South African miners operates some of the world’s deepest and most dangerous mines. According to the Department of Minerals Resources, 22 miners died while on duty this year, while 2017 recorded the highest rate of fatalities in a decade, with 88 people killed.
Technology continues to be a powerful ally in improving underground safety and with this as an objective, MTN Business has partnered with Digital Twin Mine Management to develop a hybrid Internet of Things (IoT) solution that uses multiple platforms in the IoT ecosystem to improve health and safety, while enhancing the efficiency of mining operations.
The solution uses multiple layers in the IoT ecosystem including sensors, connectivity, cognitive computing and analytics to proactively monitor groundwater levels, seismic activity, displacements, temperature, smoke, gas leakages and emissions, and the location of miners and equipment.
This data can be gathered remotely and safely by sensors installed at strategic locations throughout the mine. It is then transmitted via MTN’s private LTE network, NB-IoT (Narrowband-IoT) and other near field networks, such as Wi-Fi.
The solution can also be used to proactively carry out equipment maintenance, using real-time condition data that is fed into the asset management system, which enables mine operators to carry out routine maintenance. This proactive maintenance helps prevent production disruption and costly breakdowns.
In addition to monitoring and detection, this solution helps save lives by giving mine operators the ability to automate heavy equipment in dangerous locations. It can also send evacuation alerts to employees in unsafe environments and speed up search and rescue operations.
“The mining industry is at the crossroads of significant technological changes. At MTN Business, we are excited to be playing a leading role in this space by using our world-class network and systems to promote the growth and sustainability of our enterprise customers. This solution will be a game changer that will transform old mining processes. These home-grown solutions have been developed to address a very challenging environment that the mining industry is facing. These business solutions are both protecting lives and supporting the sustainability of the business. This is the kind of value that we consistently seek to add to all our customers,” says Melao Mashale, Head of Enterprise IoT and Acting – General Manager Enterprise Innovation: MTN Business.
The solution was showcased at the Gartner and ITXPO in Cape Town which attracted over 1 000 CIOs and senior IT leaders. This was after the Digital Twin Mine Management solution took the top spot at the MTN Business IoT Conference and Awards at the end of July this year.
Its developers, Mine RP and FlowCentric, will travel to Silicon Valley later this year as part of the R200 000 prize they won.
Industry experts forecast a significant growth of IoT in the mining sector. According to global research firm, Markets & Markets (M&M), the connected mining market size is expected to grow from $3.84 billion in 2015 to $9.98 billion by 2020, at an estimated compound annual growth rate of 21.0% during the forecast period.