This is the only mine in the world with vertical transport infrastructure able to do this in one go.
Until recently, hoisting was limited to single lifts of 2 500 m.
But now Moab Khotsong, near Klerksdorp, in the North West, will transport mine workers to a level of 3 106 m in one fell swoop.
With improved winder and rope technologies, cages can now be hoisted below 3 000 m in a single drop.
This has great economic benefit in deep-level mines as it enables person-nel to reach the rockface far sooner and thus have more productive time at the face.
In the case of Moab Khotsong, travel time to the deepest underground station at 102 level will be some 4,5 minutes, with the cage travelling at a maximum speed of 19 m a second.
From there, it will only take another eight minutes to reach the workface.
Horizontal travel will be in carriages able to transport 75 people at a time, unlike the traditional 20-person variety – four carriages per train, each carriage having the capacity to carry 75 people.
These carriages have four large doors and are in some aspects not unlike those airport buses in which passengers stand erect holding on to overhead handles.
GM Danie Spies sees the brand-new Moab Khotsong mine as a twenty-first century operation in which twenty-first century people are active.
He points to the ultramodern aspects, among them coolness at great depth, low noise, little dust, “pack-in-pipe” supports, factory-like materials-handling with use of fork-lifts, partly-automated material inclines, safe concrete-lined tunnels, innovative self-lift devices, slick backfilling arrangements.
“It’s so cool that you sometimes want to put your jacket on,” Spies confides to Mining Weekly.
A productive mine is dependend on a safe working environment with quality environmental conditions.
During the years 1995 and 1996, Moab Khotsong recorded the worst safety statistics in the mining industry – however, that has been turned around dramatically.
In fact, during the last three years it has become the safest operation in the industry, having already achieved one thousand fatality-free production shifts three times. Besides millionaire’s status twice and well on its way to achieving it for the third time, it has also won the AngloGold Chairman’s Safety Shield three consecutive times in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
This outstanding performance can be attributed to the meticulous approach that Spies adopts when it comes to safety.
In fact, Mining Weekly once dubbed Spies South Africa’s Mr Safety and he has played a significant role since joining the operation in 1996.
By placing safety above all else, the team has managed to improve the fall of ground statistics drastically from 118 incidents a year in 1995 to 11 in 2002 and eight so far this year.
Spies manages the mine according to his own personal moral principles and one he advocates strongly is “what the mind of a man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”.
This attitude is reflected in his management style, which involves personal contact with each and every one of the 1 800 individuals at Moab Khotsong, an employee complement which is soon to rise 4 300.
He believes that in order to have a quality mine, there have to be quality people, who are able to assess their environment and take appropriate action at all times.
He attributes improved performance to a “one-team, one-vision” approach.
Moab Khotsong will begin producing gold at a rate of 30 kg/month from next month and build-up to 1 000 kg/month by 2008. One might wonder why the R4,12-billion project has taken so long to mature.
Spies cites the main reason as being the “very complex” nature of the ore body, which demands that mining has to take place on six different levels at depth.
The first phase of Moab Khotsong will take place at depths of between 2 604 m and 3 054 m and the second phase, which is subject to the approval of a currently-under-way feasibility study, is expected to mine at lower level of between 3 054 m and 3 500 m (see map).
Owing to the constraints at Moab Khotsong, mining will take place at the comparatively low-volume rate of 16 500 m2 a month during the first phase from 2006 until 2015.
Consequently, efficiencies have had to be optimised to ensure profitability.
Every operation at Moab Khotsong is measured according to four requirements of safety, quality, on-time delivery and budget, with each designated area having its own vision, which in turn incorporates a plan and a conceptual design.
Performance schedules are kept of every activity that takes place at the mine.
Some significant efficiency initiatives have taken place at Moab Khotsong.
For instance, the vulcanised conveyor-belt system will be operated by only one person, compared to half a dozen traditionally. Likewise, far fewer people will be needed to operate the partly-automated incline shaft system in which cars will be transported in the shaft in bridles.
Explosives have been palletised so that they can be loaded into cars by forklifts from surface trucks and distributed from underground magazines.
In the stopes, Moab will make use of the “pack-in-pipe” support media in conjunction with backfill which is far less labour intensive.
Backfill will be between 2 m and 4 m from face.
In fact, the aim for Moab Khotsong is to backfill more than 70% of the excavated areas in order to provide a secondary roof support and lower cooling costs.
Wetbulb temperatures are 25 ˚C from close circuit cooling cars will bring low working temperatures to the people at the face.
An innovative design and constructive washing of the cooling cars underground improves the efficiency and life of installations.
Dust will be at a low 0,15 milligrams/m3 of air, exceeding an already improved target of 0,25 milligrams/m3 of air.
Noise levels are below 85 decibels, with all machines muffled and fans silenced.
Despite the fact that Moab Khotsong is using twenty-first century technologies and initiatives, stope drill rigs are still to be developed that can service an operating space of 2 m between backfill and the stope face.
Currently there is no suitable product on the market that can cater for a 2 m drill face, brought about by the close proximity of the backfilling system.
However, safety at Moab Khotsong is not only a priority, but a prerequisite.
Therefore less-intense backfilling is not an option, as the chosen system ensures that the miners’ lives are not endangered.
Meanwhile, we will continue to search for semimechanised drilling improvements that can be operated in such space-confined stopes as those at this new mine.
It would not be true to say that one could call Moab Khotsong by any other name as this name has been specially selected.
Initially, the mine was named only Moab, which is the name of the original farm on which it has been built and which was commonly believed to mean fertile ground.
However, its association with the Biblical Moab prompted workers to request that it be twinned with Khotsong, Sotho for “peaceful place”, and this is now the commonly-used classification.
Spies, the 13th of 16 children, is a legendary figure in South Africa’s gold-mining industry, which he has served for 38 years.
Tshepong in the Free State, whose development he led, is one of his legacies and the first gold-mine in the AngloGold group to achieve two-million fatality-free shifts within its first four years of operation.
Moab Khotsong will be another for the 57-year old who retires in 33 months.