Global manufacturer and equipment supplier FLSmidth is initiating a five- to seven-year strategic business plan that will see its mine shaft systems business grow organically, fill gaps in the market and build the necessary skills and experience to become a one-source solution in the global mine shaft sector, just as the company is in the minerals processing and cement industries.
This follows a formal integration of the company’s shaft systems capabilities in South Africa and Canada in 2012 to form a dedicated business unit within FLSmidth.
The company’s mine shaft systems offering comprises two distinct product lines – mine hoisting and shaft equipment technology – that serve a common and unique sector of the mining industry. FLSmidth’s South African office is the global technology centre for hoist design while its office in Orillia, Canada, serves as the global mine shaft equipment technology centre.
“The new business unit jointly markets these complementary product lines which share the same primary customer base,” says FLSmidth sales manager Wendy Norman, who is also responsible for mine shaft systems.
“This is already proving to be an effective consolidation of the strong Dorr-Oliver, Eimco and Vecor brands and technologies, with the combined scope of these product lines adding up to an extensive range of solutions for the global mining industry.”
Norman adds that both product lines have long-standing individual histories and robust records dating back several decades. “The combined operations have been in mine shaft systems for more than 100 years,” she says.
FLSmidth has installed more than 90% of the world’s Blair hoists and has supplied numerous drum hoists larger than 4.27 m in diameter.
“Since the mine shaft systems division was established as a business entity last year, we have started to see growth in our market share within our traditional market strongholds in North America and sub-Saharan Africa, which is directly attributable to the cross-selling of existing products by a dedicated team,” highlights Norman.
The mine shaft systems team has a depth of expertise that enables the company to offer custom-designed equipment for maximum output. The company’s employees specialise in recommending improvements based on known problem areas in existing equipment.
While FLSmidth will never be a shaft-sinking specialist, it intends to develop its existing product lines so that it can offer the infrastructure around the shaft. “We believe there is a major growth opportunity in this worldwide,” says Norman, adding that the real benefit is that the company consolidates its engineering skills base to offer its customers a holistic solution.
For shaft systems to work effectively, a combination of the right components is needed. These components include electric motors, mechanical hoists, conveyances, loading arrangements and discharge arrangements. “Outside of rope selection, our team is able to check and verify the entire vertical transport system, making sure all elements are well coordinated,” says Norman.
Another benefit is that, from an aftermarket point of view, FLSmidth offers routine hoist inspection services. The company believes that with this safety-critical equipment, inspections are essential. However, owing to the skills shortage, the number of mining personnel capable of doing this is decreasing.
At present, FLSmidth is carrying out several hoist relocations from mines that have reached their end-of-life to new mines. It aims to introduce product improvements to older technologies. Between 2000 and 2010, the company undertook nearly 30 product improvement projects, ranging from complete relocations to technology upgrades.
“As a ‘one source’ company, with support and services that extend to the complete life cycle of a project, the life cycle benefit FLSmidth offers is effectively extended into the mine shaft systems arena,” says Norman.
Norman adds that the business of mine-shaft systems is not only about selling a piece of capital equipment, but also labour selling a technology that will deliver in a shaft for the next 20 years and be supported throughout its lifetime from a spares and site- inspection point of view. Any subsequent advances in technology can be retrofitted to existing equipment, regardless of whether it was supplied by FLSmidth or by other suppliers.
The company’s global procurement strategy enables the mine shaft systems team to source its equipment from all over the world to secure the most competitive prices, while still delivering the high-quality products with which the company has come to be associated.
Earlier this year, FLSmidth’s mine shaft systems team began installing a Blair multirope (BMR) production hoist at Glencore’s Mopani copper project, in Zambia. This 5.5 m × 1.5 m hoist incorp- orates four drums and is one of only about 50 BMR hoists of its kind in the world, of which more than 90% have been supplied by FLSmidth.
Further, FLSmidth recently supplied two 6.5-m-diameter, tower-mounted, four-rope Koepe winders with deflection sheaves to platinum producer Impala Platinum’s No 16 shaft, near Rustenburg – the first Koepe winders to be used by this mining company. The mechanically identical winders cater for payloads of 25 000 kg for the rock hoist and 22 500 kg for the personnel hoist.
In February 2012, FLSmidth received an order for a second hoist for midtier platinum group Royal Bafokeng Platinum’s Styldrift operation, in Rustenburg. This follows the successful commis- sioning of an FLSmidth-designed winder for the mine’s main shaft in 2011. The 5.5 m × 1.8 m double drum production winder was installed in early 2013.