May 17, 2020

The Wits Mining Institute opens the door to a brighter future for the mining industry

Wits University
Zimbabwe Mining
Wits mining institute
Dale Benton
2 min
The Wits Mining Institute (WMI) will be headed by former School of Mining Engineering head Professor Fred Cawood.
A new unit at the Wits University has been announced, developing innovative technology solutions for the struggling mining sector.

The Wits Mining Inst...

A new unit at the Wits University has been announced, developing innovative technology solutions for the struggling mining sector. 

The Wits Mining Institute (WMI) will house the school’s Digital Mine project and a college network to address the needs of an ever changing industry sector.

The unit will be headed by former School of Mining Engineering head Professor Fred Cawood.

“The institute’s mission is to make mining safer and more sustainable by harnessing fast-developing technologies and practices from different sectors – which are sadly not always incorporated into mining applications quickly enough to address the industry’s many challenges,” said Professor Cawood.

He said the breakthrough that the WMI had made was to forge working links across the university’s schools and research units, so that mining issues could be addressed in an integrated manner.

“It has taken some time to achieve this, but the WMI now draws upon a formidable battery of expertise and insights from disciplines like architecture, public health, law, global change, population migration, urban development, electronics and computer science,” he said.

“These now augment the already substantial work being done within the School of Mining Engineering through its Centre for Mechanised Mining Systems and the Centre for Sustainability in Mining and Industry.”

South Africa’s deep level ore bodies have posed particularly difficult challenges to mining operations, but Cawood argued that encouraging progress was already being made to show the path forward for both established and new operations.

“Work on converting ‘indoor’ positioning systems to underground applications is already underway, for instance, paving the way to developing an automated tunnel for mining at depths no longer viable or safe for humans to operate,” said Professor Cawood.

Another area of focus that the unit will look to develop solutions and support for is the health and safety of workers within the industry.

“This kind of intervention brings us closer to the concept of the intelligent mine, where the data required for good decisions is available in real time – and in many cases can inform automated responses that removes the risk of human error,” he said.

“The vision of safe and more efficient operations is reachable, if we can adapt and apply the remarkable technologies available to us.”

Skills development by the WMI will focus on modern skills required to install and maintain the various new technologies being implemented or considered by mechanised and digital mines.

“Mines that are already mechanised find themselves in a difficult position, as last century’s skills are unable to properly manage and advance the modern technologies that they have installed in their operations,” said Professor Cawood.


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May 6, 2021

Copper, iron ore surge as Chinese investors unleash demand

Iron ore
3 min
Iron ore broke $200 a tonne for the first time, while copper approached a record high as Chinese investors unleashed fresh demand following May holiday

The reopening of major industrial economies is sparking a surge across commodities markets from corn to lumber, with tin climbing above $30,000 a tonne for the first time since 2011 on Thursday.

In the wake of mounting evidence of inflation fuelled by higher raw materials prices, investors are also increasingly focused on when the U.S. Federal Reserve might start throttling back its emergency support.


Many banks say the rally has further to run, particularly for copper, which will benefit from rising investment in new energy sectors. Copper is at the highest in a decade, fueling bets it will rally further to take out the record set in February 2011. Steel demand is surging as economies chart a path back to growth just as the world’s biggest miners have been hampered by operational issues, tightening ore supply.

“The long-term prospects for metals prices are ‘too good’ and point to higher prices in the next few years,” said Commerzbank AG analyst Daniel Briesemann. “The decarbonization trends in many countries, which include switching to electric vehicles and expanding wind and solar power, are likely to generate additional demand for metals.”

Trading house Trafigura Group and several major Wall Street banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. expect copper to extend gains.

Copper rose as much as 1.6% to $10,108.50 a ton on the London Metal Exchange before trading at $10,080 as of 4:07 p.m. in London.

Iron Ore

Benchmark spot iron ore prices rose to a record, while futures in Singapore and China climbed.

The boom comes as China’s steelmakers keep output rates above 1 billion tons a year, despite a swath of production curbs aimed at reducing carbon emissions and reining in supply. Instead, those measures have boosted steel prices and profitability at mills, allowing them to better accommodate higher iron ore costs.

Spot iron ore with 62% content hit $201.15 a ton on Thursday, according to Mysteel. Futures in Singapore jumped as much as 5.1% to $196.40 a ton, the highest since contracts were launched in 2013. In Dalian, prices closed 8.8% higher.

Erik Hedborg, Principal Analyst, Steel at CRU Group commented: “Recent production cuts in Tangshan have boosted demand for higher-quality ore and prompted mills to build iron ore inventories as their margins are on the rise. Iron ore producers are enjoying exceptionally high margins as well, around two thirds of seaborne supply only require prices of $50 /dmt to break even.”


Still, some analysts including Commerzbank’s Briesemann expect a short-term correction as metals become detached from fundamentals. There’s also a risk that China could engage in policies that may cool demand for iron ore and copper.

The metals rally has boosted concerns about short-term Chinese demand. Some manufacturers and end-users have been slowing production or pushing back delivery times after costs surged, while weaker-than-expected domestic consumption has opened the arbitrage window for exports.

Tin climbed as much as 2% to $30,280 a ton on the LME, boosted by rising orders for the soldering metal. Tin is at the highest since May 2011, with a 48% gain this year making it the best performing metal on the LME.



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