Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
PORTER, J.L. Are efforts to mechanize SA mines too focused on machinery rather than technology?. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2014, vol.114, n.9, pp. 681-692. ISSN 2411-9717.
This paper takes a personal look, through the author´s own experiences, at the implementation of innovations in the narrow-seam, hard-rock mining environment of South Africa´s mining industry over the past 40 years. A number of examples are used to illustrate some of the successes and failures over this period. More importantly, the examples are used to illustrate that the bulk of the investment for these projects should have been applied in a manner that could have achieved more sustainable results. The use of the word 'technology´ in this context is also examined, as it is the author´s contention that only measuring the performance of machinery fails to encapsulate the potential of the entire system describing the scope of the innovation being implemented. These experiences and observations are projected onto the current backdrop of upheaval in the relationship between key industry stakeholders and the sustainability challenges facing areas of the mining sector in the South African economy. The paper concludes with some opinions on where attention can be focused in order to develop new thinking that can be applied for the safe and economic extraction of the nation´s mineral wealth.