The Wits Mining Institute (WMI) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) will host two of the new research centres established through the South African Mining Extraction Research, Development and Innovation (SAMERDI) strategy, thus adding to its contribution to the future of the mining sector.
The two SAMERDI Research Centres (SRCs) at the WMI will begin their work early this year with fundamental research focused on the themes of Real Time Information Management Systems (RTIMS) and Successful Application of Technology Centred Around People (SATCAP). These are two of the thematic areas pursued by the Mandela Mining Precinct (MMP) in Johannesburg, which is administered by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Acting director of the WMI, Ingrid Watson, said, “These two research centres build on the WMI’s existing expertise, and allow for further interdisciplinary research to inform a 21st century model of mining that is both sustainable and competitive. Integral to the success of these efforts is the development of local capacity.”
The SAMERDI strategy focuses on the modernisation pathway for mining to 2030, and the research centres will conduct research to create new knowledge in mining technology, data systems and processes associated with the sector, as well as a people-centric focus on the impact of modernisation on jobs, skills, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, and stakeholder inclusivity. Each research centre will be headed by a Research Competence Lead, and will host a postdoctoral student, a doctoral student and up to four master’s students in a three-year cycle.
The outputs from the research centres will inform the applied research at the MMP, the results of which are felt on mine sites, in communities and throughout the mining value chain. These results will in turn inform the next iteration of the strategic focus for the fundamental research. The MMP is also researching longevity of current mines, mechanised mining systems and advanced orebody knowledge.
MMP executive director, Johan le Roux said, “We believe that through these partnerships with universities and industry, we will collectively be able to contribute to the development of relevant research and development capacity in South African mining.”
Dick Kruger, MMP strategic advisor, added, “The competitiveness of the mining sector – as with all industrial sectors – will ultimately be determined by the continuity, extent and quality of innovation across the entire value chain. To achieve this, the rapid development of new systems is needed, with a strong focus on localisation of design and manufacture.”
He emphasised, however, that this innovation needed a solid foundation of basic research, and concluded, “It is my belief that the research centres will provide this foundation.”