Wits Mining Institute Digital Mine
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Research

The WMI is a multidisciplinary research institute comprising of a Digital Mining research group and a Unit for developing a 21st Century skills set at artisan, technician and professional levels.

In addition to these established units, the WMI has access to all other capacities within the University and intends to add capacity where it does not exist. This approach is aligned with the approach of the NDP. The way forward is to encourage partnerships to ensure a sustainable business model of a WMI that is well-governed, resourced for success, has a secure pipeline of earned research income and has leadership.

Digital Mining

The digital mine laboratory at Wits is an exciting project where the Chamber of Mines building on West Campus was converted into a ‘mine’, complete with surface (using the flat roof of the building), vertical shaft (using a stairwell in the fourth quadrant of the building) and mock mine with control room in the basement. The mock has a life-size tunnel, stope, lamp room and other features.   The Mock Mine is equipped with the digital systems that will enable the research for the mine of the future and is part of Wits Mining Institute. Today it is a one-of-a-kind laboratory with a significant research agenda to transfer surface digital technologies into the underground environment – the enabler for a mine that can (automatically) observe, evaluate and take action. The ultimate objective is to use technology to put distance between mine workers and the typical risks they are exposed to on a daily basis. Although there are some mines in South Africa who installed similar systems, such installations are mostly vendor-driven-and-supported, resulting in large dependency on international OEMs. Existing DigiMine research projects:

  • Extension of surface technologies underground
  • Communication systems
  • Positioning, mapping and navigation
  • Action recognition and detection of abnormalities
  • Remote, visual, inspections
  • Visual, environmental and rock monitoring
  • Getting distance between people and risk
Mechanised Mining

A strong global trend has gained significant momentum in recent years, namely Surface mines are getting bigger and all mines more mechanised. Mines are embracing technology and they are well set on the path of innovation. This will lead to a future of continuous mining, where new mines will be designed for mechanization, automation and robotics. For this reason Wits established the Centre for Mechanised Mining Systems (CMMS). The Digital Mining group has very strong ties and links with the CMMS and there is significant synergy when it comes to attaching digital systems to machines.

Sustainable Mining

Sustainable development is an integral part of 21st Century mining. Environmental, Community and Health and Safety management concepts have become part of the every-day mind-set of companies operating in the sector. There is an urgent need to develop an African meaning for 'just capital' and broad benefit at the African, Regional, National and Local levels and policies on mineral development and mining taxation must reflect this need. To influence policy development in Africa, Wits established the Centre for Sustainability in Mining and Industry (CSMI). As is the case with the CMMS the Digital Mining group has very strong ties with the CSMI as digital tools can be used to make mining more transparent by sharing quality information in real-time and allowing for stakeholder conversations having their roots in fact rather than speculation.

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