Tag Archives: Kumba

Drones continue to make mining activities safer, Anglo American says

Anglo American, in its 2018 annual report, says its use of drones for safety, surveying and security is continuing to expand as it looks to remote-control more of its mining activities.

The company has used drones attached to manned aerial-reconnaissance planes for many years and, today, considers itself an industry leader when it comes to drone use.

Anglo said it has an expanding fleet of drones, from fixed-wing aircraft to quadcopters, with about 50 skilled operators and another 30 people working in drone maintenance across the group. This is spread across its platinum group metal operations in South Africa, the Kumba iron ore mines (also in South Africa), and at De Beers diamond asset sites in Canada, Namibia and South Africa.

“Drones are an important part of our drive to remote-control many of our mining activities while gathering enhanced data and real-time operational performance metrics,” Anglo said. “They provide rapid visual access and multiple views, with smaller drones being used to inspect confined spaces on mines and in processing plants, while bigger aircraft are able to fly at night and stay aloft for up to eight hours.”

Drones are being used in varied tasks such as exploration, mine mapping and calculating the volume of stockpiles, Anglo said, adding that they are proving to be cost effective.

“The deployment of drones is assisting in making our activities safer. Crucially, their use avoids the need for people in potentially hazardous areas,” the company said.

Drones are now being used to inspect and monitor high-risk areas, including stockpiles, mine slopes, ore passes, tailings dams and chemical-storage facilities, Anglo said. They can check for the presence of personnel in a blast area, and measure fragmentation or the direction of dust movement after a blast. By employing them in such applications, it removes the possibility of Anglo personnel entering dangerous areas.

Other applications the company is using them on include traffic management at operations, as well as monitoring rehabilitation activity, including in areas where it can be difficult and risky for people on the ground to gain access.

Frans Kruger, Anglo American’s Global Aviation Safety Principal, said: “Drones increase our safety and efficiency, and they let us take human beings out of potentially dangerous environments.”

Anglo concluded: “Drone technology is evolving fast and, as a responsible operator, we are working closely with other drone operators and South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority, for example, to develop appropriate standards, while also serving with other mining companies on the technical advisory committee of the Flight Safety Foundation.”

Kumba Iron Ore seeing the benefits of drone use at Sishen mine

After two years of working through complex legal, governance and logistical challenges to earn an operating licence to fly its own remotely piloted drones, Kumba Iron Ore is making the most of these high-tech machines at its Sishen iron ore mine in South Africa.

Bongi Ntsoelengoe, Technology Manager at Kumba Iron Ore (an Anglo American subsidiary), says the drones have optimised surveying processes in terms of time and coverage, including being able to gain access to constricted areas.

“Routine tasks historically carried out by surveyors, such as measuring the volume of waste dumps and stockpiles, are now being done by our drones. The drones collect digital imagery that is pieced together to perform volume calculations, giving us reliable data without having put anyone at risk,” he said.

The company has recently used the drones to conduct engineering inspections for hard to access equipment, dramatically reducing safety risk. They can also be used to survey accident scenes and areas deemed unsafe for workers to enter.

Glen Mc Gavigan, Executive Head of Technical and Projects at Kumba, said the new drones had enabled the company to collect and process much more data than in the past, which was “pushing innovation mine-wide as data management processes are enhanced to ensure that other functional areas also benefit from the technology”.

Various subsidiaries of Anglo American have been using drones at their operations since late-2015, but have leased the units and, thus, been reliant on outside service providers. The licence to operate its own drones – with its own pilots and at heights of up to 1,000 feet (305 metres) above ground – is, Kumba says, the result of diligent groundwork and millions of rands worth of investment.

Kumba’s majority-owned Sishen iron ore mine, in the Northern Cape province, produced 31.1 million tonnes of high-grade ore last year.

So far, five employees have been trained to pilot the drones, all of whom are licensed by the SA Civil Aviation Authority to use the technology.

Anglo American has also established new working practices, such as scheduling flights, flight navigation and craft maintenance to make the most of these drones.