Young scientists develop system to reduce SA mine fatalities

Pretoria - A group of young data science students have developed a system called "Rock Pulse" - an early warning and monitoring system that detects rock stability in mines and reduces the risk of mining accidents.

Rock Pulse works by collecting data underground and interpreting this data in order to set off a warning alarm if a potential hazard is detected, said Veronica Mohapeloa, spokesperson for the Department of Science and Technology.

PICS: Over 900 miners rescued after being trapped underground

"The students are part of a group participating in the Data Science for Impact and Decision Enablement (DSIDE) programme, which is funded by the Department of Science and Technology," said Mohapeloa.

Fifty students from South Africa were recruited to be a part of this year’s programme, she added. 

Improvements to system still necessary

Nicolene Roux, one of the science students who developed the system, confirmed that her team was confident in the technology, but that improvements were still necessary.

"We realised that the technology could not differentiate between a man-made and a non-man-made sound. This is where it needs to improve, because you don't want a false trigger negatively affecting a mine's production," she said.

John Isaacs, research group leader at the Meraka Institute, said South African mines were dangerously old and became more hazardous the deeper miners dug. 

Also read: More than 900 trapped underground in Free State mine

"We need very robust technologies to be able to improve working conditions in these mines. The ultimate goal is that the system should be able to inform future planning, identify the risks and define the shortest exit paths in cases of evacuation," added Isaacs.
 
South Africa's mines are considered one of the most hazardous working environments in the country, due to rock bursts and seismic activity which result in fatalities and injuries, said Mohapeloa.


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