Some of the most exciting opportunities are in deep-level mining, says multinational engineering, procurement and construction management services supplier Hatch Goba associate and Africa, Europe and the Middle East mining director Kevin Seyfried.
The scarcity of capital, lower operating costs and the reaffirmation of safety by mining com- panies have prompted Hatch Goba to implement new and more efficient ways of servicing deep-level mining operations.
The company is advocating the broad use of digital mining solutions to improve capital expendi- ture efficiencies and reduce operating costs, and highlights an increase in mechanised mining and the subsequent need for such solutions.
This growing demand has resulted in Hatch Goba becoming involved in remote-controlled operations, autonomous equipment, rock cutting, non- explosive mining and low- to ultralow-profile equipment.
“As the environment becomes riskier and less conducive [to the safety of] people . . . new solutions are needed, especially for, but not limited to, narrow tabular orebodies. Hatch Goba is developing in-house technology projects that will enable it to take the mine of the future to the next level,” Seyfried notes.
The Johannesburg-based company has also supplied encom- passing and proven solutions in terms of shaft infrastructure and hoisting capabilities.
Further, as lowering larger mechanised mining components remains an inherent factor when designing shafts for deep-level mines, Hatch Goba is engineering solutions to design new shafts suited for this purpose. Large components that have to be lowered into older shafts have to be taken apart to reach deeper levels, especially shafts that were not origi- nally designed for larger pieces of equipment.
Further, with the increase in mechanisation, there is an increased need for ventilation, but, with new developments regarding fuel cells and alternative methods of energy for underground equipment, Hatch Goba hopes that it will reduce the need for ventilation and cooling at depth
Hatch Goba is also considering selective mining methods and designs, such as in situ mineral extraction, solution mining, rock-cutting methods, new bulk drilling technologies and lower- profile equipment to support waste separation closer to the rock face, thereby lightening the loads taken to the surface.
Seyfried says Hatch Goba’s metallurgical experts are continuously trying to find novel ways of separating waste closer to the rock face, which will allow the company to use optical sorting. This, in turn, will allow mines to selectively hoist minerals that have been separated from unused material, which is then left underground.
“We are investigating many possible options and trust that viable solutions will soon be put into [practice],” he enthuses.
Servicing Smaller Operations
Seyfried adds that operations at smaller deep-level mines often have to be tailored to ensure that company requirements are met with regard to budgetary and operational constraints.
“Our deep-level mining clients have different risk profiles and vary- ing funding structures. “Certain company protocols can, at times, also be a challenge in terms of the level of detail needed for their studies and opera- tions. Smaller mining companies often have to extract value from more challenging orebodies and their teams are not always as big as those of their larger counter- parts. Hatch Goba understands the need to be flexible with the deliverables needed for these varying levels of detail.”
Deep-level mining operations have to deal with challenges such as providing adequate ventilation at depth and ensuring hoisting efficiency, which is related to rope weight, hoisting capacity at depth and hoisting cycle times. Seyfried emphasises that “every second in the shaft counts towards production”.
To mitigate issues that arise “because of smaller operational teams”, Hatch has to remain flexible, offering niche solutions by combining expertise without the overheads associated with larger corporate project structures, he adds.
“Mining companies have lost a lot of their expertise, owing to their inability to retain staff for continuous shaft maintenance. “This expertise was traditionally part of head office resources, but as a result of the lower commodity prices and the drive to reduce overhead costs, many miners have been forced to reduce this type of on-site expertise.
“Hatch Goba has been servicing deep-level mines for decades with expertise accumulated to cover the entire deep-mining value chain. “Our blend of people from different generations bring together experience and new ways of thinking, which can be harnessed to develop leaner mining solutions for the mine of the future,” Seyfried says.