Innovation is a matter of communication

Issue 2/3 2023 Mining (Industry), Infrastructure, Security Services & Risk Management

Off the back of the Investing in Africa Mining Indaba conference, which took place in Cape Town, President Cyril Ramaphosa took to the podium and pushed for more innovation. He said, “The mining industry also needs to manage the risks and potential benefits of rapid technological change, shifting market demand, climate change, and geo-political uncertainty.”

In the mining sector, beyond giant hydrogen-fuelled trucks and robotic miners, it is the industry’s migration from analogue to digital communication technology that is, perhaps, its most essential innovation.

Digitisation has pervaded every industry under the economic sun. The need to squeeze more efficiency and value to maintain competitive advantage has become the go-to strategy for CEOs in every vertical. In the mining industry, the migration from analogue to digital extends way beyond the balance sheet and is most keenly felt in communication technologies – where safety and productivity go hand-in-hand.

When man and machine work together in confined and dangerous spaces like mines, it demands a high level of constant and precise communication to ensure safe and efficient mining operations. The move towards digital communication technology has been a godsend for the mines and especially, the mineworkers.

The world’s leading mine operators are turning to digital technologies to transform their operations. Wireless communications and information technology systems have emerged as key enablers of mine digitalisation, promising to increase mine safety, productivity, and operational efficiency.

A hybrid mesh

This change, however, needs to happen faster if our industry is going to continue keeping our economy afloat. Many companies in the mining sector have been slow to adopt new technologies due to the scale and complexity of their operations, not to mention the costs that come with that change.

It was not that long ago that all mines were completely dependent on analogue radio technology, and in some, that technology is still in use today. In the case of analogue, teams of workers would be subjected to single-channel communications in which only one person could communicate at any given time. If that worker were to tape down their radio’s push-to-talk (PTT) button, then everyone would be shut out of the channel – potentially putting lives in danger.

This kind of digital radio communication technology is essential in an environment that presents so much danger. It’s not only about direct communication, but we have also implemented anti-collision technology in which all vehicles in the mines can utilise a combination of digital and radio technology to help drivers focus on their jobs rather than worrying about their environment.

To maintain a safe working environment balanced with an efficient and profitable production plan, a mission-critical radio and digital communications network is a prerequisite. Without analogue radio communications, efficiency, safety and productivity are compromised.

The key is to digitise that radio network and set up a hybrid wireless network in the mine area, combining cellular and broadband mesh. The hybrid wireless mine area network connects back to the control centre and enterprise over a core fibre network.

Now, we are able to implement what we call PTT over cellular, which allows radio users to connect to others through data networks. Not only that, but it means that users can get an instant response, provided others are connected through Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G. Naturally, emerging 5G standards will seek to enhance this, so long as spectrum issues are ironed out.

Although, we cannot ignore the fact that our mines tend to be out in the middle of nowhere, so connectivity is a constant concern. Not only are the mines out in the sticks, but operations also constantly move within their territory to take advantage of underground mineral wealth. This is why our mines have to rely on a combination of digital and analogue communications technologies.

In South Africa, the move towards these hybrid combination networks will increase the efficiencies of our country’s most dominant and essential sector. From the pit to the shaft to the control centre, our mines need to be bastions of safety and productivity. You cannot have one without the other. If our president wants to focus on more innovation, then I believe it is through the right mix of communication technology solutions that that innovation can manifest.




Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page



Further reading:

Navigating the evolving tech landscape in 2024 and beyond
Residential Estate (Industry) Infrastructure
Progress in the fields of AI, VR and social media is to be expected, but what is not, is our fundamental relationship with how we deploy solutions in our business and how it integrates with greater organisational strategies and goals.

Read more...
Using KPIs to measure smart city progress
Axis Communications SA Residential Estate (Industry) Integrated Solutions Security Services & Risk Management
United 4 Smart Sustainable Cities is a United Nations Initiative that encourages the use of information and communication technology (including security technology) to support a smooth transition to smart cities.

Read more...
Enhancing estate security, the five-layer approach
Fang Fences & Guards Residential Estate (Industry) Integrated Solutions Security Services & Risk Management
Residential estates are designed to provide a serene and secure living environment enclosed within gated communities, offering residents peace of mind and an elevated standard of living.

Read more...
Local manufacturing is still on the rise
Hissco Editor's Choice News & Events Security Services & Risk Management
HISSCO International, Africa's largest manufacturer of security X-ray products, has recently secured a multi-continental contract to supply over 55 baggage X-ray screening systems in 10 countries.

Read more...
iOCO collaboration protection secures Office 365
Information Security Infrastructure
The cloud, in general, and Office 365, in particular, have played a significant role in enabling collaboration, but it has also created a security headache as organisations store valuable information on the platform.

Read more...
Detecting humans within vehicles without opening the doors
Flow Systems News & Events Security Services & Risk Management
Flow Systems has introduced its new product, which detects humans trying to hide within a vehicle, truck, or container. Vehicles will be searched once they have stopped before one of Flow Systems' access control boom barriers.

Read more...
Smart mining operations management
Mining (Industry) Infrastructure IoT & Automation
In his presentation at the recent MESA Africa conference, Neels van der Walt, Business Development Manager at Iritron, revealed the all-encompassing concept of SMOM (Smart Mining Operations Management) and why it is inextricably linked to the future of worldwide mining operations.

Read more...
Cybercriminals embracing AI
Information Security Security Services & Risk Management
Organisations of all sizes are exploring how artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI, in particular, can benefit their businesses. While they are still figuring out how best to use AI, cybercriminals have fully embraced it.

Read more...
Do you need a virtual CIO?
Editor's Choice News & Events Infrastructure
If you have a CIO, rest assured that your competitors have noticed and will come knocking on their door sooner or later. A Virtual CIO service is a compelling solution for businesses navigating tough economic conditions.

Read more...
The TCO of cloud surveillance
DeepAlert Verifier Technews Publishing Surveillance Infrastructure
SMART Security Solutions asked two successful, home-grown cloud surveillance operators for their take on the benefits of cloud surveillance to the local market. Does cloud do everything, or are there areas where onsite solutions are preferable?

Read more...