By Johan Potgieter, Cluster Software Lead at Schneider Electric

Engineering design has become a vital component in multiple segments including MMM (Mining Minerals & Metals) as industry moves into an age of RPA (Robotic Process Automation), AI (Artificial Intelligence) and IoT and the resultant connected devised transmitting from the field to cloud environments.

AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) are also making an impact in the mining industry, improving safety, efficiency, and productivity.  For example, VR is used to create virtual simulations optimised for training and analysing changes at mining sites whereas AR offers important remote support to workers in hazardous areas.

It is an exciting and innovative age which places engineering design at the forefront, meeting the requirements of an increasingly sophisticated marketplace; a new dawn indeed.

From practical point of view engineering design offers three important benefits to the mining industry:

1. Safety and risk mitigation

This includes mining operation layout, ventilation systems, and support structures to ensure the safety of workers and minimise the risk of accidents. Engineers design safety protocols, implement hazard controls, and develop emergency response plans to mitigate potential risks associated with mining activities such as collapses, gas emissions, or equipment failures.

2. Efficient extraction and processing

Engineering design plays a crucial role in optimising the extraction and processing of mineral resources. Here, engineers design efficient mining methods and equipment to extract minerals effectively while minimising environmental impact. This includes the design for blasting techniques, drilling patterns, and material handling systems.

In mineral processing plants, engineers aim to design efficient equipment, such as crushers, mills, and separators; all to maximise the recovery of valuable minerals from ore and minimise waste.

3. Environmental stewardship

Engineering design in the South African mining industry focuses on environmental stewardship and sustainability. Engineers are working hard to design systems that minimise the environmental impact of mining activities, including measures for dust control, water management, and waste management.

Furthermore, they are developing strategies for land rehabilitation and reclamation to restore mined areas to their natural state. Additionally, engineering design incorporates sustainable practices such as energy-efficient equipment, water recycling systems, and the use of renewable energy sources to reduce the carbon footprint of mining operations.

The competitive advantage

Apart from the daily and tangible benefits that come with advancement in engineering design, it also offers MMM players a competitive advantage in cut-throat industry.

For one, engineering design is a core component of economic development.  For one South African business is heavily invested in the importance of staying competitive in the global marketplace.

Engineering design plays a key role here as it enables companies to create high-quality, innovative products that can compete effectively on an international scale. Ultimately, by investing in technology design capabilities, MMM players can increase their competitiveness and expand their market reach.

Rapid technological advancement has created opportunities for companies to use engineering design for product development and optimisation. Technologies such as AI and IoT have the potential to revolutionise various industries. South African companies are taking advantage of these technologies and leveraging their engineering designs to reap the benefits.

South Africa has a wealth of skilled engineers and designers, and companies recognise the value of leveraging this talent. The country is placing increasing emphasis on promoting technical skills and developing design skills. By investing in technology design, companies can tap into this talent pool and take advantage of locally available expertise.

In summary, the MMM industry like many of its peers are utilising engineering design to stimulate growth, competitiveness, technological progress, infrastructure development, available skills and expertise, and the need for a commitment to sustainability.

Engineering design enables MMM players to drive innovation, enhance operations and strongly position themselves in a highly competitive marketplace.

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