Mining students at Wits University, with the support of Gold Fields, are building South Africa’s capacity to apply mechanised mining methods and supporting technologies in deep-level gold mines.
In a three-year partnership, supported by a R6-million Gold Fields grant in 2017, a range of research projects are underway at both post-graduate and under-graduate level in the Wits School of Mining Engineering. This work tackles challenges and opportunities at Gold Fields’ South Deep mine – the country’s largest and deepest underground mechanised gold mine.
Wits and Gold Fields have recognised that South Africa lacks sufficient skills and expertise to run deep-level mechanised operations. The School has been a pioneer in conducting research and developing solutions in the field of digital technology and mechanised mining systems in partnership with the Wits Mining Institute.
According to the Head of the School Professor Cuthbert Musingwini, young researchers play an important role in finding economically viable strategies to mine South Africa’s deep deposits.
“These partnerships between academia and industry can make our deep-level mines more safe and sustainable, continuing their vital contribution to the economy,” said Professor Musingwini.
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Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland emphasised the School’s long history of research as well as its association with the digital technology-focused Wits Mining Institute, making it the natural partner for Gold Fields’ vision for South Deep.
“Deep-level mining in South Africa will only be sustainable in the long run if it’s done in a mechanised manner. The School of Mining’s new focus on deep-level, mechanised mining research points the way,” said Mr Holland.
A number of the post-graduate applied research projects are well advanced, covering topics that have the potential to positively impact South Deep across safety, productivity and cost improvement fronts as the mine continues its production ramp-up.
Focus areas for the various projects at South Deep, which will lead to Masters Degrees for the post-graduate students, cover the following areas:
- Assessment of the local ground support and corrosion life cycle to improve long term cost-effectiveness by Rachidi Dineo
- Analysis and optimisation of the ore flow system from stope to mill by Matsobane Nong
- Research to increase the effectiveness of backfill in the mining value chain by Mosebudi Matlou
- Multiple point simulation for reducing uncertainty in ore body modelling by Isaac Mabala
A project to assess opportunities to facilitate cost-effective communications right to the mining face, to complete the “connected mine”, has also recently been initiated.
Gold Fields Limited is a globally diversified gold producer with eight operating mines (including its Asanko Joint Venture) and two projects in Australia, Chile, Ghana, Peru and South Africa, with total attributable annual gold-equivalent production of approximately 2Moz.