A major mine in Botswana has commissioned a South African company to manufacture three mobile operator stations at its Orapa diamond mine in Botswana. This exciting delivery marks a first for Africa, as these hi-tech stations have never been manufactured on local turf.
The units were built by MultiFab Engineering, a 51% black women-owned company based in Chamdor, Krugersdorp, and fitted with technology from global software solutions provider, RCT.
It has taken nine months of research and development to complete the units, and the teams that were involved are extremely pleased with being able to produce them in South Africa,” says Jason Bryden, managing director of MultiFab.
The mobile stations allow for capital equipment to operate by means of remote-control technology, 100m away from where the machine is working. The machine operator sits in a protected cabin, ergonomically-built and fitted with air-conditioning, and can therefore control the machine within the line of sight but in a safe area, away from the potentially hazardous operation.
RCT installed its ControlMaster Teleremote technology on two Komatsu D475-5EO dozers at the mine, comprising camera vision packages for an enhanced view of the operation. RCT also fitted the seating, monitoring screens and electronic devices. The third mobile unit was equipped with drilling and blasting technology supplied by Atlas Copco.
The fabrication of all three units required careful planning and integration between the suppliers and the mine. MultiFab manufactured the steelworks at its workshop in Chamdor and fitted the shells with the necessary services such as power access, lighting, batteries, generators, fuel tanks and radios, enabling RCT and Atlas Copco to complete the installations with their respective software solutions.
“Whilst RCT has delivered many such systems globally, this project has spurred interest from other open pit miners and smelter operations says Mike Thomas, RCT’s business development manager for Africa.
The units’ light-weight, portable characteristics allow for an agile design that can easily be towed by a Landcruiser or similar vehicle to its ideal location. It weighs about 3 tonnes.
The major advantage of remote-controlled machine operations is of course the improvement it brings in safety. The task of cleaning near the toe of the benches of open pit mines is a hazardous one for machine operators, due to falling waste material. Rockfall, the collapsing of benches or flying debris are only a few of the risks that are eliminated by using the remote-controlled mobile operator stations.
“The fabrication and delivery of these mobile units is a South African story that required the harnessing of local skills, technology and manufacturing capacity to achieve a safer, more productive open-pit operation,” says Bryden. “We are pleased that MultiFab has been able to deliver these units to the mine during a time that local manufacturing is dwindling in the South African mining environment”.
Sean Jones from the Artisan Training Institute (ATI) says its strategy as a local training provider rests on building local partnerships to hone South African solutions through South African skills. “The delivery of the trailers is a major achievement. ATI has a long-standing relationship with MultiFab and thus we were inspired to see the deployment of various artisan trades such as electrical, welding and instrumentation, to bring the units to life”.
According to Eric Bruggeman, managing director of the South African Capital Equipment Export Council (SACEEC) it is encouraging to see homegrown companies conceptualising and fabricating world-class mining solutions in and for the continent. “We hope to see many such initiatives in future,” he says.
Recently, MultiFab has secured orders for the delivery of two more units for a new client during 2019. According to Bryden, the units can now be manufactured within shorter lead times. This technology also opens the door to potential export markets.