Flameproof first for gold sector

8th October 2004


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Diesel flameproof specialist Elgin Flameproofing scored an important coup when it became the first company to undertake full flameproof conversions to SANS 868 specifications on diesel equipment used in South Africa’s gold-mining industry. This Spartan-based company, for decades the market leader in diesel flameproof conversions for the Southern African coal-mining industry, owes its involvement in gold-mining, at least partially, to two tragic accidents at Beatrix gold-mine caused by methane explosions which resulted in the deaths of 23 miners. “Soon after the accidents, and following presentations to mine management, we were awarded our first contract – the full flameproof conversion of a seven-ton loco operating in a hazardous section of the mine,” Elgin’s Gwyn Williams says.

The initial contract included the retrofitting of a four-cylinder water-cooled Perkins diesel engine together with Elgin dry heat exchange and exhaust cooling system. Its successful completion led to a further six similar orders from Beatrix, for the full flameproof conversion of four 7-ton and two 10-ton ore-transporting locos, all for deployment in ‘fiery’ areas. While these gold-mining contracts represent a significant expansion of the company’s primary markets, Williams is quick to point out, “Our main focus has always been – and remains – the underground coal-mining sector and petrochemical industries, and that’s unlikely to change.

“Since we began operating in 1976, we have flameproofed more than 1 500 diesel machines, most of which were OEM tractors of all makes and marques, for the local coal-mining industry,” he says. Other vehicle conversions for collieries include load-haul-dumpers, multipurpose vehicles, personnel carriers, skid-haul-dumpers, mobile drilling machines and graders, while forklifts (both diesel and electric) and chemical cooling pumps are among the machines flame-proofed for petrochemical applications.

Elgin has held the SABS manufacturing mark since 1983, and a key component of the company’s success is its willingness to work with clients in the technical development of products that meet, and often exceed, stated requirements. A good example of this cooperative emphasis can be seen in the development of products for the collieries’ ‘workhorses’, the 4 5 4 and 4 5 2 diesel tractors.

Today, a typical flameproof conversion for general-purpose tractors includes Elgin’s wet scrubber or dry exhaust cooling systems, certified roll-over protection and fall-of-roof protection canopy, and SABS-certified brakes, to comply with Mines Health & Safety Regulations 18.6.1. “We worked very closely with our ‘partners’ during the technical development stages,” says Williams. “For instance, we consulted with the collieries in the development of our dry exhaust cooling technology and tractor braking system (to comply with SA Mines Braking Regulation 18 6.1), and with Pretoria University’s engineering department during the testing of the canopy (built to withstand side impacts of up to 2,5 tons and top impacts of 10 tons, as required by Elgin’s clients).” Elgin’s dry exhaust cooling system too was developed in the late 1990s as an alternative to its wet scrubber system, specifically to meet customer demand. “Lack of water to top up the scrubber box header tank during underground operations caused problems in some collieries,” explains Williams.

The dry exhaust cooling system directs exhaust gases into a heat exchanger where they are cooled by circulating around a series of fin tubes before discharge. A space plate exhaust flame trap is used to extinguish sparks. In the wet scrubber system, exhaust gases pass through water in a scrubber box before being discharged into the atmosphere. Similarly, Elgin teamed up with an industrial client on another import-substituting exercise – the development of locally-produced flameproofing technology for electric forklifts used in hazardous industrial environments. “We worked closely with the Boss forklift agent to develop a product that met SANS IEC60079 requirements,” says Williams. Not surprisingly, the market has responded well to this homegrown technology, with the SA Navy being among the first to order two flameproofed Boss electrical forklifts, for use aboard its ships. In South Africa, diesel-powered forklifts operating in hazardous areas (other than fiery mines) must comply with SANS 868 (formerly SABS 1142). Here again, Elgin was able to develop an import-substituting product that fulfilled the SANS criteria, resulting in savings to clients of up to 50%.

Edited by ongezwa manyathi


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