The concept of a dedicated test mine for South African mining companies and suppliers surfaced in 2018. Suppliers have historically experienced difficulties in gaining access to underground mine workings to test new equipment. South Africa, as a mining jurisdiction and because of its location in the world, needs a test mine to facilitate the innovation and adoption of new technologies. For the mining industry to be sustainable, modern and safe, and South Africa to maintain its competitive edge, the country needs to find new innovative ways to overcome its challenges. Having a dedicated, easily accessible test mine will enable this strategy.
The SAMERDI collaboration initiative enabled by the Precinct could offer a compelling value proposition for innovators to test new and/or hone their existing technologies by using the test mine.
During 2019, two mines, both on care and maintenance, were offered as test mines. After a feasibility study, the Maseve North Mine – a platinum group metal operation belonging to Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) – was chosen as the test mine. It is a shallow mine near Sun City. The mine is accessed by declines.
Work on establishing the test mine commenced in 2020 but was impeded by the regulations introduced to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. Some low-risk test work took place during the second half of 2020 and continues to this day.
The support of the Chief Inspector of Mines, David Msiza, was obtained for the test mine. In September 2021, the Innovation Team of the Minerals Council confirmed the support of the mining industry for a dedicated test mine.
Since then, a study into the risk and regulatory framework has been completed and agreement between the parties involved was reached on managerial responsibilities and liabilities.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was drafted and is awaiting the signatures of RBPlat, the CSIR and the Minerals Council.