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Modernising SA’s mineral extraction sector through research development and innovation

Mandela Mining Precinct director Johan le Roux tells Creamer Media about modernising SA’s mineral extraction sector through research development and innovation. Video & Editing: Creamer Media's Nicholas Boyd.

6th February 2023

By: Simone Liedtke

Creamer Media Social Media Editor & Senior Writer

     

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The Mandela Mining Precinct (MMP), will again this year form part of the South African Pavilion at the “Investing in African Mining” Indaba exhibition, jointly with the Department of Science and Innovation.

Together with other State-owned entities, it will be creating awareness of investment opportunities in South Africa’s mining sector.

They will showcase how the public-private partnership between the South African government, through the Department of Science and Innovation and Minerals Council South Africa, contribute to revitalising the country’s mining industry through research, development, and innovation (RD&I) capabilities and the diffusion of relevant and implementable solutions.

The MMP is also partnering with the Canada Trade Commission, through its Real-time Information Systems research programme, in hosting a panel discussion on how digitalization in mining is progressing in a post-Covid environment.

It will also participate in another panel discussion on the use of technology to manage the impact of supply chain disruption during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Indaba is an opportunity to strengthen existing collaborations and to identify and build new relationships with a focus on the latest mineral extraction innovations,” MMP director Johan le Roux explains.

MMP was established to assist with and coordinate the implementation of the South African Mining Extraction Research, Development, and Innovation (SAMERDI) strategy.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVES

The process of revitalising South Africa’s mining research and development capability and capacity is at the heart of the SAMERDI strategy and the MMP has successfully implemented several strategic initiatives to this end.  

Some of the notable initiatives are the establishment of an industry test mine,

A collision prevention systems project, the mining R&D capacity and capability study, and varioushuman capacity and capability development (HCD) initiatives.

The underground testing facility aims to advance the modernization of the South African mining industry through R&D, technology development, testing and demonstration, academic and industrial training, as well as incubation and local industrialization.

The collision prevention systems project, meanwhile, investigates possible opportunity areas where the MMP and its R&D collaborators could use existing capabilities to find innovative solutions, given the industry’s challenge with trackless mobile machinery (TMM) collision incidents.

The focus of this process, Le Roux explains, is to “gain a holistic understanding of the problems associated with TMM collision prevention systems and to clearly identify the areas where a digital twin could add value”.

In addition, the mining R&D capacity and capability study project deals with capability mapping of mining systems for modernization in the gold and platinum group metals mining sectors.

“A methodology was developed and an assessment was done of mining R&D capacity and capability, which focused on the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research during 2022/23,” the MMP explains.

This study will be expanded in future to look at mining capacity and capability across the South African landscape.

In an effort to build human resource skills, capabilities, and capacities and ensuring that the next generation of mining researchers is well trained, the MMP is pursuing several HCD initiatives including an internship programme, involving post-graduate students in research projects, focused training, and skills development.

These initiatives include the establishment of SAMERDI Research Centres (SRCs), based at the universities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, the Free State, and the Witwatersrand. The SRCs were officially launched in November 2022 and are expected to create new knowledge and capacity in different mining strategic focus areas in South Africa.

Through these initiatives, and more, the MMP aims to rebuild and reposition South Africa as a world leader in mineral extraction and supply chain RRD&I, while ensuring that these mineral extraction and supply chain networks between industry, technology developers, academia and science councils are “sustainable and vibrant”.

In addition, the MMP aims to improve the competitiveness of the mining sector and create new opportunities for South Africa-based companies to operate along the entire value chain and exploit the innovations stemming from this enhanced focus.

Edited by David Shepherd
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