AI, data science studio to help mining companies

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Local mining companies are encouraged to recognise the role of innovation and technology to improve performance and sustainability.
Local mining companies are encouraged to recognise the role of innovation and technology to improve performance and sustainability.

Against the backdrop of the Mining Indaba, Accenture has announced plans to launch an applied intelligence studio to help South African mining companies solve their analytical problems.

The indaba, under way in Cape Town, is an annual mining investment event dedicated to the capitalisation and development of mining in Africa.

The new applied intelligence studio, to be located in Johannesburg, is scheduled to be opened later this month, and will apply the latest in data science and artificial intelligence (AI), with new data sources for real-time co-creation of innovative digital solutions for mining firms.

According to Accenture, the new studio for mining will bring together leading data science capabilities from industry expertise as well as its mining industry group.

"Volatile commodity prices, rising input costs and changing global demand for commodities require mining companies to rethink their strategies and business models to remain competitive," says Rachael Bartels, a senior MD who leads Accenture's mining business globally.

"They are increasingly looking to apply advanced analytics to reimagine processes, unlock trapped value, and drive operational excellence in their businesses today and position themselves for growth tomorrow."

By setting up an applied intelligence studio, Accenture is looking to recruit data scientists with engineering and mining experience to rapidly scale the studio's capabilities.

Caroline Belrose, Accenture applied intelligence and data science lead for Africa, says the new recruits will join a global team of more than 3 000 data scientists and work collaboratively with global digital and local Accenture teams.

"They will deliver digital solutions to address the mining sector's unique challenges as well as priorities. This work will help ensure operational efficiencies, worker safety and reduce environmental harm."

Evolving realities

In the age of emerging technology, SA's mining industry is looking to technological advancement to resuscitate the ailing sector which has been grappling with legal challenges, controversial new regulations and safety issues.

Given the importance of the mining sector in the country, there has been a strong focus from government and industry on how to leverage technology to drive operations and keep up with moving times.

According to Marc Ramsay, VP of the Anglophone Africa mining, metals and minerals industry business unit at Schneider Electric SA, of all the trends impacting the mining industry currently, none is likely to be as critical as digitalisation.

Ramsay highlights that a Deloitte report, which tracks trends in the mining sector, says the mining industry appears poised for greater growth than it's seen in a decade; however, today's market realities are very different to those of the past.

As a result, mining companies need to determine how to operate in a market characterised by constant disruption, volatility, rising stakeholder demands, a widening talent gap, and dwindling access to key inputs such as energy and water, he continues.

Ramsay says he is encouraged by the transformation of the mining industry to a more inclusive environment of mid-sized localised mining companies, as well as the progress between government and industry to find solutions for investment that will benefit the African economy and communities near the mines.

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