Japanese Firm Inks Drone Deal with African Mining Giant

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Japanese UAV company Terra Drone’s South African division is partnering with one of the continent’s largest mining companies to get a better look at sites from above.

Terra Drone is looking to expand its nine branches all over the world and is focusing on providing UAS solutions to mining, oil and gas sectors.

Sibanye-Stillwater is the largest producer of gold in South Africa as well as one of the 10 largest in the world. The company also ranks as the third largest in palladium and platinum extraction.

During a recent demo, Terra Drone deployed an autonomous drone to map tunnels as small as 3×3 meters, yielding accurate 3D renderings without sending miners into a potentially unsafe environment.

The partnership comes at a welcome time for Sibanye-Stillwater, as the South African gold-mining industry continues a steady decline. According to a report in Fin24:

“Dwindling output has cut gold’s contribution to little more than 1 percent of the South African economy, down from 3.8 percent in 1993 … South Africa’s gold industry now employs just over 100,000 people, less than a fifth of the number that used to power the apartheid economy.”

In addition, Sibanye-Stillwater has been slammed with criticism following the deaths of 24 miners in 2018. Deploying drones is expected to result in safer working conditions.

In a statement (translated from Japanese to English), Terra Drone COO Teppei Seki said:

“We are delighted to implement such a demonstration with Sibanye-Stillwater … especially now [that] Terra Drone South Africa [is] dedicated to underground mining. We will focus on volume calculations by [providing] 3D survey-inspection data for ore paths and vertical shafts … This collaboration is going to be a giant step toward [improvements in] underground mining, which is expected to be expanded [across the African market].”

As noted in a past DroneLife report:

“A recent case study performed with mining inspection experts WS Data 3D in Chile demonstrates just what mining companies have to gain with drone technology.  Mining companies save huge amounts immediately by using drones for inspections … Ball mills, SAG mills, crushers, stockpile fillers and flotation cells – these environments are so hazardous for workers that operations need to be shut down in order for inspections to be performed, at a high cost to the mine.  Eric Romersa, CEO of WS Data 3D, says that a one hour inspection could cost a mine $100,000 to $150,000 in lost production costs – a cost eliminated by using a drone.”



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