by AKANI CHAUKE
JOHANNESBURG – DIGITAL transformation in the mining industry has emerged a necessity in South Africa amid criminal activity, decreasing profits and output, the need to go green and promoting workplace safety.
According to experts, the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) represents a dramatic shift across all industries in terms of digital transformation and new ways of conducting business.
Marcel Bruyns, Sales Manager at Axis Communications, noted in mining, innovative methods such as network video and audio products make overseeing and managing operations more efficient and secure, while also serving as a scalable solution.
He believes this is pivotal especially for the sector he hailed as South Africa’s most important sector economically.
Mining contributes more than 8 percent to the country’s gross domestic product. At its height, it contributed over 20 percent but dropped after dwindling gold output. Plans are to increase the contribution to 12 percent in the foreseeable future.
Bruyns explained like with any industry, surveillance plays an essential role in security, and South Africa’s mining sector has long been impacted by criminal activity, ranging from theft and vandalism to looting.
“Violent crimes have recently brought operators to the brink, with some reconsidering their presence and ability to continue to do business,” he said.
The expert proposed network video, which allows for increased response time and comprehensive location coverage – all managed from a single control room.
“Perimeter patrols can be costly or limited to a couple of strategic points that allow for blind spots,” he said.
“Surveillance cameras solve this issue. They’re equipped with motion capabilities and thermal reading that enables them to detect breaches and potential false alarms.”
Network video is also handy considering because of their size and intricacies, mining operations can suffer from redundancies that affect operators’ ability to maximise revenue and output.
“Take it a step further, network audio is a useful communication tool,” Bruyns said.
By integrating audio functionalities, operators can issue alerts and notifications on a wide scale.
Bruyns noted mining can be a dangerous job, which is why it is essential that operators take every step to ensure the occupational safety of all employees.
Visibility is a highly impactful challenge for many mining operators as underground tunnels can be poorly lit. In open-air mines, the amount of dust kicked up by excavation and transport processes can create hazardous working conditions.
Surveillance cameras equipped with advanced infrared settings and low-light functionality can be used to survey areas regardless of conditions, Bruyns recommended.
Solutions such as onboard and body-worn cameras can be used to monitor specific individuals and equipment, identify leaks or malfunctions that could threaten lives, as well as ensure occupational safety policies and PPE requirements are adhered to.
“Surveillance goes above and beyond just watching for intruders and criminals,” Bruyns said.
“…and, by adopting cutting-edge solutions, South Africa’s mines can be enabled for the long term and upgraded in the name of efficiency, security, and opportunity.”
Recently, multinational company, the Zijin Mining Group, telecommunications giant, MTN, and global ICT provider, Huawei, signed a collaboration agreement to build the Southern Africa region’s first 5G-enabled smart metal mine.
This is for the Zijin Garatau Platinum Mine in Limpopo, South Africa.
In addition to high-speed 5G broadband access, there are smart mining solutions like vehicle remote control, Internet of Things and enterprise digital transformation.
The Minerals Council South Africa in 2021 published a report on how the local industry was increasing its use of new innovations to strengthen several sectors of operation.
The COVID-19 lockdown accelerated the application of 4IR technologies.
– CAJ News