For years, deep level hard rock mining has flourished on cheap labour costs, making obscene profit, with almost no sweat. However, labour has become expensive as unions demand wage structures which mining companies have to match if they are to continue their operations at least in South Africa. And, in view of this, an expert from WITS School of Mining Engineering, Dr Declan Vogt, in an article, urges deep level hard rock mines to embrace technology.
“In a mechanised mine, one operator will produce a significant portion of the mine’s total production. That operator needs the skills and freedom to act to adapt the work plan as the situation changes. This level of skill and flexibility is orders of magnitude more complex than that of the traditional gold miner,” Vogts notes.
He sees no reason why other industries have adopted mechanisation, and mines cannot.
“There is a need for generally higher levels of skills in operators, supervisors and technical support. More generally though, there is a need for a new way of thinking. In the manufacturing industry, there has been a worldwide shift to what is called Lean Manufacturing. The Lean principles incorporate a strong emphasis on teamwork, collective problem solving and meaningful work,” he explains.