South African miners search tech improvements to handle falls-of-ground

The Minerals Council South Africa and the Mandela Mining Precinct (MMP) plan to announce the finalists of an open innovation problem – championed by Sibanye-Stillwater and Impala Platinum – to establish high-potential improvements for real-time rock hazard identification and unfastened rock elimination in South African mines.

The problem types a part of the MMP’s Superior Orebody Data programme, which is geared toward offering mine planners, rock engineers, geologists and different decision-makers with data and data that may contribute to optimum extraction and nil hurt goals.

It additionally types a part of the Minerals Council’s Elimination of Fall of Floor (FoG) Fatalities Motion Plan, which is a holistic strategy that encompasses technical and human parts supported by the Division of Mineral Assets and Vitality, the Mine Well being and Security Council, in addition to organised labour and suppliers.

The motion plan, which was authorized in July 2021, features a monetary funding of R46-million over 5 years.

The open innovation problem, which was first introduced on August 12 and which is able to shut on October 12, was an invite to establish and implement new know-how that may allow the event of user-friendly options for enhancing geological confidence on the face, whereas additionally making the underground mining atmosphere safer through the elimination of unfastened rocks after blasting and through cleansing earlier than staff enter the world for drilling.

The finalists shall be introduced in early November.

The problem seeks to handle a two-fold downside – figuring out the rock options that could possibly be probably hazardous after which safely supporting or eradicating them.

“For FoG security, statistical evaluation revealed numerous accidents occurred through the barring course of. This is the reason we would have liked to seek for no matter applied sciences, devices and methods are on the market that may assist take away unfastened rock within the most secure attainable approach – ideally remotely, with out individuals being uncovered,” Minerals Council security and sustainable improvement senior coverage analyst Lerato Tsele tells Mining Weekly.

She explains that the enterprise case for the Minerals Council on this undertaking centered on saving lives, including that Sibanye-Stillwater and Impala Platinum mines have availed themselves to pilot no matter device or gear or know-how emerges from the problem.

South African underground, slim, tabular gold and platinum mines have the very best FoG dangers. Intense fracturing usually happens owing to excessive stresses encountered at depth and the structural complexity of those orebodies.

This fracturing can be exacerbated by the drill-and-blast methodology that’s historically practiced in hard-rock slim reef mines. The mixture of faults, joints and shallow-dipping fractures occurring in tabular stopes can compromise the integrity of the hanging wall, leading to rock mass instabilities.

These instabilities, if untreated, could end in hazardous FoGs. This is the reason they’re usually the goal of safe-making and assist actions throughout mining.

The identification and visualization of geological constructions and hazards on the face by mining personnel is usually restricted to in-person visible and bodily examination and the power to establish hazards and dangers forward of the face are restricted.

A brand new, higher main follow is being searched for frontline staff in laborious rock, tabular, underground mining to extra precisely establish and visualize hazards referring to rock faults, joints and fractures.

As soon as unstable and unsafe rocks have been recognized, it’s essential to assist or take away them safely.

The strategy of utilizing a pinch bar to sound the rock to ascertain its integrity after which utilizing it to take away the rock exposes the employee on to the hazard, to not point out it being bodily demanding. A brand new device to securely take away a unfastened rock from the rock mass in a managed method is required to make sure zero hurt to these tasked with finishing up making protected operations.

Improvements chosen to participate in phases 2 and three of this programme shall be supported financially with as much as R1-million of analysis and improvement (R&D) funding from the Elimination of FoG Fatalities Motion Plan R&D fund.

Finalists could have the chance to showcase their know-how publicly, receiving vital model publicity by undertaking and media companions.

Finalists will showcase their options at a digital demo day, serving to present entry to key decision-makers within the mining trade, enabling market entry and a free platform for innovators to market their options to potential purchasers.

By way of the MMP, innovators will be capable of check new applied sciences by utilizing the newly established Trade check mine.

Along with this check mine, innovators shall be supplied entry to the champion mines for preliminary testing and piloting, giving them long-term market traction and a enterprise case to promote to different purchasers inside the mining trade.

Whereas the problem is open to anybody from across the globe, the primary prize can be to have a South African-developed resolution. Nevertheless, the first goal is to search out an acceptable resolution.

“We’re all proudly South African and in assist of localisation and improvement inside our nation.

“Nevertheless, if we do discover a profitable resolution from one other nation, the very best factor for us can be to be taught from it and really develop these expertise inside our communities, to present our individuals a chance to be taught and broaden,” MMP Superior Orebody Data programme supervisor Michelle Pienaar says.

Finalists will showcase their improvements in a digital or hybrid occasion, to trade and a panel of judges, within the first week of December, throughout which the ultimate pitching spherical will happen with judges.

Analysis Institute for Innovation and Sustainability engagement supervisor Alexandra Lugagne explains that the options should be straightforward to make use of.

“How can it combine into the day-to-day standard workflow with out including pointless burden? The thought is for it to make the work extra environment friendly and simpler to do when it comes to doing it safely, not longer and extra tedious, given the pressures that mining groups must cope with already,” she says.

“We’re all excited and we wait in anticipation to see what this problem will deliver as a result of we’ve been struggling for a few years with FoGs,” Tsele says.

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