South Africa and China will look to match – or possibly exceed – Australia’s leading position in underground mine communications and geospatial informatics through the extended mining research partnership between the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and China University of Mining and Technology (CUMT).
Wits and CUMT earlier this month established the Joint International Research Laboratory of China-Africa Mining Geospatial Informatics at a ceremony in Xuzhou, China.
The collaboration, underway since January 2013, has directed research funds into underground communication systems, risk measurement through sensors, risk modelling and prediction of harm, but the new initiative will focus on accurately locating workers relative to mine risks, using GPS-like underground positioning.
“Every day, thousands of mineworkers report for duty and shortly afterwards disappear into the underground workings,” said Wits Mining Institute professor Fred Cawood. “Once underground, it is hard to protect them from harm because we don’t know what risks they are exposed to – or where and when those risks occur. At the end of the shift, they return – and this is the first time we can check that they are all back safely.”
Professor Cawood said this situation was not good enough to pursue a zero harm objective.
“The way to overcome this problem is, firstly, to accurately locate workers relative to machines, excavations and other typical mining risks in real time,” he said, “and secondly, to communicate directly with them should they find themselves in harm’s way.”
Cawood said the initiative was a step toward realising the vision of being a world-leading laboratory with networks to mining in China and Africa, with an initial focus on mining geospatial informatics research.
CUMT president professor Shirong Ge said China had achieved a leading global position in geospatial technology “after decades of development” with the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System.
“Universities like ours have the responsibility to introduce these advanced technologies to the international market,” he said “I believe that this new laboratory will contribute to the application of these technologies, and promote the economic, social and technological development of both Africa and China.”
Australia has established a leading international position in underground mine communications, safety and data management through national researcher, CSIRO-developed technologies commercialised by companies such as Mine Site Technologies and Codan.
“Perhaps our biggest opportunity is in the long-term, where we can work on 21st century mining education and skills for African countries – to ‘leapfrog’ our current technology gap in this area,” professor Cawood said.
“This will give Africans the capacity to manufacture, install and maintain technology solutions developed and designed in this Joint Laboratory.”
Source: Mining Journal | Dec 20