The investment has been made at its Kolomela and Sishen mines in the Northern Cape as part of its efforts to make mining safer, more productive and more environment-friendly.
Kumba is one of only two iron ore miners in the world to use autonomous drills, alongside BHP Billiton’s Yandi mine in Western Australia.
Officials disclose there has been a dramatic rise in productivity.
Operating hours are up 20 percent, from 14 to 17 hours a day, while the quality of the drill holes has improved and fewer drilling machines will be needed over the lifetime of the mines.
Kumba has spent more than R6 million on its automated drilling machines fleet, which includes both fixed-wing and quadcopter drones, fitted with state-of-the-art cameras and laser scanners, which are used to create three-dimensional images and surveys.
A fleet of ten drones is providing information on where mining has occurred, to current stockpiles.
The company says the benefits have been immediate, with the drones providing information and data on Kumba’s operations that used to take days, or even weeks, to accumulate.
In many cases, they are delivering new data that wasn’t accessible before, which is allowing Kumba to operate far more efficiently than before.
Kumba particularly hails its Advanced Process Control (ACP) system, which controls the flow of material through the processing plant, with fewer interruptions and better quality.
“The best part of the technology strategy is that not a single job has been lost in the process,” says Bongi Ntsoelengoe, Technology Manager at Kumba Iron Ore.
The executive says rather than replacing employees, the company has shown that using technology in its operations improves skills and provides an opportunity for staff to develop and grow.
“Better working conditions mean employees are excited and motivated about their work environment, which makes for a more productive, safer workplace,” says Ntsoelengoe.
– CAJ News