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Wits Mining Institute: A Hub for Digital Innovation in Mining

How a South African research centre is leading the way in digital mining

by Motoni Olodun
wits mining institute

The Wits Mining Institute (WMI) is a leading research and development center that aims to transform the mining industry with digital technologies. The WMI, which is part of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, was launched in 2016 with the vision of creating a “living laboratory” to modernize mining.

The WMI houses several projects and initiatives focusing on digital mining aspects, such as data analytics, automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality. One of the flagship projects is the Sibanye-Stillwater Digital Mining Laboratory (DigiMine), a mock mine that simulates real-life mining scenarios and tests new solutions for safety, productivity, and sustainability.

The DigiMine has sensors, cameras, and communication systems that collect and transmit data from underground to a surface control room. The data is then analyzed and visualized to provide insights and recommendations for improving mining operations. The DigiMine also serves as a training facility for students, researchers, and industry professionals who want to learn about the latest digital mining technologies.

Another project at the WMI is the Responsible Mining Laboratory (RML), which focuses on the social and environmental impacts of mining. The RML aims to develop tools and frameworks that can help mining companies assess and manage their risks and opportunities in relation to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The RML collaborates with communities and stakeholders to promote responsible mining practices and policies.

The WMI also hosts the Skills Accelerator Network (SAN), a network of colleges and universities offering skills development programs for the mining sector. The SAN aims to bridge the gap between the current and future skills needs of the industry and foster innovation and entrepreneurship among learners. The SAN offers courses in areas such as digital literacy, data science, engineering, and management.

The WMI is part of the Mandela Mining Precinct, which is a national initiative that brings together government, industry, academia, and civil society to revitalize the South African mining sector. The WMI works closely with other partners in the precinct, such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Mintek, and Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa (MEMSA).

The WMI’s director, Professor Fred Cawood, said that the institute’s mission is to contribute to the advancement of mining as a key driver of economic growth and social development in South Africa and beyond. He said that the WMI is committed to developing people and technology to make mining safer, more efficient, inclusive, and more environmentally friendly.

The WMI’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally. In 2020, the WMI won the prestigious NSTF-South32 Innovation in Engineering or Technology Award. The award honors outstanding contributions to science, engineering, technology, and innovation in South Africa. The WMI was also nominated for the Global Mining Standards and Guidelines Group (GMSG) Leadership Award in 2019.

The WMI continues to explore new opportunities and challenges in digital mining and collaborate with other stakeholders in the mining ecosystem. The WMI hopes to inspire a new generation of miners who can harness the power of digital technologies to create a better future for themselves and their communities.

Source: Mining Review

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