South African firm Sibanye-Stillwater has launched a digital mining laboratory in partnership with the Wits Mining Institute (WMI) at the University of the Witwatersrand, which is expected to support the company’s aim of creating the ‘mine of the future’.
The Sibanye-Stillwater digital mining laboratory (DigiMine) is a simulated mining environment located in the Chamber of Mines building on the West Campus of Wits University.
Facilities included in the laboratory include a vertical shaft in a stairwell, in addition to a tunnel and stope in the basement.
It also comprises a variety of communication and digital systems to facilitate research related to the digital mining initiative.
The partnership has been formed with the intention of enabling safer and more productive mining operations.
Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman said: “The launch of the DigiMine establishes a unique programme that is instrumental for the application of digital technologies in support of safer and more efficient mining operations.”
The company recently increased its funding for the research project by an additional R15m ($1.26m) over the course of three years.
The latest raise increased Sibanye-Stillwater’s total sponsorship of the WMI to a total of R27.5m ($2.31m) between 2015 and 2020.
WMI director Professor Fred Cawood said: “This partnership between WMI and Sibanye-Stillwater paves the way to develop digital technologies that will reduce risk in the mining environment.
“Safety and competitiveness are cornerstones of a sustainable mining sector, which can contribute to the National Development Plan by reducing poverty and inequality.
“Our interventions will explore any innovations that can apply real-time digital solutions for reducing mining risk and increasing mining efficiency.”