South African university launches virtual reality centre for mines

KumbaVRCThe Kumba Virtual Reality Centre in the University of Pretoria. (Image source: University of Pretoria)Scientists at the University of Pretoria have launched the Kumba Virtual Reality Centre (VRC) to analyse mining accidents in the region and step up safety measures for workers

This is the first of its kind centre in Africa, and includes a mine design centre, a 3D stereoscopic theatre and a 3D, 360-degree 10 metre diameter cylinder that allows researcher reconstruct mine incidents and view in a 3D stereoscopic theater as well as an immersive cylinder through 3D glasses.

Ronny Webber-Youngman, head of mining engineering at the university, said, “The age of immersion has just started, with great potential to enhance learning.”

The VRC is all the more relevant in the region, as mining is one of the main economic growth drivers. South Africa, in particular, has mineral reserves worth an estimated US$2.5 trillion. The country has the largest reserves of manganese and platinum group metals (PGMs) in the world and among the largest reserves of gold, diamonds, chromite ore and vanadium. Overall, South Africa has the fifth largest mining sector globally.

At the same time, the number of mining accidents in the country have gone up exponentially since the turn of the earlier century. A total of 54,000 deaths have been reported since 1904, said a report in EngineerLive. Though the numbers have fallen since due to safety measures that have been employed, researchers and industry leaders hope that the numbers are next to nothing, especially with the use of technology like the VRC.

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