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Gold Fields partners with Wits University to support technologies in deep-level mines

The Wits post-graduate students carrying out their Masters work at South Deep (from left to right): Rachidi Dineo, Mosebudi Matlou, Matsobane Nong and Isaac Mabala. Ms Nong and Mr Mabala are also Associate Lecturers at the Wits Mining School.

Mining students at Wits University, with the support of Gold Fields, are building South Africa’s capacity to apply mechanised mining methods and supporting technologies in deep-level gold mines.

In a three-year partnership, supported by a R6-million Gold Fields grant in 2017, a range of research projects are underway at both post-graduate and under-graduate level in the Wits School of Mining Engineering. This work tackles challenges and opportunities at Gold Fields’ South Deep mine – the country’s largest and deepest underground mechanised gold mine.

“Deep-level mining in South Africa will only be sustainable in the long run if it’s done in a mechanised manner”

Gold Fields CEO

Wits and Gold Fields have recognised that South Africa lacks sufficient skills and expertise to run deep-level mechanised operations. The School has been a pioneer in conducting research and developing solutions in the field of digital technology and mechanised mining systems in partnership with the Wits Mining Institute.

According to the Head of the School Professor Cuthbert Musingwini, young researchers play an important role in finding economically viable strategies to mine South Africa’s deep deposits.

“These partnerships between academia and industry can make our deep-level mines more safe and sustainable, continuing their vital contribution to the economy,” said Professor Musingwini.

Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland said the School’s long history of research-intensive higher education and its association with the digital technology-focused Wits Mining Institute – makes it the natural partner for Gold Fields’ vision for South Deep.

“Deep-level mining in South Africa will only be sustainable in the long run if it’s done in a mechanised manner. The School of Mining’s new focus on deep-level, mechanised mining research points the way,” Holland said.

A number of the post-graduate applied research projects are well advanced, covering topics that have the potential to positively impact South Deep across safety, productivity and cost improvement fronts as the mine continues its production ramp-up.

Six undergraduate research projects have so far been conducted by third and fourth year students as part of the vacation work degree requirement. In one project, the research investigated ways to ameliorate seismicity and rock-burst damage underground, while another was a techno-economic assessment of backfill barricades used in ultra-deep-level gold mining.