Can subway and landmine technologies save South African platinum?


BURGERSFORT – Technologies used to carve subways and clear landmines are being retooled to mechanise South Africa’s platinum mines, where an unforgiving geology has stymied such efforts at a huge cost.

The technologies may make new mines profitable and could provide a lifeline for some loss-making shafts in a sector battered by low prices and social unrest, but there are limits.

Innovations include a 60-cm-high bulldozer built by private Croatian landmine clearance company Dok-ing that can reach narrow reefs, and a machine engineered by Atlas Copco unit Epiroc to replace blasting.

The stakes are high in the world’s top producer of the metal: most of South Africa’s platinum shafts are losing money, while the handful of mechanised ones are profitable.

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