Digitisation in the mining industry: New opportunities for Namibia

21 July 2021 | Opinion

SILAS DAVID

Namibia is one of the world leaders in mineral extraction of numerous valuable raw materials, of which about 80% are exported. The Namibian mining industry forms the foundation for most of the country’s industrial capacity and foreign investment. However, the traditional field methods of development are becoming extremely expensive. The productivity rate in mining operations are dropping due to maintenance costs, unreliability equipment, reactive troubleshooting, low capacity factors and incidents related to safety violations. The question we need to ask ourselves is what technologies we can implement to ensure that the development of modern industry, and the workplace and environmental safety issues in the mining industry, are apportioned meritoriously.

During the transitory years, mining operations were carried out progressively in multifaceted and treacherous geological and climatic conditions, which significantly obfuscates the partaking of personnel in mining processes, which prerequisite highly qualified professionals.

In order to upsurge production rate efficacy in line with industrial safety standards, there is a need to develop pioneering elucidations for the Namibian mining industry, and this includes implementing dispatching and diagnostic systems, automatic or unmanned control systems for dumping trucks and drilling rigs and predictive maintenance, and analytics for solving mining process optimisation problems.

Digital transformation

There are numerous systems which have been instigated for years and are one way or another allied to information technology and information acquisition. Subsequently the advent of ‘digital transformation’, its fundamental meaning has not altered.

What else is unambiguous to digital transformation? It is not the evolutionary development of technology which has taken place over the last years so much as the proliferation in the mining shovel bucket volume. The implementation of information technology does not necessitate investment but makes it conceivable to conduct obtainable equipment meritoriously.

Moving away from the broad-spectrum to the unambiguous, within the three years, fundamentally all major mines might begin using dispatch systems, while road quality control and even road cross sections can be analysed simply based on information from an inclinometer, suspension sensor and dispatch systems. Giving tasks to an equipment operator based on this data; is the digital transformation we are speaking about.

The focal objective is to upsurge the adeptness of mining and conveyor equipment; all equipment for solid raw material extraction, including dispatch control, by 15-20%. The implementation of automatic dispatching and the optimization of control over mining and conveyor equipment makes it conceivable to upsurge the throughput of the excavator and truck fleet by 10-15%, reduce equipment operation costs by up to 8% and ease expenditure on fuel by 5-15%, as well as decrease non-technological downtime by 80%.

Up-to-date decision solutions make it possible to obtain real-time information about the state of all vehicles and detect weak points in equipment fleet operation with the probability of making alterations to production cycle. Equipment high-tech downtimes are thereby abridged and the corresponding output by means of current equipment amount is increased.

Automated control systems for drilling operations based on high-accuracy navigation, can support to advance the competence of drilling-and-blasting operations at open-cut mining operations and can assistance to monitor drilling parameters on a real-time basis. The system provides for lessening of the portion of manual work in routine and labour-intensive operations, thus improving the quality of drilling and blasting operations and the efficacy of drilling machines, as well as calculating accurateness. As a result, conceivable effects for an operation with an output volume starting at 5 million tons consists of reducing secondary drilling volumes by up to 10%, increasing drilling machine productivity by up to 15%, and prompting the fault detection and high-accuracy determination of the position, angles and depth of each drilling point.

The level reached in consensual relations between Namibia and many overseas countries provides us a distinctive chance to expand consensual trade by aggregating the share of high-tech products and implementing joint projects in the arena of innovation. As a country, we need to indorse networking between chambers of commerce and industries, business councils, professional associations and unions, strengthen alliance between business entities through joint projects, trade fairs and exhibitions in the hi-tech sector and establish joint ventures.

* Silas David is a geostatistical analyst, GIS specialist and a trained environmental and societal risk analyst in mine waste, and is currently a metallurgist in trainee at Universit? Paris Saclay in Paris, email: [email protected]

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