Drill operators no longer have to endure unbearable noise levels and exposure to occupational and safety hazards as new and energy-efficient rock drills were recently launched in Johannesburg.
Industry innovation challenge
These drills were displayed at the Mandela Mining Precinct (MMP) in Johannesburg showcasing new technology that could help save lives of mine workers. According to the MMP, the drills were manufactured by two local original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s), Hydro Power Equipment (HPE) and Novatek. The display formed part of the precinct’s industry innovation challenge – the Isidingo Drill Design Challenge.
According to the MMP, these drills underwent rigorous underground tests at Impala Platinum in Rustenburg during which it proved suitable for the harsh underground environment of South African mines. Drilling, a primary function of mining, presented various safety challenges such as high fatigue levels of drill operators due to the time they it to assemble and disassemble a heavy rock drill.
Occupational health and safety risks
Until now, traditional drills used in gold and platinum mines are extremely loud while also placing operators very close to a rock face being drilled. This exposed them to various occupational health and safety risks. The HPE and Novatek had been independently designed, prototyped and tested to meet production and occupational health and safety requirements of both gold and platinum mines. The MMP said the new innovations had brought the country closer to improving mining efficiencies and safety. Furthermore, this is expected to create new opportunities for local OEM’s to operate within the mining value chain.
Partnership between key role-players
The MMP is a public-private partnership between the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Minerals Council of South Africa (MCSA). Managed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), it is aimed at revitalising mining research, development and innovation in South Africa to ensure sustainability of the industry.
The DSI’s chief director: Technology Localisation, Beneficiation and Advanced Manufacturing, Beeuwen Gerryts, said: “Through the MMP’s first open innovation challenge, we are proud to present the mining industry with two innovative rock drills that have demonstrated faster, more efficient and importantly, safer drilling.”
He added the open innovation is based on the DSI’s White Paper on science, technology and innovation, the main objective being to ensure this innovation is accessible to all active players for knowledge to be circulated more freely. Gerryts also encouraged the mining industry to continue supporting local OEM’s.
Modernised mining industry
Sietse van der Woude, MCSA’s senior executive: modernisation and safety, said the Isidingo Drill Design Challenge was intended to promote a culture of innovation among local manufacturers “and what we have seen during the underground tests demonstrates the understanding by our OEM’s that innovation is a key guiding principle for achieving a modernised mining industry.”
Human and people-centric modernisation
MMP director, Johan Le Roux said: “The MMP has a mandate to modernise the mining industry through directed research, development and innovation.” He added that bringing new technologies to the market is an important cornerstone of the MMP’s strategy. “Our strategy allows us to take a 360-degree approach to our research, not only considering human-centric design principles, but also, through the successful Application of Technologies Centred Around People (SATCAP) research programme, promote people-centric modernisation by including mine employees in the design and development of equipment.”