The DigiMine Laboratory is an innovative space where students use digital technology to solve real world problems in the mining industry

The new Digital Mining Laboratory (DigiMine), located on the ground floor of the Chamber of Mines Building is conducting the first research of its kind by using digital technology to improve safety and sustainability in mines.

DigiMine, which was launched by Wits Mining Institute together with Sibanye-Stillwater on Wednesday, March 28, is a research and learning centre equipped with a mock mine shaft and control room.
The laboratory is staffed entirely by students whose research includes making GPS signal functional underground and using drone technology for risk assessment in the mines.

The mock mine shaft is equipped with sensors which detect risks, where people are relative to the risk, and feeds the information back to the control room where wireless communication is used to warn workers.
Investor relations manager at Sibanye-Stillwaters, Henrika Ninham, said the partnership has included a donation of R12.5 million and another R15 million over the next three years as well as funding 60 disadvantaged students for undergraduate studies.

The DigiMine forms a strategic partnership as Sibanye-Stillwater is granted access to the technology in the lab and some of the research conducted by students is dedicated to solving Sibanye-Stillwater’s existing problems.

Second-year mining student, Khutsi Selepi, said that he was concerned about the digitisation that the lab represents. “Already they have digital mining machines. Is it [technology produced by DigiMine] going to replace people?”

Director of the Wits Mining Institute, Professor Fredrick Cawood, thinks that the move towards digitisation and ultimately automisation can be handled in a responsible manner. “I believe planning ahead can ensure a responsible transition that creates more and new jobs.”

The DigiMine is a Wits initiative inspired by and linked to the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct. It forms part of the university’s move towards turning Braamfontein into a digital hub.

FEATURED IMAGE: Final-year mining student Nonhle Phiri sits in the control room at the DigiMine lab
Photo: Naledi Mashishi

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