South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) showcased, at the Mandela Mining Precinct in Johannesburg, some of the latest technologies that could help with keeping South Africa's mines safe. One of the technologies demonstrated, known as "Monster", is a robot platform equipped with safety inspection sensors to enter mines during safety periods with the aim of assessing and identifying risks.

Safety in South Africa's mines is a big concern as regularly miners find themselves trapped underground as a result, in some cases, of rock-falls. Added to that, the inaccessibility of some areas underground makes it difficult and dangerous for human inspections to take place after blasting.

“The CSIR has core skills and competence in all of the strategic research areas of the MHSC from a safety perspective. The organization has invested significantly in laboratories and continues to provide human resources for the provision of services to the sector. We have offerings in support of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in mining with infrastructures, such as mechanical testing, steel wire rope testing facility, water laboratories, and a self-contained self-rescuer testing facility.”

Other mining technology solutions

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), which is being researched as one of the South African Mining Extraction, Research, Development and Innovation (SAMERDI) Advanced Orebody Knowledge technologies, was also displayed. This technology contributes to the Zero Harm objective, by enabling miners to visualize potentially hazardous geological structures in the hanging wall that could lead to falls-of-ground.

CSIR mining experts, Dr. Dave Roberts, Dr. Shaniel Davrajh and Dr. Michael van Schoor, said that the organization is working to come up with cutting-edge technologies to improve safety in the mines. The CSIR also developed a pedestrian detection system. The system uses a range sensor to determine the distance to each identified person and tracks each person to determine if and when a collision is likely to occur.

“A robot equipped with safety inspection sensors will enter the mine during a safety period. It becomes very difficult and dangerous for humans to enter into the mine after an incident," said Dr. Davrajh.

Dr. Davrajh also highlighted the importance of using robotic technologies in South Africa's mines adding that using these technologies could assist in reaching some of the areas that are not accessible during an incident.


Cover image credit: South African Mine Fire Traps. Wikipedia Commons