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Developments in efforts to enable network connectivity solutions for underground, hard rock mines have reached a pivotal stage. A suite of solutions, which include those developed by original equipment and technology manufacturers, will be tested to leverage efficiencies and value in a timely manner.

The Mandela Mining Precinct’s Real-Time Information Management Systems (RTIMS) research programme was launched in 2017, with the primary objective of developing the basis from which 4IR technologies can be introduced to South African gold and platinum mines, such as for underground communications systems at the stope, in hard rock bord and pillar operations. This resulted in concept tests being conducted and recommendations delivered to industry, going as far as demonstrating LiFi in 2018.  The RTIMS programme has subsequently continued to develop a series of research projects aimed at investigating alternate options and opportunities deemed feasible for the South African context.

The market has also evolved, such that original equipment and technology manufacturers have introduced interesting products to the market. Giving effect to the Precinct’s mission of collaborative innovation, RTIMS aims to include these breakthroughs in the solutions-mix. “A collaborative effort will better address the various hybrid scenarios available in support of mechanisation, automation and human-enablement, and achieve the resultant efficiencies and value,” says RTIMS programme manager, Jean-Jacques Verhaeghe, adding that some of these latest solutions are already being tested.

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