Uncertainty at global, national, regional and local levels is an enemy of mining which is why mining companies strive for stability. While policy and tax instability is largely outside the control of miners, many other challenges to stability can be overcome by innovation, including digital technology.
Safety, efficiency and productivity can be enhanced by automation and digitalisation at all mines, and even the further challenges faced by miners operating in Africa, including remoteness, security, lack of infrastructure, labour uncertainty and illegal mining can be addressed by technology.
Having a stable framework can also benefit exploration and mining companies when it comes to obtaining mining rights and environmental authorisations from government bodies.
Interconnectedness and connectivity are keys to introducing digital solutions, and such are the advancements being made that the vast African continent no longer represents a major barrier in this regard.
Integration of technology should be seen as an opportunity to transform mining business models and reshape the way mining companies deliver value. Globally, including in Africa, companies are proving that technology can standardise operations, create stability and increase productivity at lower costs but in order to see continued recovery in the industry, this needs to happen across the board.
Systems that can be managed remotely allow a mining company to monitor and communicate with onsite personnel at all times, thus creating stability through enhanced security and safety.
Big data and analytics improve collaboration, which also leads to stability. Benefits can be gained by analysing the huge amount of data collected on a mine site in order to optimise processes. Companies are seeking to add value by converting data into meaningful information and boosting productivity by automating the actions required as a result of this information.
Cloud computing will be a major growth driver in the industry and in Africa can help overcome the tyranny of distance. Cloud technology is reliable and allows business to avoid large investments by only paying for required infrastructure.
IT can also play a major role in improving the health and safety of miners by tracking and following up on various parameters important in safe and healthy operations. This includes use of eHealth and telemedicine technologies.
Of course, the more digital technology companies implement, the weaker they can become, which means that cyber security must be effectively managed. Digital solutions are available to ensure effective security guards against cyber-attacks, and these are improving all the time.
There are many opportunities for innovation in the mining industry as well as proven technologies used in other industries that can be deployed in mining. Technology offers mining companies the opportunity to connect all their staff, improve safety and security, drive down costs, and improve productivity and reactivity.
Companies that do not address their business plans and strategies to incorporate these technological advancements risk being left behind.
Yolanda Torrisi is Chairperson of The African Mining Network and comments on African mining issues and the growing global interest in the African continent. Contact:firstname.lastname@example.org