Murray & Roberts Cementation has safety as its primary objective and this requires a completely different approach to mining activities and, in particular, to shaftsinking activities.

Allan Widlake, business development director at Murray & Roberts Cementation, told Mining Weekly: “Within our business strategy, upskilling of people is considered a prime focal point. This ties in with our safety culture which holds as pivotal the philosophy that we do things correctly the first time by giving people the means, tools and equipment to do the job.”

“We therefore provide them with the knowledge, skills, experience and competencies to perform at the required standard and through our ‘Stop.Think’ and behaviour change process campaigns we aim to eliminate any risk behaviour by our employees,” Widlake adds. “Safety is, and will remain, the number one priority.”

Alan Kolesky, senior training manager at Murray & Roberts Cementation, said: “It is neither feasible nor practical to go onto a mining site and train people in a live production environment. Shaftsinking is a unique activity in the mining industry, so our objective is therefore to bring skilled people who have been exposed to shaftsinking activities onto clients’ sites.”

Murray & Roberts Cementation has constructed a range of mock-up mining training facilities at its Bentley Park premises near Carletonville to cater for this specific objective. The training mock-ups simulate most mining activities, including conventional mining and shaftsinking activities.

Kolesky said: “We have created life-like mining mock-ups for training to allow us a fully controlled environment in which to skill our employees. In the simulated environment, it is possible to control the pace of learning according to the individual learner.

“The production environment is usually noisy and often hostile, while the mock-ups allow our people to demonstrate best-practice methodology under correct operating conditions. A further benefit is the fact that training will not be affected by production targets or delays.”

Widlake said: “The trend in the mining industry is to move away from migrant labour and hire personnel from local communities where mining activities take place. These largely unskilled people need to be trained to perform the specialised tasks required by our company.”

The four newly completed shaftsinking mock-ups vary in depth from six to 15 metres, and have been conventionally sunk and slyped. The first mock-up is used for breaking, lowering and lining up of the curb ring; the second for shaft construction training; the third for grab lashing and 630 loader lashing training; and the fourth for drill rig training.

Kolesky explained: “The mock-ups are adapted for the next project in the pipeline and its specific selected methodology. It’s not a case of training the workers in only one method. We approach each project individually, since a particular shaftsinking contract could be unique because of ground conditions, size of the shaft, and the type of ground support and lining. We therefore modify and adapt the mock-ups to represent this so that people are placed in an environment that is as true to reality as possible so that they can see what to expect when they move onto the site itself.”

Widlake says that the company has also invested in two LHD simulators, and these allow operators to “drive and operate” the machines within a three-dimensional environment under “real” operating conditions. The simulators comprise a portable cab with all the controls and gauges found in an LHD. He said: “We have over 100 LHDs in operation on our Kroondal contract alone, hence the decision to select this machine for training.”

Kolesky says that a further feather in the company’s cap was the introduction of e-learning some years ago. “We implemented an e-learning facility at Bentley Park and at Kroondal Mine, where an intensive investment has been made and continues to be made in equipment and software.

“The e-learning system allows fast-tracking of learners, updating of skills and standards training in a quiet and controlled environment. Our decision to place a satellite e-training facility at Kroondal is strategic as not only does this contract require upskilling of a large number of people, but its location is also central to a number of other contracts on the western limb of the Bushveld PGM complex. Since about 70% of the company’s workforce is currently located in this region, the location makes sense.”

Kolesky says that the company has instituted a supervisory development programme. He said: “We are planning to take through all 800 current supervisors from miner and artisan, shift boss, and foreman level through this programme. They will be given the knowledge and skills not only to be managers and supervisors but also to be good leaders so that they may treat all people with dignity and respect and with a caring attitude.”

The programme also deals with planning, organising, leading and controlling, with specific emphasis on the role of the supervisor when coaching his subordinates and on his way of handling conflict situations. Kolesky added: “This will go a long way towards eliminating any employee relations issues and improving communication skills.”

Kolesky said: “We are the only training academy in the mining industry that is ISO 9001:2000, ISO 14001:2004 and OSASH 18001:1999 accredited and with our MQA accreditation, we are registered to train to nationally recognised and convertible standards in the mining industry.”

There are currently 16 instructors at Bentley Park, with this number due to increase over the next 18 months. All training is outcomes-based, facilitated by an instructor, and each candidate is assessed by a registered assessor, with 10% of all assessments moderated to ensure consistent standards.

Widlake concluded:”From a zero base in November 2005, Bentley Park is today considered to be the largest mining contracting company training centre in southern Africa and our people continue to look for ways in which training can add positively to the safety of all people working on the mines.”