Data management capacity is the next step for South Africa's mining sector

17 May 2019 2 min. read

As the concept of the ‘digital mine’ gains traction in the South African mining sector, the vast repositories of data that could be collected through monitoring of mining operations could prove revolutionary for the future of the sector, according to a senior executive at SRK Consulting. 

Experts are increasingly commenting on the potential role that technology can play in mining. Last year, global professional services firm Deloitte launched an integrated solution for mining in South Africa, which revolved exclusively around the novel concept of a ‘digital mine'.

The digital mine leverages various Industry 4.0 tools to facilitate greater efficiency in the mining process, most of which relies on the use of Internet of Things sensors to gather vast pools of information in real time. These censors also have the capability of generating performance indicators in real time.

In addition, the data gathered can also be leveraged by automated tools to generate predictive maintenance capabilities, allowing for more detail and efficiency in planning. The applications and implications of a digital mine are far reaching, and experts are now examining these in detail.Data management capacity is the next step for South Africa's mining sector

Some suggest that the next step in this process is to develop capabilities in the data management domain, The volume of data being generated in this scenario is vast, and adept data management is crucial to ensure that the right value can be extracted from various dimensions.

“Geoscientific and geophysical data is used in many aspects of the mining value chain. It is used to target exploration programs in areas where we think there may be concentrations of economically extractable metals,” explains Mark Wanless, Principal Geologist and Partner at SRK Consulting.

“Surface mapping and drill hole data is used to map the presence of mineralisation underground. This enables the construction of 3D virtual models of the mineralisation and rocks, which allows mining engineers to design the mines in virtual reality to allow for the extraction of metals from underground. In operational mines, the mapping, drilling and sampling allow the refinement of the models that allow the mines to operate more efficiently by targeting the mineralisation more accurately,” he adds.

The analysis comes at a time when the South African mining sector is in dire need of innovative growth strategies, particularly as it looks to overturn its fortunes from recent years, when falling commodity prices have dented its revenues substantially.