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Leveraging mining technologies for sustainable economic development

There is a shift in every sector and mining is no different. Previously, mining shafts were dug out by hand, adequate tools were not used and the entire mining process was very lengthy. Unfortunately, some things have remained the same. The occupation is still laborious and dangerous but not for long. With the clever implementation of digital technologies like the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), artificial intelligence and automation, the future of mining could become transformed into a safer, more productive, efficient, sustainable, and profitable way of extracting valuable minerals.

With technology, expensive/inefficient manual and mechanical processes of mining can be transformed into tech-enabled ones. The industrial internet of things technology helps miners to collect vast quantities of data about their operations remotely and in real time through internet-connected sensors, bringing about intelligence and all assets connected mines that can be planned and flexed to meet production demand.

The mine remains a hazardous and inconvenient workplace, with people risking their lives on a daily basis. South Africa is home to the world’s deepest mines and last year, 84 people died in various mines across the country.

Every year, African governments earn revenues from the mining industry. However, the sector cannot be said to be experiencing the growth it deserves considering its contribution. There is nothing more important than seeing the miners who are the engine of growth in the sector work in safe conditions and lead better lives.

Early February, the flagship event of the mining industry Mining Indaba started at South Africa’s Cape Town International Convention Centre, lasting four days. The highly anticipated event, in its 25th year, themed Championing Africa’s Sustainable Economic Growth, saw investors, mining executives and junior miners from across the globe, including Nigeria’s first gold miner, Nere Teriba of Kian Smith Trade&Co. come together. Several deals were signed at the event where the future of mining in Africa was discussed.

A 2018 Mining in Africa study by Deloitte noted that there are approximately 30 mining projects to be developed on the African continent, totalling $18 billion. Before 2019, the majority of these are expected to reach full production across different commodities, including nine copper mines, four gold mines, four diamond mines, three coal mines, three platinum mines, two uranium mines, one iron ore mine, one nickel mine, one zinc mine and one potash mine. Approximately $10.5 billion has already been spent on these projects, with about 29 percent invested in South Africa, 23 pecent in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 8 percent in Mauritania, 8 percent in Namibia, 8 percent in Zimbabwe and 7 percent in Zambia.

In the opening address by Jeff Radebe, the South African Minister of Energy noted that the Africa Mining Vision encourages the development of a knowledge-based African mining sector that catalyses and contributes to the broad-based growth and development of a single integrated African market. The vision also envisages a sustainable and well-governed mining sector that effectively garners and deploys resource rents that are safe, healthy, gender and ethnically inclusive, environmentally friendly, socially responsible and appreciated by surrounding communities.

Given Africa’s rich natural resource endowment, mining is and will continue to be pivotal to Africa’s economic growth. As technology evolves, mining companies need to look for new ways to leverage new technologies to remain innovative in the ever changing market.

In Nigeria, Kian Smith has a mobile solution called Zokia system. The mobile platform is used to register and bank artisanal miners, who form the largest percentage of mining workers in most African countries. The end game for Kian Smith, whose Vice Chairman Nere Teriba was in South Africa for Mining Indaba, is to gradually help undocumented and unbanked artisanal and small-scale miners have registered businesses and access to financial services, which puts them in a better position to access financing that help them scale their businesses.

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