The mining research, development and innovation (RD&I) landscape in South Africa has become increasingly muted over the years, with insufficient capacity expected to limit knowledge generation and innovation to less that it is dealt with effectively, according to the National Development Plan (Vision 2030).
Therefore, education, training and innovation were identified as central to South Africa’s long-term development, and the Mandela Mining Precinct (MMP) was created to help address this issue, focusing primarily on “quick wins” while developing a longer-term strategy.
RD&I at MMP focuses primarily on the underground gold and platinum sectors, and its work is aligned with industry needs by providing feasible solutions through a network of R&D collaborators and by putting emphasis on higher technological readiness levels of research.
The main objective of the MMP is to facilitate the implementation of the South African Strategy for Research, Development and Innovation in Mineral Extraction (SAMERDI), which aims to “maximize returns from the mineral wealth of South Africa through sustainable and collaborative research, development, innovation and implementation of mining technologies”. in a socially, environmentally and financially responsible manner, rooted in the well-being of local communities and the national economy”.
SAMERDI’s vision should be achieved by focusing on relevant research in the following areas, with particular emphasis on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues:
The longevity of current mines (LoCM)
Mechanized Mining Systems (MMS)
Advanced Ore Body Knowledge (AOK)
Real Time Information Management Systems (RTIMS) and
The successful application of people-centric technologies (SATCAP).
To assist in the process of developing and improving mining research capacities and capabilities, MMP has established several SAMERDI Research Centers (SRCs), covering each of the research programs, at participating universities, namely: University of Witwatersrand (Wits), University of Pretoria (UP), University of Johannesburg (UJ) and University of the Free State (UFS), where young scholars will participate and grow through structured programs linked to mining.
HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS
In addition to these SRCs, the MMP also has an in-house internship program that provides interns with on-the-job training to ensure that they acquire both skills and competencies, as well as skills and experience. more generic by being active members of these programs. Exposure to work situations gives them much-needed work experience that can be added to their resume and general marketing. It is very important for these newly qualified trainees to find employment opportunities within the mining fraternity to continue their capacity development.
MMP’s latest cohort of interns are currently completing their internship programs. The current program includes Maseda Mphaphuli, who holds an MSc in Geology from the University of Johannesburg and specializes in a wide range of fields from economic and research geology to geophysics and geographic information systems. Mphaphuli believes that his strong presence of mind and good problem-solving skills allow him to remain calm in stressful situations so that he can reassess the situation before finding a solution.
Mphaphuli, supported by her mentor MMP, is confident that she understands the various technologies available to help geologists in underground mines such as ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) to see ahead of the mining face.
Dolly Mathivha is another MMP intern, and she holds an Honors BSc in Geology from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).
Mathivha says his skills in geology and rock engineering allow him to help narrow and deep reef mines better manage their seismicity to achieve zero damage.
“I would like to use my knowledge on these two topics to develop better seismic hazard monitoring technologies and better preventive measures to combat seismic hazards,” she comments.
Wits alumni Shadrack Makamu and Nhlanhla Tsungo both hold an honors bachelor’s degree in mining engineering. Makamu, who specializes as a junior researcher in mechanized mining systems, says MMP’s internship program has equipped him with “the necessary skills through research, projects and training to improve the mining industry.”
Through research and the SATCAP training program, Makamu says the importance of digitization has been highlighted with regards to how implementing virtual reality and augmented reality can improve both the safety and productivity of the mining industry.
Tsungo, who is also involved in the field of mechanized mining systems, believes that skills such as “effective collaboration, teamwork, self-motivation, willingness to learn, work under pressure and other experiences and skills”, acquired as a mining research intern at the MMP and practical experience in the mining industry will help them to “provide effective and innovative approaches when extracting minerals of economic value while ensuring the safety and thereby achieving production targets”.
Onismus Mamaila, meanwhile, a graduate of the University of Limpopo with a BSc in Geology (2017 – 2019) and an Honors BSc in Mining Geology (2020 – 2021), says patience and adaptability enable him to “thrive in any situation” where it is necessary for their knowledge and skills to be applied to solve a problem.
Sagwadi Maswanganyi, who specializes in the Internet of Things space and holds a BSc in Information Technology from North West University, says his skills can “enhance the mining industry by empowering people underground and above ground communicate via real-time data access, ensuring their safety in terms of incident reporting systems, temperature sensors and vehicle tracking systems.”
Finally, Mafiwa Ramalebana, a graduate of Monash University and the University of Johannesburg, believes that communication and people skills are among the most important skills one can learn.
“Every industry needs such a skill set, no matter how technical, because everything we make, create and research is for human consumption,” she says.
All MMP interns believe their skills can improve the mining industry by further humanizing the industry and ensuring a clear message is delivered to consumers, stakeholders, mining communities and the general public. They complete their internship programs in November, after which they will be available for employment.