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Getting mines online

South Africa's mining sector is one of the largest driving forces behind and contributors to the national economy. Since the terrain where mines operate is unforgiving and working conditions are perilous, the industry has also become increasingly reliant on effective technology for delivering efficient communications and improving safety.
For the mining sector, to be connected to a fast broadband and voice network could quite literally mean the difference between life and death. These days, mining operations are supported by various advanced software applications and software that require vast amounts of bandwidth, and a stable, reliable network to function and to ensure that all on-site operations are running smoothly.

This industry-specific software can monitor safety systems, run diagnostics on the health of the mining equipment, perform equipment location monitoring, high-resolution graphics and mapping, as well as allow online video and voice communication. As so much hinges on it, should the network become unavailable or shut down for whatever reason, it can compromise the safety of the miners and even, in some instances, lead to loss of life.

Beyond the scope of the national telecoms infrastructure

Most mines in South Africa do not have access to such a network. The problem is that many of the mining sites are located way beyond the scope of the national telecoms infrastructure, often in hard-to-reach rural areas where many service providers fear to tread, let alone be willing to spend large sums of money to roll out cables. Besides, connecting a mine to fixed line infrastructure is often out of the question due to the rising levels of acid mine water.

The solution is to turn to a provider such as Skywire. The company offers both fixed line and wireless - including microwave-based broadband - telecommunications services to various South African businesses and industries of all sizes. Skywire has deployed an extensive nationwide MPLS network of its own, but also integrates with the network of the national fixed-line operator, Telkom, thereby extending its reach even further.

Due to the fact that it is both fixed line and wireless, Skywire can be deployed in even the most remote locations. We actually specialise in installations in those hard-to-reach and underserviced areas. For this reason, we already count various mines among our clients.

Skywire will provide mines with the fast and reliable network they need to ensure that safety and productivity remain at optimum levels. A mine cannot afford to depend on a fragile network that will cause it to be knocked offline during harsh weather conditions. At that level of operation, too much money is lost when work has to be suspended. We understand how important it is for the mining sector to have access to a reliable, fast, secure, always available network. Not only does it protect the equipment and assets on site, but far more importantly, it protects the lives of the crew as well.

About the author

Jaco Visagie is co-executive director of Skywire.