Although driving youth participation and innovation in the mining industry is crucial, the advent of Industry 4.0 in the mining industry (Mining 4.0) often makes it challenging, as the youth perceives the industry as less attractive, compared with other mainstream career fields.
Mining simulation centre SiMINE consultant Connie Chijara – a recent graduate – tells Mining Weekly that Mining 4.0 is, ultimately, about integrating people with technology to allow for seamless cooperation.
SiMINE’s main drive is to investigate innovation, so that young people who wish to enter into the industry can come into a more creative space – one that welcomes new ideas.
SiMINE is an experiential mining simulation centre designed to accelerate the development of Operational Systems Capability in people and organisations for the mine of the future and the future of business in general.
It also focuses on employing young people, which gives them the incentive to explore their creativity within Mining 4.0.
The centre aims to – through public–private mining industry collaboration and the Mandela Mining Precinct’s people-centric approach – influence young people to consider the mining industry as part of their chosen careers as the industry lays down tracks towards a digital future, says SiMINE consultant Tanya Mapaire.
“That is the focus of what we do at SiMINE, which is to help young people have a better understanding of the industry given they are, in any case, more inclined to these digital processes,” Chijara adds.
This, Mapaire says, is going to drive mining into a more sustainable future, as technological developments, particularly those associated with people management, will assist the younger generation in better understanding the industry.
“Mining 4.0 will also have a greater impact in terms of mining becoming increasingly attractive to the youth,” he underscores.
“A lot of technologically inclined youngsters do not consider mining as a career of choice and SiMINE is working actively to change that,” SiMINE principal director Harry Sinko says.
“Very few young people think of how technology could have an impact on mining in the larger scheme of things.
“There is a huge opportunity for innovation in the mining industry, which requires new and creative thinking to take it forward,” he adds.
Further, the precinct – which the centre has been a proud partner of since 2018 – is actively driving research and development (R&D) in the mining industry, which has declined over the years, says SiMINE senior consultant Antony Mello.
“I believe that this will, in turn, drive more youth to the sector who are also willing to contribute to the R&D,” he notes.
Key to this will be the centre’s continued collaboration with the Mandela Mining Precinct which, according to SiMINE consultant Mitchel Parsons, finds its value in the respective organisations’ ability to hold each other accountable as far as their efforts in revitalising the mining industry are concerned.
“Our involvement is at a project management, facilitation and training level and we are always on a drive to generate new content. We consistently aim to be involved with the precinct and assist them wherever we are able to so that it may showcase its capabilities. That is how we provide support for the precinct as it fulfils its mandate,” he tells Mining Weekly.
Ultimately, the long-term goal is for the skills being gained through the centre to be transferred to the industry to add value. Sinko underlines that while there are some “solid old mining practices”, Mining 4.0 aims to make them more effective in addressing the current mining challenges .
“Our role has been to help the Mandela Mining Precinct in consolidating its efforts, in line with our systems integration focus, and that has been a big drive over the last two years. The precinct has managed to pique people’s interest and gear the industry up for Mining 4.0,” Mello highlights.
He points out that the Mandela Mining Precinct’s drive to try to “rethink the way we do mining” from a health, safety and productivity perspective, is “the only way the industry will thrive going forward”.
Moreover, Mello emphasises that, “Mining 4.0 is going to be very important in ensuring that mining can continue to have a positive impact on the economy, and that it remains one of the major contributors to the local gross domestic product”.
As such, some of SiMINE’s future collaborations with the Mandela Mining Precinct will include aspects such as extending life-of-mine, and determining how far mining investment can stretch post-mining to the benefit of mine-affected communities.
SiMINE’s premises are located at the Mandela Mining Precinct offices in Melville, Gauteng.
“One of our physical simulation games at SiMINE helps young people to understand the complexities of Mining 4.0 systems and how to better understand the mining value chain, consequently providing them with a better understanding of the mining industry as they physically experience how each aspect affects the others,” Chijara enthuses.
Sinko avers that the game will eventually be upscaled to enable mining companies to make more informed investment decisions.