By Jacques Farmer, MD of PRISMA
Career development took a back seat in the mining sector during the pandemic, because Covid-19 restrictions made it hugely difficult to send people for training effectively. Budgets were also strained because of lockdowns, so many mines had to cut back. As a result, learnerships and further education and training, as well as community development, were put on hold. This has exacerbated the existing skills shortage, and it has become imperative to bring the focus back once again to mandatory training initiatives and career development pathways. Technology can be hugely helpful in achieving this, with immersive training simulators that can improve safety and learning retention within the mining industry.
On the fast track
The skills shortage in mining is no new scenario, but it has worsened since the pandemic, exacerbated by a bleed of skills into Africa due to high demand. Skills development is also mandated by the mining charter, so without this focus, mines risk falling foul of compliance and legislation. Ultimately, however, mines are risk intensive environments, so training and development are vital to prevent injury, death, damage to property and other serious consequences. Training and development need to cover both theory and practical elements, and technology can assist to fast-track this while improving skills development in all areas.
Virtual Reality (VR) can be a massive advantage in the mining sector, with immersive technologies and simulators that can be used to teach people to operate machines correctly and safely, without them having to actually learn on the equipment. This can be used to revolutionise training programmes because training can be completed faster, and in a safer environment, which in turn aids in skills transfer and deeper learning.
VR can be used in all areas of mining training, and tools like operator performance analysis can be deployed to identify areas where individuals need improvement. This not only enhances efficiency, as training can then be tailored to address gaps in existing skills and knowledge, it also helps employees improve faster, and enhances the safety of the mine as a whole.
Driven by technology
Many mines have already invested in VR systems, but their training programmes have not been designed around the technology, so they are not using them to their full extent. The right training partner can be invaluable here, helping to build and tailor training initiatives around the technology.
South Africa has some of the deepest mines and most dangerous mining conditions across the globe, so it is imperative for the country to set the benchmark when it comes to safety and training processes. Including the use of 4IR technologies into training interventions helps to increase safety and efficiency, while allowing for the focus on skills development required to meet regulatory and moral obligations. Integrating this effectively with a training partner helps to improve returns and advance risk management for safer, more efficient and ultimately more profitable mining operations.