As the mining sector continues to flood into Africa, sinking and underground development mining specialist, Murray & Roberts Cementation is proving that the South African mining landscape remains equally as active, and attractive, Murray &amp Roberts Cementation business development director Allan Widlake tells Laura Cornish.

Murray & Roberts Cementation’s South African project portfolio is significant, larger by volume than its current African portfolio, and anticipated to grow even further with the imminent award of another two projects.

“The number of regulatory reasons ‘forcing’ companies to look outside of South Africa for new mining projects is ever increasing, Widlake believes, however, those companies which are committed to South Africa are likely to continue developing their local presence further,” Widlake outlines.

And this means the company’s commitment to the country remains intact, although its strategy overall is to target developmental African regions, encompassing west, east and southern Africa.

One of Murray & Roberts Cementation’s most significant SA project contracts to date, awarded as recently as May this year, is for Sasol Mining’s Greenfield coal replacement project, Impumelelo.

This is one of three coal projects in the country that the company is currently developing.

The R5.5bn project scope includes the development of a new 8.5mtpa underground coal mine, upgradable to 10.5mtpa, whose purpose will be to replace Brandspruit’s coal supply to Sasol Synfuels in Secunda.

Murray & Roberts Cementation’s contract portion includes blind sinking two vertical shafts – one for man and material and a ventilation shaft – both to depths of about 340m.

It further includes a decline conveyor belt tunnel, and all underground infrastructure in preparation for coal production.

The earthworks portion of the project has already been completed and pre-sinking is imminent.

Widlake notes that the methodology used for coal sinking projects does not differ from conventional shaft sinks, “we do however use flame-proof diesel powered equipment, from the very beginning of project commencement, due to the flammable nature of coal seams.”

The project is a 40 month contract, and at peak will comprise about 350 Murray & Roberts employees and sub-contractors.

Next to the company’s significant involvement in the extension of Gold Field’s South Deep ventilation shaft to 2990m – this project is currently underway – its contract award with Northam Platinum has established another SA stronghold for Murray & Roberts.

The company was awarded the contract to develop four declines for Northam’s new Booysendal platinum mine – an underground UG2 project on the Bushveld Complex’s eastern limb.

At steady-state, it will produce 160,000ozpa from a monthly run of mine (ROM) rate of 187,000tpm.

Booysendal’s first module comprises three on-reef declines and a footwall decline, accessed by two reverse declines.

“Start-up blasting is due shortly,” says Widlake. “The contract is a four year project, which at peak will include more than 1000 people on site.”

Booysendal is situated in a picturesque valley, neighbouring Aquarius Platinum’s Everest mine on the south side.

The mine and decline entrances will be separated from the processing plant by a mountain, to avoid ‘de-facing’ the valley.

“This makes the contract quite unique,” Widlake describes. “The decline shafts will be accessed through the mountains to connect the mine to the plant.”

Murray & Roberts Cementation’s contract mining division, whose purpose is toll mining on behalf of Aquarius Platinum’s local mines, includes the Everest mine.
This year, the company will further conclude the sinking of Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplat) Thembelani two-shaft project (formerly known as Paardekraal).

Situated on the Bushveld Complex’s western limb, the project is aimed at accessing the mine’s deeper Merensky ore body.

Murray & Roberts Cementation is due to complete its scope of work at the end of 2011.