Mine of the future will be digital – by Anine Vermeulen (MiningWeekly.com – August 21, 2015)


JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Over the next five years, the mining industry needs to work towards an understanding of what the industry will be like 50 years from now, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) School of Mining Professor of mine surveying Fred Cawood tells Mining Weekly.

He notes that, regardless of the mining methods applied in future, one thing is certain – the mine of the future will be digital.

“The Wits digital mine has four phases and focusses on building a mine mock-up for teaching, learning and research; developing a smart mine laboratory hosting digital technologies inside the mock mine; monitoring an underground environment for improved mine design and processes; and integrating a digital mine into a digital city and communities.”

Cawood points out that although projects covering all phases have been implemented, only the first phase has been completed, with the second phase at an advanced stage. “Phases three and four are mostly conceptual and depend on further funding.”

He cites that the mining industry has adopted a zero-harm philosophy regarding worker safety and health, and a digital mine will accelerate the process of reaching this goal, adding that the completion of life-size mock facilities hosting technologies to allow for risk modelling is the major milestone to date.

Cawood illustrates that registered mining students will install current systems as part of their research. He notes that, over time, these systems will further be integrated with smart surveying and mapping visualisation systems, smart climate control systems and energy savings, smart rock engineering systems, smart data processing and smart mine design, mining planning and decision-making.

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