Mining is not typically associated with visions of a circular economy, where waste is transformed into inputs for ecologically safe outputs. But if the world is to transition to a low-carbon future – a fundamental imperative if we are to avoid warming the planet more than 1.5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures – more minerals and metals will be required, not less. The future is renewable energy, robots and electric vehicles. This shift will require vast volumes of copper, lithium, cobalt, platinum, chrome and manganese. This policy briefing details the opportunities associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in South Africa, and the role that mining can play as the world transitions to a low-carbon circular economy.
The mining industry has major potential for growth in the form of technological advancements. The Fourth Industrial Revolution produces the perfect opportunity for technological growth in the industry. It is also considered to be a disruptor of the mining value chain as its success is dependent on government and various sub-sectors including education, finance, and consulting among others. The full day 4IR in Mining Seminar is aimed at addressing the challenges associated with the implementation of 4IR practices in a South African context.
In the mining sector, some companies are using digital twinning, a virtual reality environment that mirrors the mining environment and is used for training employees on potential risks in the workplace.
They are increasingly investing in autonomous vehicles and equipment. There are also intelligent data analytics systems enabling valuable analysis of data, which are collected using the internet of things (IoT) technology.
The technology evolution is exciting, but it also presents challenges which must be carefully considered and addressed as part of effective business planning and strategy.
Whatever approach SA takes towards regulating artificial intelligence and emerging technologies, it should align itself as closely as possible with global best practice to ensure uniformity. SA has to remain competitive as a jurisdiction for technology investment, research and development.
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