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South Deep Gold Mine has leaped towards more environmentally sustainable mining with the mining solution using PlantPAx™ technology from Rockwell Automation.

Using standardised control modules and engineering methods developed specifically for the mining industry, Rockwell Automation has helped the mine’s metallurgical plant become an industry leader in over-all resource management with seamlessly integrated plant production control, visualisation and reporting.

South Deep Gold Mine is currently Gold Fields’ only operational mine in South Africa and we are planning to increase its throughput and yield. One of Gold Fields’ main objectives is to use technology and innovation to enhance environmental sustainability and productivity,” says Louis Oosthuizen, Unit Manager C&I, Gold Fields. “This new level of plant control afforded by Rockwell Automation’s mining solution will help us to improve our reagent consumptions and enhance resource management – including energy and water. The solution will also enable us to make more informed business decisions, while at the same time, lowering risks of plant downtime through improved visibility and control.”

Rockwell Automation developed the mining solution based on decades of domain expertise. The system provides a consistent look and feel, with common tags/descriptions and user experience, and is a more scalable and cost-effective alternative to a traditional DCS-based (distributed control systems) control solution. The mining solution using PlantPAx provides additional flexibility, managed mining-specific standards and reduced commissioning time and costs.

The mining solution replaced the plant’s legacy Rockwell Automation SCADA system originally installed in 2001 by Hiprom (Pty) Ltd – today part of Rockwell Automation. The project also required for the plant’s new ball mill circuit, pebble crushing circuit, additional thickener, four leach tanks and an extra elution column to be incorporated into this single control, visualisation and reporting system.

“Because Gold Fields could not accommodate a full week’s downtime, which is typically required for system upgrades of this nature, the main challenge was to perform the changeover – while simultaneously launching the new processing systems’ control system – without significantly disrupting the plant’s day-to-day operations,” says Johan Buckle, Lead Engineer, Rockwell Automation. “Working closely with the mine’s personnel, we systematically changed over to the mining solution during the plant’s normal eight to 12-hour maintenance shutdown periods, ensuring no disruptions at all.”

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