Local manufacture a critical component of mine modernisation drive

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Local manufacture a critical component of mine modernisation drive

Epoxerite remains a leading supplier of high quality grouts for a myriad of applications in the mining industry, and this includes as a dependable bonding agent for pre-stressed cable anchors in some of the world’s deepest underground mines.

This system provides a significantly safer alternative to the use of sticks to support stopes at the rock face, while also freeing up the necessary space for the introduction of mechanised technologies to significantly improve production.

M and J Mining has remained the principal supplier of pre-stressed cable anchors to the South African mining industry since founder, Gurney Mathews, was first approached by a prominent South African mining house in 1986 to design and develop a more effective means of supporting haulages, stations and large caverns.

The seasoned civil engineer’s system was modelled upon tried-and-tested lateral and vertical rock-stabilisation technologies deployed in typical geo-technical applications.

It also formed the basis upon which Mathews would design and develop a more efficient and feasible anchoring solution for stopes and panels in collaboration with one of the world’s leading platinum-group metals miners.

This includes the South African-patented Flexibolt, a threaded pre-stressed cable anchor that is considered to be the future of underground primary support as mines continue to strive to reduce waste-rock haulage.

It delivers an ultimate tensile strength of almost 80% of the cable – far exceeding that of any other product on the market.

Importantly, it also allows rock engineers to anchor higher into the hang wall of the stope than is possible using a conventional solid-steel roof bolt.

Daniel Mathews, sales director of M and J Mining, says that the ability to innovate combined with robust internal quality-control systems have provided the company with a significant competitive edge over the years.

“We supply as much as 70% of the South African mining industry’s pre-stressed cable-anchoring requirements, while up to 30% of our total output is now being exported to other prominent mining destinations on the continent, including Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Ghana, Mali, Ivory Coast and Tanzania, via our vast distribution network,” Mathews says.

He adds that Dlamini Kuseni, who acquired a 26% stake in M and J Mining in 2012, has been a major driver of this growth, and he continues to steer the company into new markets.

Kuseni also assists in the development of new offerings, such as the popular package deals that include high quality grouting mediums.

They are produced and packaged under the M and J Mining brand at Epoxerite’s state-of-the-art factory in Westonaria, Gauteng.

Mathews says that Epoxerite’s long and impressive track record in designing tailored chemical solutions complement M and J Mining’s capabilities in the manufacture of pre-stressed cable anchors to provide a holistic solution to the mining industry.

Epoxerite has been supplying all of the company’s cable-grouting requirements for the past five years, and was appointed as an approved M and J Mining vendor based on its strong ethos.

“We scrutinise the ethos of all of our supply-chain partners, considering our emphasis on quality control. Epoxerite has always been willing to discuss and understand our requirements, and this has led to a long-standing and mutually-beneficial partnership. I am certainly looking forward to building on this strong business relationship well into the future,” Mathews says.

Extensive testing was undertaken on a number of mixes in underground environments to provide a grout that is suited to M and J Mining’s unique applications.

It reaches its compressive strength within four hours so as not to interrupt the blasting teams, while providing a long pot life to allow for the installation of up to 20 pre-stressed cable anchors in a single shift.

Moreover, it must be pumpable to fill the drill holes which are between three metres (m) and 12 m in length and vary in diameter from 38 millimetres (mm) to 51 mm.

Regular batch testing is also critical to ensure a consistent high quality grout as is the accurate numbering of the 10 kilogram (kg) and 20 kg bags that are dispatched to the mines.

George Weideman, managing member of Epoxerite, says that the company is known for the high quality of its products and is, therefore, proud to be associated with a manufacturer that has a long legacy of servicing the mining industry.

“Our premium solutions are the outcome of both ingenuity and integrity. They are especially suited to M and J Mining’s applications where there is simply too much at stake for second-guessing, or second chances,” Weideman says.

This partnership also demonstrates the critical part that participants in the supply-chain play in assisting mines innovate to raise safety levels, boost productivity and drive down costs in an extremely challenging economic climate.

Mathews, therefore, concurs that the country’s manufacturing sector is pivotal to the re-industrialisation of South Africa, considering its forward and backward linkages to other key industries, including mining.

A case in point is the important role that it is able to play in accelerating the modernisation drive of South Africa’s underground mines, which are still largely reliant upon outdated mining methods that continue to hinder their productivity.

“Mechanisation is critical to the survival of the beleaguered South African mining industry. However, the process of modernising these aged operations will have to be on the back of a vibrant local solutions innovation and manufacturing industry. This is considering that it will be able to substitute those jobs that will be lost underground as mines strive to implement continuous mining methods. Importantly, factories provide a predictable and safer working environment, while offering ample opportunity for skills development and training,” he says.

Located on a 22 000 square metre stand in Krugersdorp, Gauteng, the company’s location provides substantial scope for further expansion over the long term.

M and J Mining relocated to the area in 2012 considering the space that it provides to efficiently load its own truck fleet.

This facility employs more than 70 people from surrounding poor communities and, who importantly, undergo regular skills development and training.

These, combined with a unique incentive programme, have contributed towards the high skills retention rate that is required to consistently manufacture quality cable anchors and related equipment, such as post-tensioning machines.

Importantly, this approach has also greatly contributed towards improved efficiencies in the manufacturing cycle to assist in containing costs.

As a company that has retained its strong family values over the years, Mathews promotes a cautious approach to adopting technological themes promoted by Industry 4.0, considering South Africa’s unique and fragile socio-economic landscape.

However, he does concur that South Africa will have to undergo its Fourth Industrial Revolution if it intends competing at a global level.

This is especially true for those struggling local fabricators further downstream of the beleaguered steel industry, a vital cog in the country’s re-industrialisation strategy.

“The real value that it will bring to the industry is the ability to streamline processes and reduce ‘fat’ in the system. It provides the ability for top-level management to continuously measure to manage. However, success depends upon a robust middle management level that collates the information and transforms it into useable information,” Mathews says.

Weideman concludes that he is looking forward to working closely with the M and J Mining team in developing state-of-the-art solutions that will assist mines in boosting productivity and, importantly, creating safer environments for its many employees.

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