The volatility caused by global events, such as the outbreak of Covid-19, otherwise referred to as coronavirus, and stock market turmoil have definitely impacted on the planning and execution of mining operations and related supply chains, says mine ventilation equipment manufacturer Terramin founder and CEO Martin van Schoor.
The company provides dust-control and associated workspace ventilation equipment and services for underground and deep-level mining working spaces.
The ongoing effects caused by the coronavirus include the predicted “drastic fall in prices” caused by the reduction in the consumption of mined products, as highlighted to Mining Weekly by mining firm Menar MD Vuslat Bayoğlu in March.
Terramin points out the freefalling oil price, inconsistent local electricity supply, and issues associated with organised labour – such as wage negotiation challenges – in a sector with a negative growth rate, policy uncertainty and complexities associated with climate change.
Added to that, technological advances, automation and the pending arrival of artificial intelligence challenge the maintenance of the status quo.
“Mining in South Africa and the Southern African Development Community at large is being severely challenged. While gold prices were up, the rand is poised to exceed R17 to the dollar,” says Van Schoor.
Although the exchange rate would technically result in an increase in revenue received by South African mines (unhedged), operational costs would surely increase.
He notes that some relief would be a lower oil price, but the net result will surely be no real advantage. This, as inflation would be negatively affected by the weak rand, in addition to the country’s rising input costs of imported goods and technology.
Deep-level mining poses a challenge. Seismic events proliferate as was the case again recently on a deep-level West Rand gold mine stoping section. The cost and complexity of refrigeration, the depth of ore sourcing and the dependency on manual labour and increased personal safety concerns persist.
“For our business, specifically, the availability of traditionally and relatively easy-to-source raw materials and consumables was initially partially hampered by developments emanating from the US–China trade war. The coronavirus issue and stock market movements have also resulted in serious industry and business challenges.”
Terramin has several ongoing projects in sub-Saharan African mining sectors, providing solutions pertaining to air cooling and silica dust mitigation through the use of water atomising devices and surface adjuvant application concepts, and methods.
These products have been developed to fit specifications contained in legislation and in response to conditions found in deep-level mining sectors.
Further, Van Schoor suggests that major regional policy decisions need to be taken to attract foreign investment supporting the local beneficiation and manufacturing sectors, adding that, “the interference in commerce in the form of onerous legislation hampering free enterprise needs to be discouraged”.
He says that “mines, especially deep-level mines, should better partner with local and regional equipment manufacturers when procuring products and services for their operations to facilitate local growth”.
The company is developing “new and improved” in-stope ventilation control concepts to improve working conditions routing fresh intake air to the working face, capturing/suppressing dust and impurities. The relook and involvement in the scrubbing cooling and recirculation/reuse of air underground is being reconsidered.
“We are also assisting with the improvement and introduction of new concepts, equipment, and methods using licensed, locally manufactured shotcrete equipment and shotcrete mixes admixtures,” concludes Van Schoor.