Scope and context
Historically, the mining industry in South Africa has undertaken its own research. Today, however, the situation has transformed to such an extent that to maintain mining operations, the research is increasingly funded by the state.
Beyond the direct need for mining research to secure the long-term future of our industry, research can lead to creation of a mining supply industry. In Finland, for example, the mining supply industry has become bigger than the mining industry.
Three commodities comprise 75% of the income generated by mining in South Africa: gold, platinum and coal. While coal is mined in South Africa in a similar manner to that used elsewhere in the world, our gold and platinum mines are unique: gently dipping tabular deposits with enormous horizontal extent, mined to depths not seen anywhere else on earth.
For this reason, mining research at the CSIR concentrates on deep-level gold and platinum mines. Although research is undertaken in other commodities, our focus is on developing methods and tools to mine deep gold and platinum more safely, more cost effectively, and with lower impact on the health of miners.
The Centre for Mining Innovation at the CSIR offers a single point of contact to the outside world for the diverse range of research that can be applied in many areas. Other domains at the CSIR host areas relevant to mining research, such as:
The Centre for Mining Innovation focuses on research into the core business of underground mining: breaking and moving rock safely and efficiently, without harming the workers involved. Our research takes place in three areas:
Our mines are labour intensive, and will be for many years to come. The environment contains hazards to human health, including dust, noise and heat. Our research is aimed at understanding the hazards, and providing tools to manage them. In the early years of mining in South Africa, many miners died of heat stroke. Largely due to work at the CSIR and its predecessors, heat stroke deaths are now very unusual, and the programmes used by mines to acclimatise workers are quick and humane. Our aim is to eliminate the scourges of silicosis (from dust), and noise-induced hearing loss in the same way.
Real-time risk management
Unlike process plants, and due to the lack of both sensors and communication, it is not possible for a mine manager to know what is going on in each corner of a mine. In response, researchers at the CSIR are developing sensors and a communication architecture, called AziSA. We are using the infrastructure to collect data that can be used to support better decision-making. Areas where AziSA is being used to manage risk include rock falls, rock bursts and seismic events, and mining process optimisation.
South Africa contains enormous resources of many minerals that cannot be mined economically at current prices. To liberate the wealth in these resources, the CSIR is developing novel mining methods to lower mining costs. These include developments in mechanisation and automation; novel methods of rock breaking; improved orebody information; and improved systems for ore management and transport.
Read about some of our research.
For any queries related to mining, please contact:
Dr Declan Vogt
Strategic Research Manager
CSIR Centre for Mining Innovation
011 358 0213