Mining is one the most critical pillars of the South African economy, and while it continues to contribute very significantly to GDP and job creation, it is an industry that faces unique challenges.

Many of these are due to the remote locations in which mining operations typically take place – far beyond the reach of conventional communications technologies such as fibre, LTE or 4G/5G. Despite this, the operational demands of mining – and the pressure on profit margins – mean that alongside continuous rotating shifts, being in constant contact with suppliers, service providers and senior management is an essential aspect of modern mining.

This is particularly true with bulk ore mining, where vast quantities of material need to be moved according to a strict timetable. Without communications functionality, this scheduling would soon break down, leading to confusion and costly delays.

A further factor related to the remoteness of mining operations means that repairs to mission-critical equipment cannot easily be carried out. This places an onus on the reliability of the technology used, including of course their links to the outside world. There is a clear requirement for an available anywhere, always-on and highly reliable connectivity solution with zero or near-zero downtime.

Satellite technology services

“We were delighted to contacted by a major open cast iron ore mine in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province. They were looking for an effective alternative to their existing, very limited telecoms infrastructure,” commented Dawie de Wet, Group CEO of Q-KON, the leading satellite engineering enterprise behind Twoobii, the Smart Satellite Service. “Their need for a very reliable communications link led to them contacting Twoobii in search of a solution,” he added. 

Just as the requirement was clear, so too was the answer: a custom-designed 1+1 high-availability solution that consisted of dual satellite terminals (primary and secondary circuits), each offering 99.95% uptime in an automatic failover configuration. In the absence of mains power, a hybrid solar and generator solution was engineered to provide a cost-effective way to ensure near 100% uptime. In order to service all the operational locations within the mine complex, additional wireless links were included in the installation.

The impact in terms of business efficiencies was immediate and profound, as André Slabbert, general manager of the open cast iron ore mine explained, “Our business suffered by not having communications at the mine, but since we had the high availability Twoobii satellite solution installed, we are now in constant contact with our employees, and our business processes are running semi-automated”.

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