01 July 2021
Mines in South Africa often face many challenges, from loadshedding to political red tape. That’s why we’re investigating three major mining trends in South Africa. These three trends can help mines to overcome today’s challenges and ensure a bright future for mining.
Three major mining trends in South Africa
According to MiningNews, South African mines can look into the following three trends: electrification, automation, and digitalization. These three trends can become critical success factors for mines. However, mines in South Africa may face certain challenges pertaining to each trend.
Electrification in mining
The first trend we’ll be discussing is electrification in mining. In recent years there’s been a shift in the mining industry towards renewable energy. There has been a major increase in global mine’s investment in renewable energy between 2018 – 2019. In addition to this increase, the carbon tax introduced in South Africa also leads to mines pursuing renewable energy.
However, to make the switch to renewable energy, miners need to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, the use of fossil fuels from their operations. The South African mining industry uses 10% of the country’s diesel. While loadshedding does not directly affect mines, their backup power supplies often run on diesel. A starting point would be to cut diesel usage and invest in electric vehicles. However, switching from diesel to fully electric or hybrid-electric vehicles to lower diesel usage and pollution could prove to be a challenge in South Africa.
As a result, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe released a revised Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act on March 26 2019, allowing mining companies to generate their own power.
Renewable energy is certainly a more sustainable and better option, especially in South Africa where mines can now generate their own power. Essentially this means that mines can become pioneers of renewable energy, paving the way for other industries to follow.
Automation in mining
When most people think about automation in mining, they often equate it to job losses. However, that’s not necessarily the case. Mining is a major employer in the country, but increasing profitability doesn’t have to equate to job losses. It is estimated that innovations in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT) have the potential to save the mining sector an estimated $373 billion by 2025.
In addition, automating machinery operation, facilitating predictive maintenance, improving traceability, and harnessing the power of real-time data and analytics can all lead to improved mine safety, communications, sustainability, and raise productivity.
The biggest challenge that automation faces is a mindset change. Companies and communities need to embrace the idea of automation before implementing new technology.
We are now in a new digital transformation age, well known as the 4th industrial revolution and embedding new technology especially in South Africa, can be difficult. Therefore change management and the adoption of new technology/digital platforms is highly important.
Users of such platforms and tools must be trained, and the impact of the change from pre-and post-implementation must be recorded, investigated and resolved during a project handover phase. Change management is linked to value realisation for any digital product.
Change management allows the user to make a new product part of there day to day profession. It’s often demonstrated when a product is “dumped” at a client without proper change management/adoption or training, that users tend not to use the product effectively and in some cases, it’s recorded that they don’t want to “break” the current system.
Another challenge that poses a risk is Cybersecurity. Mining operations that are largely reliant on automated industrial technology or Operation Technology can face cybersecurity threats. Connected and networked IP devices are often the targets of cyberattacks. Attacks of this nature may result in the manipulation of machinery and or vehicles. These attacks could cause catastrophic failures or shutdowns of the entire plant.
According to the Deloitte Future of Mining report, the most prevalent threats are:
- Data Manipulation: These attacks take place over email and often trick employees into giving out sensitive data
- Corporate Espionage: The theft of confidential data and sensitive financial information
- Insider Threats: Individuals inside of the organisation who intentionally or unintentionally leaks information
- Hacktivism: Cyber attacks with the purpose of effecting social change.
If you want to know more about cybersecurity and how to defend against cyberattacks, we’ve got you covered in this article.
A digital future
The future of the mining industry will likely include digitised and technology-driven work. That is why data analytics is more important than ever.
The continued rise in operating costs of mines puts pressure on mines to think differently about how they should operate. Mines are also working with a younger, more environmentally conscious workforce and continuous legislative changes. This leads to mines rethinking how technology can benefit them.
Digitising some of the paper-based processes will allow the operations to store/capture data faster with a click of a button. In other words, data opens endless opportunities for mining operations to re-think the future from predictive insights to reporting and improving safety.
Real time data analytics
Data is key for mines of the future. Switching to renewable energy and automation all require data to make decisions and improve technologies. Therefore, it is crucial for mining companies to have a solid digital transformation strategy in place to ensure well-informed decision-making that will help them maximise energy usage, productivity, reliability and safety while minimising outages, emissions and costs.
Mining companies collect huge amounts of data from their equipment and operations. When used correctly, data analytics can lead to the following benefits:
- Integrated real time resource planning;
- Predictive maintenance;
- Adaptive mine planning;
- Maintenance artisan assist;
- Shorter interval control;
- and many more.
However, mines face the challenge of not being able to read or use the data. Without proper data, mines cannot implement their digital transformation strategies. Similarly, data can be used to make decisions surrounding automation and electrification. However, mines don’t have to face digitalisation, electrification and automation alone.
That’s where Integrove can help you out. Integrove specialises in creating bespoke digital solutions that will help your mine improve and succeed. We can help your mine rise to the top with our specialists in data analytics, cybersecurity, integration and more. From data science and analytics to app development and deployment, we’ve got you covered.