Technologies currently used to carve subways and clear landmines are being reconstructed for use in South Africa. The move could help the country’s platinum mines become more profitable and provide a lifeline for some loss-making shafts.
The sector has been battling low prices as well as social unrest for some time, with only a handful of South Africa’s platinum shafts making money; the majority run a deficit.
“Under current price and cost forecasts, conventional [platinum] mining ceases to be economically viable in 2024,” stated South Africa’s Chamber of Mines.
The updated technologies include a 60-centimeter-high bulldozer built by Croatian landmine clearance company Dok-ing. The South African platinum reef is usually too steep and narrow for machines to access, so Dok-ing began by building compact dozers that clear landmines and sweep away ore.
The dozers’ tank-like treads help to resolve a key mechanization challenge, which is the inability of machines with traditional tires to mine steep gradients. Additionally, Dok-ing’s dozer design enables the machines to work on reefs at gradients of up to 22 degrees and beyond.
“Most machines … cannot work above 14 degrees because their wheels simply cannot generate power at such steep gradients,” said Declan Vogt, a lecturer in mining automation at Britain’s University of Exeter.
Read more at Investing News.