While mines are gradually ramping up to full production in line with Covid-19 protocols, it is safe to say that industry is experiencing the effects of the pandemic, says pumping equipment supplier Mechanical Rotating Solutions (MRS) MD Franscois Steenkamp.
“Over the last couple of months, we have seen mining production upended with mining operations pushing back maintenance of existing infrastructure, closing down less profitable operations, as well as investing in more modular, mobile and multipurpose pumping systems.”
He explains that with certain segments of production closing, mining houses have started to realise that it will take a long time for certain extractive sectors, such as fuels for example, to recover. This has created an opportunity to invest in more mobile plant operations where equipment such as pumps can be moved as needed rather than sitting idle in non-operational segments.
Consequently, MRS has been manufacturing mobile pump sets for client delivery, with one unit already delivered and a second in the last stage of manufacturing.
Steenkamp explains that the MRS Mobile Pump set is designed after a period of client consultation and site analysis, with the client selecting the most appropriate pumps, sealing equipment and trailer configuration for their specific needs.
He notes that other factors are considered in the design, including challenges such as flooding as a result of groundwater inflows from water-bearing layers of soil or rocks.
However, “mine dewatering, or groundwater control, as the name suggests is a tough job executed in harsh environments”.
In light of this, and considering potentially challenging ground conditions, the MRS Mobile Pump set was designed using a heavy duty double axel incorporating agricultural wheels, to significantly reduce the risk of power hopping, and soil compaction.
Meanwhile, the local mining industry, prior to the pandemic, was already faced with declining profits, and persisting increases in energy and labour costs.
As a result, investment in new infrastructure of local mines has steadily declined over the past decade, Steenkamp notes.
While some of the country’s biggest mining companies have made profitable transitions to mechanisation, including the associated downsizing and/or restructuring, their return to profitability has not been redirected into new projects or mining expansion, he says.
Mining houses have, however, invested in the refurbishment of existing infrastructure over this same period, he says.
“We have seen a steady flow of pump refurbishment orders during this period as clients see the benefit in refurbishment of existing equipment versus the higher cost of obtaining new products.”
MRS recently completed the refurbishment of nine bearing assembly units including the replacement and installation of new bearings and seal kits, adds Steenkamp.
“Good pump maintenance programmes should include maintenance activities for all possible failure modes, including seal damage and bearing failure.”
Working in line with the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards, specifically ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, as well as with the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series 18001 specifically, MRS offers a complete turnkey supply and service of pumps.
The company further specialises in complementary pump products including flotation devices, complete pump refurbishment, mobile dewatering solutions and proven water and energy saving solutions.