The mining contracting division of construction and engineering group Murray & Roberts, Murray & Roberts Cementation South Africa and Cementation Canada, have been selected as one of the preferred contractors for the shaft design packages at the Chuquicamata mine in Chile.

Murray & Roberts Cementation South Africa business development director, Allan Widlake explains that the copper mines in Chile have reached the depth at which opencast operations are no longer economical and this requires the mine to start underground mining operations. As a result, Chilean State mining entity Codelco has decided to expand some of its larger operations, such as the Chuquicamata mine, into underground mines.

“We were selected because of our experience in the design, engineering and installation of large capacity hoisting systems and this includes the one at the Phalaborwa mine, which has is one of the largest hoisting systems installed for one of the largest mining capacity systems completed in South Africa for decades. The hoisting capacity at Chuquicamata will be five times that amount,” he says.

He adds that, while the project will be run by the Canada-based company, Murray & Roberts Cementation South Africa will work together with Cementation Canada to provide the people and resources for the project, using additional services from South Africa. “This project will be the start of the worldwide synergy that will take place among the new group,” he says.

Aquisition of Cementation

Widlake explains that Murray & Roberts acquired mining company Cementation in 2004 and merged it into its existing mining business in 2005. He adds that this gave Murray & Roberts a footprint in Africa, Canada and Australia. Although part of one group, the companies in each country operate independently with their own management boards. At the end of 2009, Murray & Roberts decided to align all the companies into a single group referred to as Cementation Group.

The group consists of Murray & Roberts Cementation South Africa, operating in Africa; Cementation Canada, operating in Canada, the US and Chile; and RUC Cementation Australia, which covers a wide geographical area including Indonesia and Mongolia.

Cementation Canada CEO Roy Slack explains that the Cementation Group that services the Americas is comprised of three operations that are self-sufficient yet at the same time integrated to provide a wide range of services and expertise to clients. Cementation Canada, which is based in Ontario, services the underground mine contracting market in North America. Cementation USA, based in Utah, is taking on some of the largest shaft sinking projects in the United States as well as providing development, engineering and raisingboring services.

Global presence

Meanwhile, Cementation Sudamérica, based in Chile, was recently established to expand the Murray & Roberts service offering in South America, where the group has been providing raiseboring services for the past ten years.

These companies will coordinate their efforts to ensure that the best global practices are incorporated into project delivery. “This will benefit our customers globally as they will get the advantage of a company that has experience on four different continents, as well as the best skills and equipment available,” says Widlake. Currently, each company operates with its own equipment. This synergy will allow for the appropriate allocation of specialised equipment throughout the group depending on project and market conditions.

Widlake explains that the aim of the new group is to achieve the greatest benefits from a synergy between the companies and to be in a better position to pursue opportunities elsewhere in the world, such as Europe, Russia or India, that do not fall directly in the geographical area of any one of the companies.

“The new group allows for the companies to use combined resources to tackle contracts worldwide. Further, it will allow for the sharing of new developments of methodologies for speciality activities such as shaft sinking, as well as safety related issues, productivity issues and norms worldwide,” he says.

Improving Productivity

The benefits of the new synergy were recently experienced by Murray & Roberts Cementation South Africa when it brought out a master tunneller from Australia to its project on South African gold mine South Deep where a work study was being done to improve productivity for gold mining company Goldfields.

The company is also examining new shaft sinking methodology, with assistance from Canada. The project, which is being led by South Africa’s technical director Tim Wakefield, examined why the methods used by Canada produce the mining output results that it does.

“The group has a vision to fundamentally change the way mine contracting is carried out in the industry for the benefit of all stakeholders. This vision has focused on three key areas of change that include change through the elimination of injuries within the work the group does; change through the elimination of adversarial relationships within the industry by making decisions based on what is best for the project a foundation, and thirdly by adding value to projects through earlier involvement. This establishes a design-build capability and one point accountability on major projects,” says Slack.