THREE people sit in a small room at the Rössing Uranium Mine near Swakopmund, keeping a watchful eye on computer screens, TV monitors and equipment 24/7.
This is the mine monitoring and control centre, from where the mine is run.
On the monitors in front of them they can see exactly where the haul trucks and shovels are located in the pit. They dispatch the shovels and haul trucks to the right site where the ore has to be collected, so the two work together like clockwork.
Each shovel has a sensor which measures the uranium level in the ground, which information is sent to the control centre and according to the reading the shovel is instructed where it should mine.
Each haul truck drives under a radiometric scanner with its load and the ore is scanned and information transmitted to the centre. From here the operators read the measurements and tell the driver where the ore must offloaded - either at the crusher or the dump, depending on the uranium content of the load.
The control centre tells the drivers which routes to take to avoid traffic jams.
Each haul truck is connected to the control centre and the condition of the truck is analysed by a computer. In this way the control centre can inform the driver when a specific haul truck needs to go for maintenance, when its brakes are malfunctioning and when the oil or diesel levels are low.
"This way we can prevent a haul truck from breaking down in the pit - we can see breakdowns before they happen," says Dama Fotoleka.
There is monitoring equipment in the pit which detects rock movements of one centimetre and automatically triggers an alarm for the pit to be evacuated.
"Nothing happens on this mine without going through this centre and us," said Fotoleka. "This centre is the heartbeat of the mine".
Operating the mine through this control centre is cost effective and saves time, Fotoleka says, as the machines are dispatched to the correct sites and mechanical problems are picked up and attended to before they become a costly problem.