Mining skills not keeping up with technology – by Sungula Nkabinde ( – November 10, 2015)

No room for unskilled labour in Nick Holland’s gold mine of the future.

Mining education is not keeping up with technology, says professor Fred Cawood, director of the Wits School of Mining Institute. He was responding to Moneyweb questions relating to Gold Fields’ CEO Nick Holland’s suggestion that in the mine of the future mechanisation was not only necessary for the industry’s survival, but inevitable.

This, Holland said, was particularly true for the gold sector, where the total contribution to geological inflation is driving double-digit cost inflation, and the average grade of gold mined has fallen by 3% per annum, since the year 2000.

Over the last year, clashes with local communities have risen 22% every year, and government continues to expect more from mining operations. Depressed commodity prices and shrinking margins, are forcing miners to cut their exploration spend as well, which further dampens prospects for the future.

“For the industry to survive, productivity is going to have to be the order of the day and mines can no longer rely on the gold price increasing,” said Holland, speaking recently at the Gordon Institute of Business Science on what the gold mine of the future would be. “Conventional mining is going to disappear over time.”

Drones that fly above mines to capture imagery and data in real-time, artificial intelligence robotics and remote-controlled machinery will also feature heavily in mines of the future.

This, Holland said, would see digital mining and big data introduced into the value chain, with advanced analytics and new software technologies used to deliver productivity and throughput increase with the same resources.

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