Local bulk earthworks solutions provider Icon Group, at the end of February this year, finalised the stormwater and civil infrastructure earthworksfor an expansion of coal miner Canyon Coal’s opencast Phalanndwa Colliery, which situated east of Delmas, in Mpumalanga.
Icon’s work on the site is directly associated with the establishment of the new colliery, and involves various tasks which, although pertaining to individual sections, are all connected and necessary to the mine’s functioning, says Icon CEO Wayne Neary.
The work involves constructing dirty water channels, implementing surface water drainage, and laying down pipelines and culverts.
While the work has mostly been delivered without delays, Neary notes that unexpected challenges arose from abnormal rainfall in the past three months, impacting on Icon’s scope of work.
While the rain did not delay the workload, it forced Icon to implement creative measures to remain on schedule. This included the construction of various structures, such as berms and cut-off drains, which ensured that runoff water coming in from the surrounding fields and stockpiles did not enter Icon’s excavation or erode the pipes.
Neary states that Icon were able to restrict and control the amount of water runoff at the site.
The overburden material on the top layer of the surface on site where civil infrastructure construction is taking place was also exacerbated by the increased rainfall. The overburden is the result of most of the ground in the surrounding Delmas area being agricultural, making it inappropriate for construction of civil infrastructure, meaning suitable material had to be carefully selected or other methods applied to achieve the desired results.
Further, the site contrasts with that of other mines, such as platinum mines, which are generally located in more rocky environments, with Neary claiming that those conditions are simpler to control in terms of water runoff.
“While the scope of work has been straightforward and simple, we’ve used a lot of techniques from our commercial civils business for a mining environment and that’s been well received. We’ve been complemented a number of times, as contractors, on the accuracy and precision we’ve instilled.”
Neary explains that the first milestone of their overall project was completed last month, with Icon’s on-site work having started in November. The milestones fulfills a portion of the scope of the tender Icon was awarded for the project, which was to capture excess water from the drainage system for the mine’s use and manage the stormwater. He adds that the system is functioning.
“Next, we’re going to do some external works for the mine, which will be the next phase.”
This external work will also entail excavating the entrance to install a culvert and other concrete works related to the access roads around the mine, which allows for the moving of equipment and resources in and out of the mine more efficiently. The external work is expected to last until about April 2021.
“We believe we’re not here to do one job for a client – we’re here to build a relationship and we will continue to do that. We hope to do many more jobs. The external work, while not directly related to the scope we’re on at the moment, will form part of the new colliery and the new infrastructure on site.”
Neary enthuses that involvement in this project has provided an ideal way for the company to become more established in the local coal sector.
Icon provides earthworks, demolitions and other related civil engineering and construction services for the commercial, industrial and mining sectors, ensuring that a site reaches an ideal state of “build-readiness”.
Neary adds that the company is generally active in other mineral sectors locally, with previous work having been done for platinum mines, as well as diamond mines in Botswana.
While this is the first coal mine that the company has worked on, Neary notes that much of the work is similar to the civil engineering work Icon generally conducts at commercial projects.
“It complements our current business, as similar equipment is used in earthworks for mining projects. It goes hand-in-hand with what we do, and it will expand our business in an organic way.”
He concludes that mining is an attractive industry for companies, such as Icon, because “it’s an industry in which we see significant potential for efficiencies. We believe that we can add value”.