IT in Manufacturing

Mining the future

October 2023 IT in Manufacturing

Iritron’s Gerhard Greeff and Neels Van Der Walt, reflect on the trend in the mining sector of smart mining and digitising the entire mining value chain, against a backdrop of new technologies and the availability of an often overwhelming plethora of real-time data made available by networking and the ever-growing number of online systems as a result of connectivity.

It is vital to be able to see the wood from the trees and to step back and look at all dimensions, including people, processes, business drivers, information, ESG and technology, and to formulate a strategy and roadmap considering the current maturity of systems and people, gaps that exist, opportunities and dependencies.

An approach adopted successfully by leading global mining houses is to develop a multi-dimensional smart connected mine strategy, blueprint and roadmap. The strategy needs to include the important aspects of people, processes, technology and information, and needs to be aligned with the company’s business and operational strategies. It is also important to consider contemporary global mining trends, including the digititalisation of the mining value chain, and trends such as connected machines and connected workers. The growing importance of the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit to ensure sustainability and compliance to ESG regulations and responsibilities, necessitates the need to include these aspects in the consideration for the smart connected mine strategy. A good strategy will follow a phased approach, with a high-level implementation roadmap that takes into consideration technology and resource maturity, dependencies, and short-, medium- and longer-term objectives.


The smart connected mine strategy must address and include opportunities that are aligned with contemporary trends in mining globally, and the emergence of new technologies. This includes the digitalisation of the mining value chain, autonomous remote mining, mining operations management, IIoT, smart sensors, industrial AI and ML, Industry 4.0, and integrated remote operating centres.

Alignment with high-level business and operational strategies is of the utmost importance to ensure alignment of technology with business goals. This will ensure buy-in from C-suite executives, and the adequate allocation of resources needed for the implementation of the strategy.


The connected worker is a major trend in contemporary mining. The smart connected mine strategy will impact all levels of the operation. To ensure the implementation of the strategy is embraced by all, it is important to have input from all levels of the organisation in the development of the strategy. Personnel safety and wellbeing are of the utmost importance and need to be considered too.

Mining operations management

Smart mining operations management (MOM) includes the focus areas of production management, quality management, inventory management, and plant asset management. MOM spans the entire mining value chain, from the face or pit to the port. Leading MOM technology solutions provide for the integration of plant control systems, third-party laboratory information management, and systems and enterprise resource management systems. MOM is the ideal platform for implementing an Industry 4.0 strategy, and can provide for all levels of analytics from foundational analytics to advanced predictive and prescriptive analytics based on AI and ML. Barcoding, QR Codes, RFID, laser volumetric scanning, trackless mobile machinery scheduling and tracking, the connected worker, and smart mobile devices all form part of the MOM technology landscape.

Key business and operational drivers enabled by MOM technology include cost saving, plant optimisation, digitalisation, operational excellence, and providing near real-time visibility into what is happening in the operation. ESG and a safer, cleaner and sustainable operation can be enabled using MOM technology.

The benefits of formulating a multi-dimensional smart connected mine strategy, blueprint and high-level roadmap include the following:

• Allows for the consideration of different options, alternatives and best practices.

• Allows for the consideration of new innovative processes and procedures enabled by technology.

• Ensures best practice is followed, and that the smart connected mining strategy, blueprint, and implementation roadmap are aligned with the business and operational strategy.

• Aligns business stakeholders with the smart connected mine strategy, blueprint, and implementation roadmap.

• Enables smart connected mine initiatives planning and budgeting.

• Serves as the foundation for future smart connected mine projects and initiatives, and assists the business to prioritise these initiatives.

• Allows mine management to be better informed to engage with technology providers, to request quotations, and to evaluate responses.

For more information contact Gerhard Greeff, Iritron, +27 12 349 2919, [email protected],


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