The Minerals Council South Africa, Harmony Gold and RIIS (Research Institute for Innovation and Sustainability) have partnered in an initiative to ‘Reimagine Training in Mining’. Modernisation is a strategic priority for the Minerals Council and its members, and they are leading change through projects such as this, to identify and put into practice impactful solutions in the training space to benefit safety, health, productivity and the environment in the mining industry by using the integration of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies.
This journey has been a long time in the making and at the start of 2021 the partnership set out to identify tech-ready training innovations to implement at Harmony’s mines. This process culminated in a “pitch den” and an award ceremony held at UJ on 1 October 2021, where Win Win International took first prize in the Reimagining Training in Mining Innovation Showcase with their Immersive Learning Methodology.
The initiative involved an open innovation challenge that investigated the use of technology in training to skill, upskill and reskill the mining workforce effectively for the fourth industrial revolution. The objective of which is to make a safer, healthier and more productive working environment with a focus on zero-harm production. The solutions showcased featured virtual, augmented, and mixed reality solutions and components of gamification with a focus on human-centred design, and micro-learning principles (‘bite-sized’ learning).
In July and August, six of the 27 local submissions were shortlisted by a panel of judges comprised of members of the Minerals Council and Harmony’s learning & development, technology and health & safety teams, and behaviour experts. These finalists went through a final round of judging on 29 and 30 October resulting in Win Win International taking first prize, followed by The Boiler Room and BizAR Reality as first and second runners up respectively. The other three finalists presenting at the showcase were Virtutec, Edutouch and sts3D.
Sietse van der Woude, Senior Executive of Modernisation and Safety at the Minerals Council, says “The Minerals Council is looking at innovation and modernisation not just from a technology perspective, but importantly also to support social and business model change – moving from purely engineering-led innovation to people-centred innovation.”
In an interview with African Mining, Incorporating Mining Mirror, van der Woude extrapolates on this, stressing the importance of a “4IR technology enabled, people-centric approach versus a tech-centric approach in training” within the broader scope of the Minerals Council’s modernisation strategy (see video interview).
Sietse van der Woude, Senior Executive of Modernisation and Safety at the Minerals Council. Video credit: Sharyn Macnamara | African Mining
The Minerals Council highlights that it recognises that innovative approaches to training and learning, leveraging cognitive and behavioural sciences, enhances the effectiveness of training delivery through improved understanding, better retention, increasing motivation, and embedding positive behaviours. These trends, in combination with 4IR technologies, have great potential to improve healthy and safe production outcomes.
Mustak Ally, Head of Skills Development at the Minerals Council adds to this saying, “Extended Reality, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality technologies allow employees to learn in a safe environment while being fully immersed and interacting with virtual information in real-time as they encounter their physical environment – such as equipment or hazards, among others.” He notes that the piloting of new technology in the mining industry can optimise the cost-effectiveness of training while taking the industry closer to its goal of Zero Harm production.
Talking to African Mining, Ally shared that his expectations through this journey “were most certainly met”. He commented that the solutions that emerged from this project are compatible not only for South African mining but could be used in the broader South African industrial context and that it was a dream of his that someday this type of learning and development would be accessible to individuals in the deepest rural areas too. (See the full interview here).
Mustak Ally, Head of Skills Development at the Minerals Council. Video credit: Sharyn Macnamara | African Mining
Harmony’s Learning and Development Manager, Mark Haywood, also spoke to African Mining and emphasised that he was impressed by the ready-to-implement training innovations delivered by the South African suppliers, which were presented to address very real challenges in the Harmony operational training space. Harmony was looking for, amongst other things, new training innovations that move away from old-school methodologies and would address the many different preferred styles of learning of employees across many different generations, bringing in tech to get learners more engaged. He stressed that the new “bite-size style learning” was a preference.
Haywood concluded that through this initiative Harmony was hoping to “lead the pack” in learning and development within the mining space with the goal of delivering quality artisans, miners, and team leaders, and that in partnership with the Minerals Council, the idea was to share the learnings leveraged from this project with the greater mining community for the benefit of the industry as a whole. He said, “We want to learn from one another and with one another.” (See the full interview here).
Mark Haywood, Learning and Development Manager at Harmony Gold. Video credit: Sharyn Macnamara | African Mining
This showcase is the end of an explorative journey, and the beginning of great change in the training and upskilling on Harmony mines, and hopefully other mines to come. In his Keynote speech at the Final Pitch Den, Peter Steenkamp, CEO of Harmony, said that Harmony was continually looking at how technology and innovation can best drive and support the business. “Rapid advances in technological innovation, such as automation and digitisation are having a fundamental impact on the mining sector. I am confident that we will be able to improve on our processes and methods even further, and share our learnings and successes with other industry peers, and to learn from each other going forward.”
Watch this space as African Mining covers future development spin-offs from this amazing initiative.