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Trackless mechanised mining: Real applications


Increased pressure for dramatic improvements in safety from stakeholders in the South African mining industry has created the objective of eliminating exposure to possible harm (risk exposure). Clearly, the ability to use machinery to realise this objective is an obvious route for the industry to pursue with greater vigour than before. 

The aim of the course is to assist the student to gain a deeper insight into the culture of mechanisation, the requirements for planning and managing mechanised operations, the personnel issues, the latest developments, and to provide a forum for the interchange of experiences between participants. The latter aspect is critical to assist the student in being able to demonstrate in his or her project work that lessons learnt form an important platform for future improvements.

Course Structure

The course schedule may vary depending on the amount of interaction and discussion. Lectures for the various subjects will come mainly from industry and lectures will take place in the morning and afternoon. 

Day one : This covers the introduction to principles of underground mechanisation as well as some of the fundamental technical and people management issues impacting on the mechanisation systems design 
Day two: This covers the geotechnical, ventilation and mine design criteria influencing planning considerations 
Day three: Recent work coming out of the CMMS Hard Rock Bord and Pillar Best Practice workshops is presented together with engineering maintenance and fleet management 
Day four: This day is dedicated to Industry case studies 
Day five: The last day is structured in a workshop environment to stimulate ideas and discussion on project implementation in the context of systems engineering and the allocation of projects to achieve the Certificate of Competency

Course Content

The content of the course will include the following and will be built into the structure outlined above. This content may be communicated either during presentations and discussions or developed in the project work:

  • The impact of organisational culture and the identification of what is required in mechanised operations
  • Planning requirements for a mechanised operation including the number and size of units to achieve the required production
  • Latest developments in mine mechanisation
  • Outcomes of recent industry initiatives in bord and pillar mechanised mining
  • Automation of operations – what does this mean in reality and why do it?
  • Designing production and shift cycles as part of the mine design criteria
  • Engineering selection criteria for units to satisfy safety, health and operating requirements
  • Geotechnical considerations affecting the size of excavations in terms of machine geometry, speed and safe clearances as well as excavation stability
  • Running surface (roadway) requirements – what is rolling resistance?
  • Technical personnel, operator and artisan issues, including selection, training and management
  • Infrastructure requirements including engineering workshops, stores and maintenance
  • Owning and operating costs – the overall “systems engineering” impact of introducing mechanisation
  • Short term management controls to effectively measure compliance to designed plans and performance targets
  • Case studies

This course should occupy at least 150 notional hours of a student’s time, including lectures, further activity such as background reading, project work, etc.

Course Lecturers

The course will be presented by University academic staff , Prof Porter as well as Rod Pickering and Marco Biffi, amongst others.


The following outcomes are addressed by the course:

  • Engineering problem solving
  • Application of mathematical, scientific and engineering knowledge
  • Engineering design
  • Investigation, experimentation and data analysis
  • Use of engineering methods, skills and tools (including ICT)
  • Lifelong learning ability
  • Engineering professionalism and project management

Project and examination

There will be a 3-hour examination for the course. This will be written on a date to be confirmed, and will account for 70% of the final mark
for the course.

In order to achieve a Wits University Certificate of Competence, students will be required to complete a project. The aim of this project will be to enhance and demonstrate the knowledge that they have gained on the course. The time spent on this project should be a minimum of 50 effective hours. The project report, in hardcopy, must be handed in on a date agreed during day 5 and will account for 30% of the final mark for the course.


This is a formal course MINN7009 in the postgraduate programme of the School of Mining Engineering.

The University regards this course as NQF level 9.

The course has been accredited by ECSA for CPD purposes as follows: five-day attendance = 4 points, five-day attendance and satisfactory completion of assignment and examination = 6 points.


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