Mining innovators recognised

22nd March 2024 By: Halima Frost - Senior Writer

Mining innovators recognised

FUTURE FORWARD the future of mining will see companies and mines embracing new technologies and developments

In conjunction with this year’s yearly Investing in African Mining Indaba, held in Cape Town at the start of February, industry body Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa (Memsa) held a virtual webinar – titled ‘Innovation, Digitisation and Collaboration in the South African Mining Supply Chain Power Hour’ – to highlight some the 2023 Memsa innovation awards winners.

The webinar spotlighted the technological and collaborative developments last year’s winners had made over the past nine months.

The winners were announced during the 2023 Memsa Shifting Minds Conference, which was held at the Industrial Development Corporation Convention Centre, in Sandton, Johannesburg, on May 24 and 25.

The awards were founded by Memsa in partnership with local procurement lobby organisation Proudly South African and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition.

Memsa says it aims to bring together winners and entrants of the 2023 Memsa Innovation in Mining Awards, along with keyrole players, to build a shared understanding of challenges and strategies for succeeding together.

Minerals Council South Africa modernisation and safety senior executive Sietse van der Woude, who hosted the webinar, says the event aimed to showcase each of the winners and how the companies embraced the move to new technologies and their embracing of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in the mining sector.

Underground equipment manufacturer Nkangala Mining Equipment was the recipient of two awards in 2023: the Memsa Innovation in Hard Rock Mining Equipment – known as the Navin Singh Award (in recognition of the late industry stalwart) – as well as the Innovation in Soft Rock Mining Award.

“Through close collaboration with a mining house, we have developed two genuine autonomous vehicles, which were successfully tested at the mine and were in turn the winners of the two innovative awards last year,” says Nkangala Mining Equipment marketing director Paul Buckley.

He adds that Nkangala Mining Equipment is an original-equipment manufacturer, based in Middleburg, which also refurbishes and repairs heavy machinery.

The winner of the Innovation in Hard Rock Mining Equipment Award went to mining solutions provider Buraaq Mining Services.

Buraaq Mining Services junior design engineer Muhammad Kudoos stressed during the webinar that collaboration can play a substantial role in driving the successful integration of 4IR technologies in the mining industry.

“Obviously a key factor in that would be to have safety as priority,” he added.

Additionally, he noted that through embracing a collaborative approach, the sector can collectively navigate the opportunities and challenges of the current time, while also safeguarding the well-being of the workforce and the sustainability of operations.

Buraaq Mining Services, based in Benoni, Gauteng, specialises in equipment rebuilding, maintenance and local manufacturing.

Its advanced workshops and dedicated team enable the company to offer the highest standards in equipment quality and client satisfaction.

“The company hosts a robust equipment rentals division, embraces various research and development initiatives, and is committed to local empowerment. Buraaq is poised at the forefront of mining innovation,” adds Kudoos.

Engineering consultants Azmet Technology and Projects were the second-year winners of the Innovation in Mineral Processing Award, this year for its carbon-to-metal converter.

Azmet co-founder and marketing director Ruan Kukard said during the webinar that there were three factors that were driving the demand for new and innovative products in the mining sector, namely, “the value-added component, sustainability and the novelty of one's innovative products and technologies”.

Elaborating on the value added concept, he said it pertained specifically to the value offered to the end-user, and that Azmet’s current range of products and technologies was beneficial to gold mining companies, in particular.

“Azmet offers its services to recover additional gold, not only in solution, but also from solids that would have otherwise been lost, which ensures its technology is unrivalled by any other product and technology in the current global market,” Kukard said.

“We have also developed a circuit to reduce the cyanide on the tail end of gold processing plants, which is not only financially viable, but is also better for the environment,” he pointed out.

Winners of the Innovation in Mining Award for Digital Solutions for Mining was innovative solutions developer Graf-in Tech, which was recognised for their end-to-end business intelligence-driven fleet management solution for mining fleets.

Graf-in Tech builds customer-specific digital solutions for mining, manufacturing and government sectors.

“We believe that clients and mines need to digitise in order to remain competitive on a global scale,” said Graph-in Tech CEO Brendan Fernandez.

He pointed out that one of the foremost challenges faced was that when a solution was deployed, a heavy reliance on manual data collection processes, generally, hindered the implementation of artificial intelligence technology.

“Not only are there inaccuracies in the data collected, but the lag between collecting and capturing the information can affect the efficiency of an operation,” he stressed.

The webinar ended with the guests suggesting that Memsa should cast a wider net to incorporate companies who may not traditionally work in the sector, as well as to continue driving recognition and celebrating the companies who invest in innovation.

In conclusion, Van der Woude added that through a stronger link between academia and research institutions, Memsa could help its members better harness the transition to 4IR in the mining sector.