Mpumalanga-based artisan and mining skills training centre Colliery Training College (CTC) is actively seeking more coal projects to contract the services of its Rescue Drill Unit (RDU) to improve the effectiveness of mines’ emergency preparedness procedures.
“We encourage mines to contract us to drill practice holes for emergency preparedness procedure purposes to assist their rescue/emergency teams,” says CTC MD Johan Venter.
The RDU equipment is used in real rescue situations. It provides peace of mind during an emergency at coal mining operations, as it ensures that workers are brought safely back to the surface in such instances, says Venter, adding that this assurance also enables workers to conduct work unperturbed, thereby enhancing productivity.
He indicates that the RDU was established by the owners of coal mines in the 1970s in response to coal mining disasters that led to workers being trapped underground.
The RDU assists and/or rescues the workers when a mine accident, caused by a fire, a roof collapse or an explosion has resulted in escape routes being blocked.
However, Venter assures that such incidents are a rare occurrence. This is evident in the minimal number of times the RDU has actually been used in real emergency situations, which is testimony to the safety of South Africa’s coal mining operations, he emphasises.
The RDU equipment was used in 1981/82 to help the police search for and recover bodies disposed of in abandoned gold mine shafts; in 1984, after a methan explosion at Usutu colliery 200 km south-east of Johannesburg; in 1991, after fall of ground at the Emaswati coal mine, in Swaziland; in 1994, to rescue 33 mineworkers trapped underground; in 2003, at the Matla mine, in Mpumalanga; and, most recently, at the Lily mine, in Mpumalanga, in 2016.
CTC mostly receives requests to drill holes for emergency preparedness purposes, should an accident occur in future.
The college maintains and operates the RDU’s equipment, in partnership with structured emergency rescue systems provider Mines Rescue Services, on behalf of the coal mining industry. These two entities are the sole providers of this service in the coal mining industry.
In the event of a fall of ground at a coal mining operation, CTC is ready to assist, with the RDU on 24/7 standby at its premises in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga.
Venter explains that the RDU, operating since 1977, consists of two drill rigs from manufacturer and global supplier to the hydraulic drill industry Schramm. The first drill, the T130, has the capability of drilling a 660-mm-diameter hole to a depth of 300 m, while the second drill, the T685, can drill a 165-mm-hole to a depth of 300 m.
CTC conducts routine maintenance tests on the RDU’s equipment. It performs weekly, monthly and other regular inspections, and effects minor repairs and, where major repairs or major services are required, specialist tech- nical service providers are contracted.