Through its Real-Time Information Management Systems (RTIMS) programme, the Mandela Mining Precinct is developing a 360-degree holistic offering enabling the digitalisation of the South African mining industry.
At its recent showcase of technologies under development, RTIMS programme manager, Jean-Jacques Verhaeghe and his team displayed technologies ranging from a visual positioning system (that also incorporates proximity detection, collision avoidance and predictive analyses), to an enterprise architecture framework that incorporates new technologies and people working side-by-side promising enhanced operational efficiencies.
“The exhibition serves as an indicator of what we have been able to do in terms of laying the very important foundational framework for the digitalisation of the mining industry that will prepare individual mining companies for Industry 4.0, from a technology and data consumption perspective” said Verhaeghe.
The RTIMS programme is centred on getting the right information to the right place or person, at the right time. Verhaeghe explains that digitalisation enables this. Digitalisation is not a new concept, it is described as the journey we go on to transform the way people work in a manner that allows us to take advantage of the efficiencies that technologies create, says CSIR engineer, Stephen Marais who is involved in the visual positioning project. Due to the concerns around safety and the industry’s commitment to attaining zero harm, Marais explains that the end goal is to get everything tagged: “Everything from people to equipment, and then produce a floor plan using 3D technology and a lidar backpack to reduce the occurrence of accidents underground”.
Communications from the stope face is an extremely important component to digitalising our mines, says Verhaeghe and RTIMS has one package focusing primarily on enhancing this. “Our focus is on the last 100 meters where there tends to be communication problems,” says CSIR systems engineer, Braam Greeff, “we envisage that the future miner will interact with all sorts of equipment, much like soldiers who have audio visual equipment attached to their helmets”.
This is echoed by Verhaeghe: “The digital mine is defined by the installation of a host of applications. How do you get this data to surface, and once it is on the surface, what are you going to do with it? And this is what RTIMS is all about.”
CSIR principal engineer, Warren Bilgeri is developing an online tool that integrates the various projects within the programme: “It is the Wikipedia of RTIMS”.
All of the RTIMS projects’ concepts have been tested this year, and will soon be deployed at a suitable operational mine site, to examine their performance in real underground conditions.