Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Kamwendo: A top French company flew into South Africa this week to herald a new technology era for mining.
Creamer: I normally associate Dassault Systèmes Geovia with defence technology, aerospace technology and marine technology, but it is very interesting that they staged a natural resources forum in Sandton this week, to show how that technology can be leveraged into the mining industry turning mining into a factory like environment equipt with autonomous devices that are controlled by tech-savvy people sitting in remote offices.
This is the vision that they now have and they are riding a wave of a lot of technologies that are already in use in the world, there is no reinvention of the wheel. It is just an application of these technologies to mining. We think of the internet of things, we think of big data, but also they come in with immersive visualisation, which is going to be so important because you can see inside those mines, you can see what it happening.
Then the fusion of design and simulation, which means you can have many designs before you actually spend any money and you can actually turn that simulation that you have been working on into a fixed engineering project. Some very interesting aspects here, also how Mother Nature will have been revered to an extent than has been in the past. Safety will be a big thing and productivity will be a big thing.
Of course, the digitisation that are introducing by other companies as well, we saw General Electric move in with Vedanta Zinc International up in the Northern Cape where they have got smart ore systems that are going through their already digitising. We saw in London Anglo American saying that mining is going to be unrecognisable. In the next few years there is going to be big changes.
Kamwendo: Australian mining company South32 will begin spending R4.3-billion this month on a life extension coal project in Mpumalanga.
Creamer: Every bit of capital expenditure that can go into our economy now must be welcomed. They will start spending this R4.3-billion before Christmas, which is a nice urgency that we have to this life extention to the Klipspruit Coal Project. That comes with it a certain distancing by this company, of coal.
Because, although they are spending a lot in coal they really want their coal business out at South32 to stand alone, so their manganese and aluminium will be part of South32, but they will separate out the coal. They are under pressure – they are also listed in London – from people saying that this adds to climate change, so they want to withdraw and set this up as a stand alone entity and possibly put it onto the Stock Exchange against the background of Eskom also saying that you have got to have transformation.
They know that there are a lot of companies here, black-owned now, we see some 80% ownership by black interests in coal now and possibly they will start merging with South32 in the stand alone to take over the coal business.
Kamwendo: The Australians this week came up with an earlier-than-expected timeline for the revival of an old South African zinc-and-copper mine.
Creamer: It is nice to see the sprightliness with which these foreign investors operate in South Africa. When they come in you expect them to be explorers for some time, now all of a sudden they are already talking production, because that is where the money is. It is good to see that they have advanced their time line and they are starting to do the studies on a opencast mine out there.
We know that from 1971 to 1991 AngloVaal, one of our biggest former mining companies, got zinc and copper and now this company, Orion, is seizing upon that opportunity looking to bringing the production out of there early, which will be great for the Northern Cape and the people of Prieska, who haven’t seen that mine operating since 1991.
At the same time they will be dewatering and preparing the underground mine for activity and we know that already they have got helicopters flying over with the most modern technology so there should be a much bigger asset there developing. During that period they produced – from 1971 to 1991 – at a rate of 25 000 tons of zinc a year and 15 000 tons of copper a year and it was premium quality copper and zinc.
Now, this Orion company, which is also listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is hoping to reap the rewards from that endowment when they revive production there in 2019.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.