The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has outlined its investments in innovations in mining, with R186-million over the next three years being earmarked for targeted research and development to modernise South Africa’s mining industry.
Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane told Parliament the DST would invest R63-million this year on the project. She said she applauded industry for committing a co-investment of R33-million in the initiative.
The Minister said the Mandela Mining Precinct in Carlow Road in Johannesburg, had been transformed into a space where researchers and the mining industry could generate knowledge and technologies that would be essential for next-generation mining.
"We are confident that the level of investment from these partners will increase over time to assist South Africa with critical mining challenges and to position the country as a leader in the mining equipment space."
Deputy director-general for Socio-Economic Innovation Partnerships, Imran Patel, told a media briefing on the Budget Vote that the "all-encompassing project partnership between industry and the DST" would benefit research into aspects such as mechanised and semi-mechanised mining, robotics, sensors and underground communications systems.
"The broad basket of technologies will allow us to do safe engineering. There’s also a strong element of human capital development and skills, as well as fundamental research work around rock structures and geology," Patel told Engineering News Online.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Chamber of Mines is working with the newly established Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa (Memsa) in a mining research and development programme to revive and modernize the country’s mines.
Navin Singh, co-director of the Mandela Mining Precinct, told Engineering News Online at an exhibition dovetailing with the Budget Vote that he expected the programme would hold great benefits throughout the mining pipeline.
"It’s very important for job preservation and will allow for a local manufacturing component. It will also allow for mineworkers to work from a position of safety by remotely operating pieces of equipment."
He said the programme would focus on research into gold and platinum, mainly in hard-rock, narrow-reef underground mining, although it could also be translated into other base metals.
The Minister told Parliament the department was also making steady progress on its Aeroswift and titanium metal powder projects.
"The next six to nine months will be critical for defining the long-term direction of these initiatives with regard to the commercialization of the technologies as we advance towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution."
She said the CSIR was continuing discussions with Boeing, Airbus and Safran, among others, to start printing their components through the three-dimensional additive manufacturing facility that forms part of the Aeroswift technology platform.
This followed the production of six unique parts that were commissioned and produced for the AHRLAC light reconnaissance aircraft which flew in July last year.
The CSIR has also invested in Project Synapse, a new strategy which focuses strongly on industrial development.
"An emerging suite of initiatives that will form part of Project Synapse will aim, among other things, at developing capability for the Fourth Industrial Revolution," Kubayi-Ngubane told Parliament.
"It also aims to address gaps in national manufacturing capabilities to reduce South Africa's balance of payments deficit, add value to produce, redistribute value in the agro-processing initiative, and convert the country's resource advantage to a materials advantage."
The CSIR, which reports to the Minister of Science and Technology, has been allocated R963.2-million to foster industrial and scientific development for the 2018/19 financial year.