of producing a RB1/RB2 blend. 

The profound impact of the system is reshaping the mining industry, creating environmental and economic opportunities for various commodities such as chrome, iron ore and manganese through extracting value from tailings dams/waste dumps. This puts Gravitas® at the forefront of ESG and enhancing process capacity.

Innovation Towards Zero Harm

Engineering consultancy SKW Project Engineering’s patented Mud Rush Chute is precision-engineered to SANS standards and underscores a commitment to zero harm within the mining industry. The double-door system ensures safety and efficiency, a small feeder door controls the regular flow of ore, while the larger safety door plays a critical role in emergencies, activating to provide an escape for operators during mud rush incidents while also serving as a barrier to prevent mud ingress into the tunnel.

Innovation Towards an Energy Transition

Underground equipment manufacturer Nkangala Mining’s Intelligent Face-Drill patented Alignment System, uses four reference point sensors ensuring a 90ºC alignment to the face at all times, even on sloping faces allowing parallel drilling of subsequent holes. Drill accuracy ensures consistent particle size, resulting in improved removal operations, greater efficiency and cost savings. Boasting a Level 4 diesel engine, the drill has automated features meaning less-experienced operators can drill at a more predictable level. 

Innovation by an SME

Mining equipment manufacturer Fabchem Mining’s proprietary SPT100 SMART Pull Tester for roof support digitises and significantly speeds up execution, collection and reporting of pull testing on bolts, vulcan bolts and split-sets. It is the first of its kind in the global mining industry. Report writer software saves time and eliminates human error. Boasting electronic load and displacement sensors, as well as ten load indication LED’s, data can be downloaded to a PC, smartphone or tablet.

After a networking lunch sponsored by mining support company Ditsogo Group, the final three award winners each demonstrated how it is possible to go beyond the norm, in achieving safety and productivity.

Innovation in Hard Rock Mining (The Navin Singh Award)

Solutions provider Buraaq Mining’s Low Profile Drill Rig, which has significant safety enhancements and is Level 9-ready, has a minimum envelope size of 2 m x 2 m, ISO compliant canopy structure and PLC-based platform. Programmable safety features include seat-belt and door interlocks and canopy warning alarm, digital pre-start procedure with operator verification, and data logging to track machine events and a six-nozzle automatic fire suppression system. 

Innovation in Soft Rock Mining

Drill tools manufacturer DaltronX’s patented Drill Steels surpass traditional rubber ferrules by reducing slippage and coolant leakage. Advanced electric upsetting manufacturing processes, hexagonal cross-section and integrally formed collar ensure a precise chuck fit. The drill steels ‘bulb/washer’ ferrule and new drill depth indicator endure 150% more force with superior durability to operational pressures, fewer failures, less downtime and a safer work environment.

Innovation in Surface Mining

The Trackledon Track Roller Manipulator is a patented dedicated track rolling and manipulating attachment developed by local manufacturer Machinery Contractors in collaboration with a global original equipment manufacturer (OEM). The modular design can be attached to a forklift or fitted to the workshop floor allowing for the safe, remote 

controlled lifting of tracks. Developed with a cable reeling attachment, it offers a safe, efficient and cost effective alternative for workshops.

Touchstones for the Year 

Julie Courtnage noted that the true value of the Mind Shift Conference is knowing that, as a company, you are not alone. “Engage, ask questions - they can be a powerful force for change”. While for Minerals Council South Africa senior executive for modernisation and safety Sietse van der Woude, there were three touchstones to come out of the conference and awards: Collaboration, Commercialisation and Contribution - the three C’s. 

MEMSA thanks the expert speakers, panellists and event sponsors including Old Mutual, Gauteng Growth and Development Agency, Ditsogo, Zevoli, OBPI Incubator, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, HPE, our media partner Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly and awards sponsor Spoor and Fisher for enabling a successful conference.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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