Phalanndwa Colliery in South Africa recently took a step in this direction and made history in the process after the company implemented 5G communications in the mining site. The implementation is just the initial step toward the mine’s digitization program.
The company’s General Manager, Kgotso Mongalo, said that the deployment of 5G technology helped communication throughout the mine, especially in the mining pit. This approach also reduced accidents by about 50% – a figure that any mining safety inspector would be proud of.
Mongalo said that communication in the plant has been enabled with connectivity from and between machines which helps to fend off accidents and protects both the workers and the machines themselves.
MTN Chief Commercial Officer, Wanda Matandela said that the deployment of 5G at the Phalanndwa is the first of its kind in the continent.
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“Often the conception about Africa is that we are the last to adopt technology,” he says. “But here we are in Mpumalanga, making history. We are at the forefront of changing our country because of the role mining plays in the country.”
He also said that MTN is positioning itself as an ecosystem partner working with strategic stakeholders to provide solutions.
“As we move from being a telco into a techco, we realize the power of partnering, and the importance of finding partners that share the same vision of servicing our customers,” Matandela says.
“We want to be a strategic partner to our customers, which means we need to understand where they are going. For Phalanndwa, insourcing their mining operations meant they had to focus on safety, and this was the primary driver for 5G adoption. However, this is just the first phase of the mine’s 5G project,” he stated.
The company has invested heavily in its 5G network. MTN has 500 5G base stations and, by the end of the first quarter of 2023, will try to cover as much as 40% of the entire population of South Africa.
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Minetec is responsible for providing the technology that helps mines like the one in SA usher towards Mining 4.0. Chief Operating Officer Davut Isik states that 5G helps to ensure connectivity that makes technology highly effective and efficient. “Today, the need for digitalization in mining is more compelling than ever as they are under pressure to improve efficiency, productivity, and safety,” the CEO said.
Minetec began its journey back in 2019 when the Department of Mineral Resources obliged companies to utilize collision prevention technologies in the workplace such as in mines. Mintec provided these solutions and it quickly led to more products that included fuel automation, asset management, and engine protection.
“The biggest challenge in Phalanndwa was connectivity. To get the best out of the Minetec products we need real-time monitoring, which is enabled through the partnership with Huawei and MTN.”
Isik said that the number one priority of any mine is always safety. Human error is usually the culprit behind accidents. “With these solutions, we are improving safety by protecting humans and mechanical assets.”
The senior strategy consultant at Huawei, Marius Engelbrecht stressed that 5G will have an effect on every aspect of our lives. “For mines, it will make an enormous difference in their operations and safety.” And a mining safety inspector will agree as this professional is always on the lookout for workplace safety.
Huawei has deployed a lot of mining 5G networks across the world, with solutions ranging from a basic and simple network to machine sensing and surveillance, to remote mining, sorting, and the use of multi-drone.
“This all becomes available once we have the networks in place,” Engelbrecht says.
Going into remote places where mines are located is the biggest problem they encounter. Huawei can provide a complete solution for this kind of condition, which then lets all the other use cases.
In related news, SafeAI, a global leader in autonomous solutions for heavy machinery, reported that $38 million in Series B funding has been infused into the company.
The company got the new investment from Builders VC, McKinley Management, George Kaiser Family Foundation, and Energy Innovation Capital. Moog Inc. has also joined the round as a strategic investor.
The company retrofits construction and mining vehicles with aftermarket hardware and proprietary autonomy software that the company claims will provide vital benefits in increased productivity in the workplace, safety, and cost efficiency.
SafeAI will maximize investment to expedite its autonomous vehicle technology program and to scale operations worldwide to service an increasing number of customers.
In a statement the company said, “Heavy industry is an enormous global market. Based on data from Australia Mining Consultancy and Parker Bay Mining, the mining equipment industry alone is valued at close to over $18 billion and is expected to grow at a 7% CAGR. But, the industry is threatened by productivity inefficiencies, safety issues, and delays that derail project timelines and budgets.
Autonomy addresses these issues head-on by delivering greater efficiency and 24/7 productivity – yet, less than 5% of mining vehicles worldwide are leveraging it. SafeAI is designed to meet this significant and increasing demand. With its scalable retrofit approach, SafeAI enables off-road heavy equipment owners to convert – not replace – aftermarket vehicles and fleets with autonomous technology, regardless of manufacturer or vehicle type. This scalable approach is critical to supporting accessibility and faster deployment of autonomous technology, and in reducing the barriers to entry to a wider swath of market participants.”