AEL hosted its Workshop for Explosives Engineers and Technical Representatives (WEETR) on the 28th and 29th of June 2018 at the Maslow Hotel, Time Square, Pretoria.
The WEETR presents an opportunity to emphasise our company values and the relentless focus on innovation and commitment to staff through sharing insights on the latest technical methods and projects.
This year’s theme for WEETR was intelliBlastTM in Action, supported by key proof-points which are evidence of AEL’s promise and capabilities in the markets we serve. The conference saw a mix of presentations from local and international AEL engineers as well as external guest speakers including Australian Mining Futurist, Gavin Yeates; Faculty member from the University of Pretoria, Prof. Ronny Webber- Young; Managing Director of Mercuri International Group, Francois Barnard; and Managing Director of 4Sight Holdings, Willie Ackerman.
Delivering the keynote address, Gavin Yeates said rapid change is happening among leading mining companies, noting that there is a widening gap between the “leaders and laggards”.
“. . . It’s not just a technology shift, there are many other challenges that miners are dealing with that drives this change. Global demand for metals is increasing, new orebodies have not been discovered, the grades of the orebodies we currently have are declining and we are stuck in a compliance culture, preventing us from being agile,” he said.
Yeates noted that society, in general, also did not value mining, which impeded investment into the sector. He pointed out that mining companies were implementing techniques and solutions to improve their short-term control planning, and blasting was part of that process and further highlighted that mining companies were active in the automation area and that, with blasting, the idea of fully autonomous loading priming and remote initiation of blasts was something that should be on the radar.
“One of the barriers to change is pushing automation, which dovetails into the social licence to operate . . . local communities expect to benefit from mining operations, so there is tension there,” he said.
Yeates said that “silos” were being removed from mine management and that there was a shift towards using technology to simulate mine processes, streamlining management and breaking down the “silo mentality.” “Blasting has to be seen as part of the process and has a lot to do with how we can mine differently, such as applying ore sorting that is blast induced or in situ leach, which is the direction in which mining is potentially going,” he concluded.
Dirk van Soelen, AEL Executive: Technical and Compliance, highlighted in his presentation, titled Exponential Technologies and the Mining Value Chain, the importance for the industry to use a trial and error approach to develop new technologies and products that create operational value. “Operational efficiencies are not there, owing to the slow adoption rate of technology,” he said.
He explained that the industry was slow to implement new technologies and that a middle ground should be reached, where technologies are tried and tested without compromising safety. “The mining fraternity has grasped the concept that digitisation is required to remain relevant . . . but it is not totally clear how to extract the value from it,” he said.
The agenda also covered topics such as the benefits of using electronics in the integration of the EIS and software tools into the mine data management systems to enhance blasting solutions in line with the AEL’s intelliBlastTM offering; installation of a 900m vertical drop in Zambia, and the recent product trials conducted at Amandelbult complex and the journey and learnings gained during the process.