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Technology and 4IR in the Mining Industry
We are now fully entrenched in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which means that technology is taking the centre stage in a number of industries. This includes the mining sector. South Africa’s economy relies heavily on its mining industry. With the innovations emerging out of 4IR, mining efficiently and more safely is of paramount importance.
Let’s first take a look at 4IR, or Industry 4.0, and why it’s significant to not just mining, but other sectors as well.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution encapsulates the rapid changes in technology and innovations and how they are applied in the workspace. This includes the Internet of Things (IoT) which refers to devices, appliances and machinery connected to the internet. Virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) would also fall under the Industry 4.0 umbrella.
In a sense, we are looking at intelligent operations and equipment moving into a vast number of spheres. What this means is that, through the use of these various new tools, there may be an improvement not only to the way work is performed, but in the lives of workers.
Mining in South Africa has always been at the forefront of new developments and innovation. In 2020 Microsoft established the Microsoft Mining Core - AI Centre of Excellence for Mining in Johannesburg, Gauteng. The focus of the organisation is to give customers a chance to get to grips with the technologies that could help to overcome business challenges and lead to growth in the sector
How will all these innovations that make up 4IR, actually benefit the mining industry as a whole? For one thing, it could open the door to upskilling workers and raising the standard of living of the communities in mining areas. Digital literacy skills are vital as we move towards mass digitisation across the globe in almost all areas of business and infrastructure.
The technologies that are now coming into play could also assist with health and safety. Autonymous systems like drones, drills, vehicles and video analytics can make a huge difference. They could also be used to monitor the overall of health of workers.
Then there is the environmental issue. Mines get a lot of flack for their impact on the environment and society around them. Having a digital, connected platform may help to reduce carbon footprint and monitor the use of water.
At the heart of all of these technologies is AI and machine learning. As machines and systems learn from the mines and workers themselves, they may even be able to adjust to what a specific organisation needs in order to function safely and at an optimal level.
It is clear that technology and the digital world is what all future businesses will be relying on. The future of mining lies in 4IR and South Africans only stand to benefit from the changes in the industry.