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MTN: 5G transforming mining in Africa

Johannesburg, 07 Dec 2023
Sudipto Moitra, GM: ICT Solutions, MTN Business.
Sudipto Moitra, GM: ICT Solutions, MTN Business.

Confronted with challenges such as sliding profits, declining outputs and the ongoing need to improve safety, mines have to transform digitally to run more efficiently. However, digital transformation depends on reliable and advanced communications networks, which 5G promises to deliver.

This is according to Sudipto Moitra, General Manager – ICT at MTN SA Enterprise Business, who says: “Mining in Africa presents numerous challenges, and quite simply, the chances of prospering are limited without the ability to communicate and use cutting-edge technology effectively.”

He notes that operating over a public network has some limitations. However, mines are overcoming traditional connectivity challenges by opting for 5G private networks, which are changing the face of a demanding sector by offering access to data transfer speeds that are faster than previous technologies.

Reliable, low latency 5G private networks reach across mines, bringing real-time voice and data transmission to the fore. This helps mines maintain high levels of safety, co-ordinate activities across vast working areas and respond to emergencies quickly.

Additionally, 5G private networks support the control of autonomous vehicles, drills and other machinery across the mining site, from a central location. They also enable the automation of predefined, repetitive and dangerous tasks resulting in optimised production, reduced downtime and lower operational costs.

Moitra adds that smarter mining technology is boosting safety by reducing the need for people to enter hazardous areas. Remote-controlled equipment with cameras survey areas before miners enter, while computer vision, artificial intelligence, drones and robots perform site inspections to reduce hazards for mining personnel. On the personal safety front, wearable devices connected to 5G private networks allow for tracking the health and locations of miners in real-time.

High-speed data transfer enables more efficient geological surveying of mining sites, with drones and sensors collecting geological data that can be quickly analysed to identify valuable resources and plan the extraction of ores. A by-product of these developments is better energy management and lower environmental footprints.

He says: “There is no doubt that growing awareness about environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues is making mines more concerned about ‘greening’ their operations, reducing waste and limiting their water and energy use. Technology is, therefore, being harnessed to help improve the use of natural resources, promote sustainability and reduce the production of harmful gases.

“At MTN, we believe that 5G private networks will play a pivotal role in transforming industry, mining and commerce because of its capabilities. As the use of internet of things (IOT) devices and sensors increases, predictions are that data transmission will grow exponentially, and will depend on 5G networks to deliver on their potential.”