STRENGTH IN NUMBERS Last year’s mining industry strikes turned out to be a major cornerstone in the development of M and J Mining
Safety in the mining industry has to be the number one priority if South Africa is to be a world-class and globally competitive destination for mining investment, says underground safety support manufacturer M and J Mining shareholder Kuseni Dlamini.
“Safety is and always will be critical in mining, especially in underground mining,” he adds, noting that this spurred the company to develop products that support mine mechanisation.
Mine mechanisation reduces the number of people in areas of the mine where rock falls are prevalent, such as at the mining face, says M and J Mining sales director Daniel Mathews.
Using machinery also ensures that workers are always in areas that are protected and supported by some form of roof support at all times, he notes, declaring that “mineworkers should never enter an unsupported area”.
Mathews says the company’s prestressed cable anchor is a viable alternative to the stick support that so many mines rely upon for their primary support.
“The aerial support that the stope anchor provides allows for the mechanisation of the stopes, as space is now available for the machinery to manoeuvre, thus, removing more workers from dangerous environments,” he explains.
Although Mathews says last year’s mining industry strikes were a test for companies operating in the industry, the events turned out to be a major cornerstone in the development of M and J Mining.
“Instead of licking our wounds, we decided to pool our resources and develop new products that will pave the way for the mining support of the future.
“Our staff and suppliers were integral in creating this opportunity. At the top of our agenda was the development of a product that would deal with underground mining safety challenges effectively,” elaborates Mathews.
Amid such a challenging environment, M and J Mining also released the Flexibolt mechanised support solution in July last year, after a research and development programme that had started in February that same year, he says.
The Flexibolt was developed and installed in collaboration with platinum mining and refining company Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats’) Bathopele platinum mine in Rustenburg, in the North West.
“Flexibolt is a threaded cable that is cut directly into the cable’s diameter and it provides an ultimate tensile strength close to 80% of the cable itself. This is far higher than any other alternative product,” says Mathews.
He explains that the Flexibolt is designed to be installed using mechanised machinery. The threading of the cable to create the flexible bolt eliminates mineworkers having to strengthen the tensioning of the roof support, which can be pretensioned using the installing machine or roofbolter.
The flexibility of the solution enables rock engineers to design a more effective support system that anchors itself higher into the hanging wall of the stope than the narrow stope height that would be allowed if a solid steel roof bolt was used, Mathews adds.
“As the mines continually strive to find more flexible and cost-effective support solutions, this product has evolved into a support solution adopted by innovators. “The Flexibolt support system reduces the support cycle of the mine, which, in turn, results in more time to drill the blast holes on the advancing face,” he explains.
Mathews adds that this creates the opportunity to perform more blasts per month, which results in better production and cost savings.
“We believe this to be the future of single-pass support, as our customers continually strive to increase safety and reduce the waste rock hauled from the mine.”
Further, M and J Mining also offers the W-Bolt support system. Mathews says the system, released in January, was developed to meet the safety needs of a seismically active gold mine.
“Once again, we pooled our resources, hired an additional technical representative with vast underground experience and developed a product that not only met the high specifications of rock engineers but was also production friendly,” says Mathews.
The W-Bolt provides lateral and active support simultaneously, creating a single-pass support system. The system consists of a split set and mechanical anchor that is installed and pretensioned using a mechanised drill rig.
“The support system is fully corrosion protected with the additional benefit of it being groutable,” he says.
Mathews says M and J Mining and Amplats introduced cable anchors to the primary support environment of stopes and panels in 2007.