We interviewed Engineer Abel Makura a well known Mining Systems and Innovation expert who is a section Manager at Anglo American owned Unki Platinum mine. Makura, well-known as the go-to guy on technological issues in large scale mining circles talks about his journey to mining and the uses of digital technology in the mining industry.
By Kelvin Sungiso
KS – Who is Abel Makura?
AM – Abel Makura is a 36-year-old Mining Engineer who was born in the mining town of Kadoma and grew up there. I studied Mining Engineering because my hometown has a high activity of mining. That inspired me to take up the field as a profession.
KS – What are the uses of Platinum in daily lives?
AM – Platinum has various use which in no particular order of importance are
1) As an automobile catalyst
2) As gauze in cracking processes in oil refinery
3) As jewellery
4) Production of hard disc drives coatings and fibre optics
5) Manufacture of thermocouples for measuring temperature in glass and steel industries, manufacture of capacitors and crucibles to grow single crystals
6) As a catalyst in the manufacture of fertilizer and explosives
7) Medicinal use in dental implants and anti-cancer drugs
8) Fuel cells
9) Used as an attractive investment vehicle due to its value
KS – Exporting everything raw also means we are also in a way creating employment in countries we export to. What do you think we must do as a country for us to start prioritising Value addition?
AM – I think beneficiation and value addition through local smelting and refining helps create local employment, minimize trade deficit and increase fiscal income.
KS – I shot a popular video where you talk of Parallelism underground at Shamva gold mine. What exactly is Parallelism?
AM – Parallelism is a practice of drilling blast holes parallel to the direction of mining to help improve on advance per blast, fragmentation and dimensional blasting.
KS – You look very young and I at first mistook you to be a person in his 20s. How is it like to Manage and work with men and women much older than you who probably have been at Unki way before you?
AM – Working with people is an art and science in the sense that humans possess the analytics, domain expertise and knowledge key to solving problems and the key to success is to harness that skill. Working with older people is both smooth and challenging and the most important thing is having interpersonal skills to be able to understand the person as a whole and be able to provide an environment that makes them perform to the best of their abilities.
KS – You developed a mining system for the achievement of a record 4000 square meters in a month! Tell us more about it?
AM – The system is based on creating synergies between the key value drivers in the mining production cycle (drilling, support and lashing) and being able to sweat the asset by utilizing every bit of available time in the 24hr day.
KS – What would you say are your achievements since joining Unki?
AM – My greatest achievement was being part of the team which took part and got the first-ever IRMA certification in the world.
KS – Can Platinum be mined at a small-scale level?
AM – The greatest hindrance is financial support due to the initial costs involved in setting up a platinum mine. With financial support to interested players, I believe it’s very possible for platinum to be mined at a small-scale level.
KS – The world is going digital, as a Mining Systems and Innovation expert what is your take on digital technology, is digitalisation not killing jobs?
AM – Digitalization is the future of mining and instead of killing jobs, I see it as simply transferring roles.
KS – As a Mining Systems and Innovation expert what technologies would you advise Mines and Mining Development Ministry to adopt or introduce?
AM – I advise technologies such as Pedestrian/Vehicle Detection Systems to help avoid human/mobile equipment interaction and collisions, Sandvik’s Optimine for analyzing and improving underground production processes, ApplyIT’s IntelliPermit system that integrates all aspects of permit to work, access control and risk assessment, Inset Tagging and tracking system for locating trapped miners.
KS – As a person who grew up in Kadoma a place highly concentrated with ASM gold mining activities is there a simple software that you encourage mine owners that it’s a must-have?
AM – UAV – mounted geomagnetic mapping helps artisanal miners map new gold prospects efficiently and safely while improving land management.
KS – As a country do you think we are ready for autonomous vehicles like dump trucks and other mining technology?
AM – I believe as a country we’re ready for autonomous vehicles if we’re to look at the infrastructure and economic side of things. However, as a country, we need to first resolve the issues of data availability, ownership and reliability, system security and data breach as well as malwares and cyber attacks before we can embark on this technology as these pose a serious hindrance to the success of autonomous mining.
KS – Besides mining what is Abel Makura into?
AM – Besides mining, I’m also a farmer who’s into cattle Ranching with a sizeable herd of beef cattle and also into agronomy and delivers tonnes of maize to the GMB