Company readies itself to be key supplier

15th March 2019 By: Halima Frost - Reporter

Company readies itself  to be key supplier

ON AND ON . . . The continuous miner delivered to Exxaro last year has shown good return on investment

Germany-based coal cutting machinery and gearbox manufacturer and its subsidiary Eickhoff SA is strategically gearing up to comply with the black economic empowerment (BEE) and Mining Charter requirements in the local market.

In January, Eickhoff SA finalised the transition from a Level 8 BEE rating under the old codes to the amended Level 4 BEE rating under the new codes, which ensures a better standing in the South African coal mining community.

Consequently, the company has also been certified under the newer ISO 2009:2015 quality requirements and also holds the internationally recognised safety certification OHSA18001.

Noticing changes in the industry and, subsequently, identifying Eickhoff’s limitations has contributed to the company improving its position as a competitor in the local industry, says Eickhoff SA MD Francois van Tonder.

He notes that the recent changes in the Mining Charter, as well as a more competitive industry – where large capital expenditure is involved – is the driving force behind the changes to Eickhoff SA.

“Although our coal cutting products are rather niche and suited only to the soft rock environment, we need to distinguish ourselves from the rest through our compliance, after-sales service and ability to minimise downtime on site.”

Up and Running

Eickhoff put its drive to be a key supplier into practice when it successfully completed a trial at mining major Exxaro’s Dorstfontein West coal mine, near Kriel, in Mpumalanga, in 2015, whereby a continuous miner (CM) was placed on site to work a coal seam. Through the CM’s production capability, highly effective service, spare parts availability and a lower life cycle cost, the supply of a second CM was achieved last year.

The contract to supply the second CM was signed in 2018 and the CM was delivered soon thereafter.

Further, Eickhoff International supplies CMs to room and pillar operations and shearers to longwall coal mining operations globally and has, through research and development (R&D), increased performance at a highly competitive total cost of ownership.

“We work closely with our R&D division in Germany, to develop our CMs to suit the South African mining requirements,” notes Van Tonder. He adds that integrated traceability, on-site diagnostics and an effective skills development programme have helped Eickhoff SA gain a better foothold in the industry.

The training facility, based at Eickhoff SA’s Wadeville office, in Gauteng, is equipped with a full-size electronic distribution box for simulation and troubleshooting exercises, which assist test candidates in applying theory.

The skills needed to support CMs means that qualified artisans are employed by the mines. “Eickhoff, through its effective training programme, offers existing and future clients peace of mind when transitioning to Eickhoff technology,” adds Van Tonder.

Corporate Social Upliftment

Through a joint venture between Exxaro Coal, Eickhoff SA, and private study-provider JB Education, an upliftment programme in the Kriel area, was established in 2016 to help ignite a love for maths and science, potentially opening doors to various engineering fields for the learners.

An ardour for maths and how it is integrated into the engineering field has been integral in initiating the maths programme. The project offers grade 11 and 12 learners at Kriel High School and Sibongamandla Secondary School in the area extra lessons in maths and science.

The programme – in its third year – has been taken up enthusiastically by both secondary schools, with notable results. The initiative has passed 818 learners through its doors with the grade 12 pass rate subsequently having increased from term one to the final exams in every year since the programme was established.

With the help of the three companies, various teachers and principals, renowned maths tutor, lecturer and textbook author Jurgens Basson – all of whom have dedicated their time to the project – the programme has provided students with the tools they need should they look at entering the engineering or science workspace.

“Maths and science are fundamental to a technical career – the country needs to keep learners interested, and help them achieve in these subjects to lay a foundation for such a career,” Van Tonder concludes.