Foundry and engineering company Thos Begbie & Co received a number of orders recently to refurbish and manufacture furnace and smelting equipment, after orders from Southern African furnace operators dropped significantly from November last year to July this year.
Thos Begbie & Co outgoing CEO Edwin Dreyer tells Mining Weekly that the low commodity prices have impacted on the pyrometallurgical components manufacturing industry worldwide, with operators not spending money on maintaining furnace equipment.
“Many smelter manufacturers worldwide are having to close down, as they are unable to sustain their businesses at the current low commodity prices.”
Dreyer notes that, during the “drought” of orders, many mining companies would look to scrap yards to find components to do “patchwork” maintenance to keep their furnaces operating.
“Survival is the name of the game for local mining companies and their suppliers. Everyone is fighting for business at the moment,” he comments, adding that the orders the company has just received have ensured not only the sustainability of Thos Begbie & Co but also the retainability of its 150 trained and skilled staff.
Thos Begbie & Co received an order from a local platinum miner to supply water-cooled copper components to refurbish two furnaces and to manufacture a complete furnace. The furnace and components are scheduled for delivery by March next year.
Components being supplied for this refurbishment contract include furnace shell coolers and tap and matt blocks, as well as composite coolers, all of which form part of the shell of the furnace.
The company will also supply a copper cooled roof system for one of the furnaces, which Dreyer highlights is unique, as local furnace operations generally refurbish only the furnace side walls with copper coolers.
Thos Begbie & Co also won a continuous order for consumable anode moulds last month, which will be used in a copper smelter in Zambia.
The company will supply about 60 t of copper components each month; the first batch was delivered last month.
Dreyer notes that the company competed for the contract with suppliers from Europe and Asia, meeeting client specifications while also being more price competitive. “This contract proves that local furnace components suppliers can compete with international companies,” he avers.
Further, Thos Begbie & Co secured a supply contract from a copper and uranium mine in Australia to supply 160 t of water-cooled copper components, including furnace shell coolers, tap and matt blocks, and composite coolers in first quarter next year.
Dreyer highlights that this is the third major order from the Australian miner, the first of which was delivered in 2015 and the second earlier this year.
The order entails water-cooled copper components for the walls and roof of the furnace, which include furnace shell coolers, tap and matt blocks, and composite coolers.
Dreyer tells Mining Weekly that Thos Begbie is considering investing about R15-million to buy a three-dimensional (3D) sand printer to print cores and mould components for the foundry industry.
The technology uses a layer-by-layer technique of producing 3D objects directly from a digital model using computer-aided design or animation modelling software.
“We are venturing into the first commercial 3D sand-printing operation in the southern hemisphere . . . developing significantly more complex cores and mould components out of local sand,” he explains.
The company expects to receive the printer by the end of this year and will start producing the cores and mould components early next year.