Mining services provider United Mining Services (UMS) Group is involved in a twin shaft sinking, equipping and infrastructure project for the Karowe diamond mine in Botswana. Owned by Lucara Diamond Corp, Karowe mine is one of the world’s leading producers of large, high-quality Type IIA diamonds.
UMS has been involved from the feasibility study phase, and is now implementing and constructing on site, states UMS COO Robert Hull.
UMS’ involvement in the project has been over the past three years.
“This project is an opportunity for UMS to showcase our capability and capacity in Africa, and globally, as there is large international interest in this project and its success. UMS has provided early study input and has moved with this twin shaft sinking project into the construction phase,” he explains.
UMS technical director Murray Macnab enthuses that new technology is used in every project that the company is involved in, as machines continue to be improved.
He highlights two such examples – mine hoists and lashing gear – being used for the diamond mine in Botswana.
The mine hoists for the temporary sinking and permanent hoists have the “most modern and advanced control and safety systems”.
Macnab adds that UMS has invested in a large crew of hoist experts to ensure consistent quality and knowledge retention on hoist-specific shaft sinking programmable logic controller (PLC) safety systems that have been developed in-house by UMS.
“The shaft lashing gear is a new design and has joystick controls instead of large mechanical levers. This improves driver ergonomics, reduces fatigue and increases employee retention, which, in turn, will improve safety and productivity.”
Further, UMS has provided a ‘mock-up’ on-site training unit to undertake initial and refresher training of operators.
Macnab explains that this will reduce production ramp-up time on the critical path, as the lashing operators play a major role in improving the sinking cycle time.
He also stresses the importance of improving safety, as well as productivity, in applying these new technologies. UMS strives to mechanise and automate as much of the process as possible to reduce scenarios that place personnel in harm’s way, and improve productivity.
“This is a continuous journey for UMS. With these hoist upgrades and the lashing mucker innovations, we believe that we will achieve safety and productivity improvements at our projects.”
The company is also working on new innovations for the shaft station horizontal development to achieve improved safety and productivity.
For this, Macnab emphasises the importance of selecting the ideal combination of the latest equipment innovations and methodologies that support the equipment.
“These innovations are still about a year away from being fully developed, but it is something that we’re focusing on now that the shaft sinking setup and procurement are under way.”
To date, UMS has completed the full site establishment and initial surface infrastructure, as well as shaft pre-sinking for the mine, without any lost-time injuries.
Involvement in this diamond project illustrates that UMS is well positioned, with the necessary skills, to provide the technical, project management and contracting expertise to develop projects through all the stages of the life cycle of a mine, based on a “long record of successful project completion throughout Africa”, Hull contends.
The company’s goals in Africa are to focus on growth with known clients and already established partnerships for large-scale projects, as well as on early engagement in studies with new clients.
Hull notes that many new projects require mines to be developed underground or deepened, and that UMS’ experience in such mine projects will allow the company to capitalise on this trend.
“UMS is growing and strengthening. We have significant capabilities and capacity globally, offering more than 60 years of experience and accumulated knowledge, and our clients are reaping the rewards of partnering with us,” he comments.
UMS representatives will attend the Investing in African Mining Indaba, to be held at the Cape Town Convention Centre from May 9 to 12, and will use the opportunity to reconnect with the company’s mining industry peers.