Investment plans in the African mining industry point to improving safety first, as well as increasing productivity.
In a recent Timetric survey of over 100 key decision makers at operating mines in Africa, respondents were asked about their intentions to invest in 12 different areas of technology at their mine site in the next two years, including several mine management and vehicle-related technologies. The areas most miners (83%) are planning to invest in are new, safety-focused technologies such as ‘fatigue management’ and ‘collision avoidance/proximity detection’.
Two other technologies with high potential for further investment are ‘equipment health monitoring and diagnostics’ and ‘productivity monitoring systems/tools’, with 80% of respondents planning to invest in these two areas in the next two years. This indicates that companies are keen to ensure they maximise the investments in plant and equipment, and improve productivity given the challenging times faced by the mining sector globally.
In contrast, other technologies were less prevalent with limited expected investment in the near term. For example, mining automation had one of the lowest rates of implementation within African mining operations. The state of the labour market and the focus on manned fleets will keep the rate of growth in this area rather slow in comparison to other mining regions. In order to keep production competitive with the rise of automation, companies will look to optimise their fleet’s productivity.
Nez Guevara, senior mining analyst at Timetric, says: “As autonomous vehicles are not a viable option for many operations in Africa, those companies who do not employ them will need to tackle the shortfalls of a manned fleet to keep it competitive with its autonomous counterpart and, above all, ensure their workers’ safety. Moreover, as the mining industry is known for long working hours and extreme conditions, it is important that these companies are placing investments directly into the operators and changing the way they work. Engaging safety issues and improving working conditions at the operator level will see rewards and improve production levels.”