Reducing our carbon footprint to mitigate the impact of climate change, as outlined in international treaties like the Paris Agreement, and accelerating the journey to the all-electric mine, are a business priority for many mining companies. This is an important focus in South Africa, where mining continues to be a mainstay of the economy and a major employer.

There are three major trends fundamentally transforming the mining industry into what can be termed “climate-smart” mining, says Eduardo Aparicio, local business area manager of ABB South Africa’s Motion business*.

“Firstly, there is the shift from diesel to electrification as a main power source. Secondly, digitalisation not only increases productivity, but allows for ease of maintenance. Thirdly, customers can reduce their total cost of ownership by standardising on high-efficiency motors and drives. This means that assets are deployed optimally in a sustainable manner that reduces the overall environmental impact,” Aparicio explains.

“Of course, it is not certain how all of these trends are likely to play out over the next five to 15 years. What we do know, however, is that the future is invariably shaped by the innovations of today, which are transformed into the advances of tomorrow. Every company that operates in or serves the mining sector can participate in shaping this future – and can begin to have an immediate impact. Let us all join forces as we co-develop and collaborate to set these new ‘smart’ standards for mining.”

He adds that the switch to remote services accelerated in 2020 due to Covid-19. “This also resulted in a more rapid uptake of Industry 4.0 solutions in the mining industry in terms of automating operations for optimised productivity, reducing equipment downtime and costs, carrying out predictive rather than preventive maintenance and enhancing safety for mine personnel to introduce a ‘zero harm’ culture.”

Aparicio says that connected mines will result in a wealth of digitalised data from equipment, assets and applications. “By the time this data reaches operators, it will already have been analysed and can be accessed easily on any number of smart devices. Such a connected process results in rapid, smart and informed decision-making that will affect the bottom line.

“Mining is one of the key industries where our drives, motors, generators, mechanical power transmission products and integrated digital powertrain solutions stand to play a major role in ushering in this new connected era. It is an example of the leading role we as a global innovator play in transforming both society and industry to achieve a more productive and sustainable future. Therefore, I was very excited to join ABB South Africa as the local business area manager in its Motion business unit. This means I get to be part of the South African mining industry’s incredible ongoing transformation.”

Aparicio explains that his main goal in his new position at ABB is to assist major South African industries – such as mining – to adopt the latest technology on the country’s path towards energy efficiency, reduced emissions and, ultimately, carbon neutrality. “This has been an important focus for me throughout my career in Spain and Mexico. As we know, South Africa faces power constraints, coupled with lagging economic growth and development. Here I also see electrification, automation, and power and water as critical business development areas for us as a business.”

Aparicio worked at Power Systems and Industrial Automation in Spain and was the business line manager for Energy Industries in Mexico. He holds a Mechanical Engineering degree from Universidad UCLM in Spain and an MBA from IMF Business School and Universidad Nebrija, Madrid.

“In Mexico, for example, a career highlight for me was overseeing the establishment of a new energy business unit that merged power and water to focus on the oil and gas industry. This is a sector where we enjoy a global footprint, with clients as far afield as Europe and the US. It is a burgeoning sector in Africa, especially with the latest oil and gas discoveries, presenting tremendous opportunities throughout the continent.”

Aparicio adds that the technology to dramatically improve energy efficiency is available right now, “as our recent white paper entitled ‘Achieving the Paris Agreement: The vital role of high-efficiency motors and drives in reducing energy consumption’ states. For example, high-efficiency motors and drives are well established and time-tested. I aim to increase the uptake of such technology, especially in mining, as well as to educate the market about the importance of our long-term sustainability goals as a future-oriented business.

“Of course, the benefits of greater energy efficiency go well beyond the fight against climate change. They contribute broadly to environmental conservation, cleaner air and water, better public health, energy independence and stronger economic growth and development. Nowhere is this more critically important than in the South African mining industry, which is taking significant strides towards a ‘climate-smart’ future.”

* ABB is a Swiss multinational corporation headquartered in Zürich, operating mainly in robotics, power, heavy electrical equipment, and automation technology areas.  

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