Iconic Botswana mine enlists AI to drive exploration
Jwaneng, one the world's wealthiest diamond mine in terms of value, is investing in artificial intelligence (AI) as part of a US$1.6 billion expansion of operations.
The AI-based technology will aid in diamond prospecting above the surface, allowing engineers to precisely determine the belts to blast and at depths to access mining deposits quickly and efficiently at the mine in southern Botswana.
In an interview with ITWeb Africa, Jwaneng General Manager Koolatotse Koolatotse revealed the investment.
The investment is part of the mine's Cut 9 expansion project.
It entails digging deeper than 650 metres into the historic mine pit to access an ore deposit that will yield roughly 48 million carats and support the mine until its closure in 2035.
Mining in cut 9 began five years ago, and Jwaneng (which translates to 'a site of small stones' in Setswana) has been cleaning rubbish in preparation for ore for several years.
"We expect to fast track this process with the machines we have introduced to help our engineers with the work they do and guide stone blasting to be precise," he said.
According to the manager, the investment in the exploration machinery will result in greater precision and efficiency in the process of mining ore belts with substantial diamond reserves.
The machines work independently of a human driver and are managed by a systems engineer from a control centre where the engineer oversees the machines' operations.
Koolatotse went on to say that the machines will be crucial as the mine plans to begin underground mining after the diamond reserves on Cut 9 are drained in 2033.
"The opportunity for more technologies is still ahead as the mine will need more intelligence on refrigeration technologies for underground mining when it kick-starts in 2033 to support operations as they get complex," he said.
According to Bokang Thitoyamore, a senior manager in charge of Cut 9, they expect the mine to reach mineral deposits after 2027, when genuine diamond extraction in the belt begins.
"This technology will accelerate our business case." We expect to hit ore deposits faster with the help of these machines," Thitoyamore predicted.