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Software has been developed so African mining operations can increase management efficiency, and eliminate the risk of danger associated with human error

Mining supervisors in Africa are now able to manage multiple operations without having to make regular onsite visits, thanks to advanced Pitram software developed by leading mining and exploration software provider, Micromine. Pitram is a realtime mine production control system that records and manages mine site operations.

The scalable software solution, which can be expanded to cope with increased usage, tracks and monitors three fundamental aspects of the operation, namely; machinery, staff and the physical location of the site. Micromine Africa senior Pitram system specialist Renier Strydom is confident that there is potential for significant growth for the software, as investment continues to pour into the industry.

“As more international investors commit to the African mining industry, managers will be looking at increasing the overall efficiency of how their mines are run. Advanced Pitra technology enables one central control room to manage multiple operations simultaneously; thereby saving time and money,” he explains.

Capturing data

“Data can be transmitted to Pitram in three different formats, namely through a time or log sheet, a control room or through automated data acquisition. Captured data can then be accessed via a web interface, which enables users on-site to use a real-time map to access data,” he says.

Strydom points out that Micromine will be highlighting the benefits of Pitram across Africa, by holding a series of seminars, and by conducting on-site visits at existing clients’ operations.

“Africa is still in the early phase of technological advancement, and the best way to highlight the benefits of Pitram is through market education. Micromine plans to increase product awareness by hosting workshops and seminars, where success stories from around the world will be communicated to prospective and existing clients in Africa,” he continues.

Pitram commercial manager, Marc Smith notes that the African mining industry is labour intensive and; therefore, faces unique safety challenges.

Improving safety

“Few African mines operate using mechanised equipment. Most functions are carried out manually by semi-skilled workers, who may not have the necessary knowledge and training to handle the underground safety aspects of the operation.”

He explains that Pitram software can be used as a vital tool in improving safety in African mines.

“Pitram can improve on-site safety, as it reduces the risk of human error, by enabling the user to pinpoint exactly where all staff and equipment are in real-time, without ever having to make trips underground to the various sections of the mine,” Smith adds.

“What’s more, critical or dangerous tasks can be identified, and the user is able to stay in constant communication with staff.” Smith notes that Pitram is best-suited to underground mining operations, and he points out that it has been adopted by major operations in South Africa; BHP Billiton, Boynton Platinum and Exxaro Resources. What’s more, he mentions that two new modules - the signs and permits module, and the shift planning module, are will be introduced to the African market.

Real-time management

“The signs and permits module is embedded in compliance procedures on the site, and provides the user with real-time management of activities requiring permits, or areas where access is restricted. Examples of these real-time management capabilities include tracking a worker in a restricted area, keeping frequent radio contact, and alerting the user when the estimated activity duration expires,” he explains. “The shift planning module extends visualisation for the user, by creating a real-time 3D view and overlay of people and equipment, which allows for more effective communication.”

Strydom notes that to date, Micromine has only issued a handful of Pitram licenses in Africa. He does, however, believe that Pitram’s market share can significantly increase in the short-term future.

“Pitram has traditionally not been a highvolume product in Africa, and has generally been restricted to Southern Africa.

“However, with the Central and Western African markets opening up through increased investment, I believe that Pitram can dramatically expand its footprint across the continent, by assisting operations in dramatically improving their overall safety and efficiency,” he concludes.