From the Councils Pen….

SACEA Technical Symposium

The South African Colliery Engineers’ Association’s (SACEA) most recent objective is to re-emphasise its vision of being a professional, dynamic, value-adding and influential body in the industry. SACEA was immensely successful in doing so at the 14th Technical Symposium which was hosted 25 July 2019 at the Portuguese Hall in Witbank.

According to the SACEA President, Marcin Hyra. “The time has come to share technological innovation and learnings we have experienced over the past years which will take us into the future; better prepared to face the safety, health, environmental, technical and financial challenges we will be confronted with.”

The SACEA symposium programme line-up boasted impressive presenters including Baltimore Miles, Group Manager Engineering at Exxaro Resources who gave the opening address. Excited by the reach and foundation of SACEA and this symposium, Miles said: “SACEA is really growing into something amazing and I’m quite proud to be a part of it.”

With physical products and a capital-intensive physical supply chain, mining remains one of the last industries to be disrupted by technology. But that is changing quickly. As the landscape is transformed by new industry 4.0 technologies such as automation, data analytics, and the industrial Internet, mining companies are gaining the opportunity to solve complex and previously intractable problems related to their value chains. This is according to Miles pointed out that the main aspects one should get out of any digitalisation is that safety needs to be improved, “It must improve operating costs and productivity,” he urged.

Exxaro had a session last year to come up with ideas where they could use digitalisation to improve their organisation – Miles and Maleka Delinah Mohulatsi, Senior Projects Engineer – Mechanical at Exxaro Resources, used the SACEA symposium as a platform to share their digitalisation initiative.

Mohulatsi explained how they apply technology to assist with processes to ensure accuracy and time saving. One of the processes discussed was licensing of equipment and authorisation of persons who operate their machinery in the mine. “This is one of our critical processes and is a legal requirement. Beyond that, it’s a critical process that helps us manage the risks that are related to, for example, an authorised operation of machinery, or operation of machinery for persons who are not competent. This is the reason behind this initiative,” she explained.

The adoption of technology is to assist us with some of the activities we get involved with, to make sure these activities are done accurately, and potentially even faster.

SACEA Council member, Tejal Sunker from Middelbult Colliery, Sasol Mining Holdings, shared Learnings from LHD PDS (Middelbult Colliery). Some of the lessons learnt, she highlighted, was: On the job training of mechanics by SANDVIK and STRATA technicians and having both the OEMS technicians on site saved time during the breakdowns. With regards to indications on the machine to differentiate what type of breakdown is being experienced, SANDVIK is currently busy with this solution. “The piping solution is being investigated from the side of SANDVIK to make repairing and maintenance easier and less time consuming,” Sunker said.

The rest of the programme rolled out with more engaging speakers delving into key topics aligned to this SACEA technical symposium. These included:

Devon Hagedorn-Hansen (General Manager: Additive Manufacturing at Stellenbosch University) presented delegates with a new perspective on preparing for Industry 4.0;

Herman Hendriks (OpsEye) provided an informative presentation on digitalisation and the impact it has on the South African mining industry;

Stephan Bergh engaged with delegates on the management of ventilation underground;

Inus Labuschagne (Group Environmental Engineer at Sasol Mining) shared many new findings on fire detection for underground conveyors;

Hannes Bezhuidenhout (Principal Civil Engineer, Sasol Mining) presented on the importance of regular and comprehensive plant structure inspections; Francois Smit delivered a report on Dragline Boom Repairs; and Kuzivakwashe Mwandira (Exxaro) delivered a comprehensive presentation on shaft bottom repairs.

Here is what some of the attendees had to say about the value of the SACEA Technical Symposium.

Fefa Simon Moleleki – Diesel Power

“I’m an Engineer currently at Diesel Power. This SACEA symposium has been very valuable in terms of the knowledge gained. More so with regards to 4th industrial revolution and learning how companies are buying into technology advancement. I think such events are platforms that engineers should take advantage of and make sure that they become part of them”.

Thando Mathanga – Department of Mineral Resources

“This symposium is very important to us as the DMR for many reasons. It provides us with a platform to be in line with what industry is doing so that we’re able to perform better in what we’re doing. Also, with the digitalization, we need to be in tune and knowledgeable in terms of what the mines are doing and how can we can best bring our side of inspectorate into digitalization”.

Keletso Marsh – Exxaro

“I’m enjoying this symposium and it’s been interesting finding out where, moving from traditional mining to industry 4.0, we’re heading. People talk about big data, they talk about your artificial intelligence and how other mining houses are using that and the way we’re transforming mining from what we know, to mining in the future. I think people are so scared about robots taking over the mining industry and jobs, but there’s more to learn. If we just understand what robots can do, we can harness so much of that and not actually be scared of them just taking our jobs. So, it’s quite interesting to see where the mining industry is going now”.

Ivan Van Staden – Seriti Coal

“This SACEA symposium has been value-adding, especially for me with regards to shaft repairs. It’s a big concern that our shafts are old, and we must replace a lot of the shaft infrastructure. This came up a lot in the questions today and assessments and so on. Basically, in that sense and preparing for the GCC this symposium adds a lot of value”.

Tristan Jooste – Anglo American

“The value that I gained from this symposium was gathering with old friends in the industry. It’s nice because we don’t deal with each other on a daily basis. Just seeing the suppliers and vendors, seeing what they have to offer and the digitalization, it’s nice seeing where the industry is heading”.

Ephriam Mokalapa – Universal Coal

“The licensing system that Exxaro is running on in terms of lessons of simplifying things can safeguard the lives of people, ensuring that all operators licenses get verified and they are fit to run the company – so it’s a good system and I’m happy to see that showcased at this SACEA symposium”.

Kirosha Kamal

Independent Journalist