Murray & Roberts Cementation’s contract to deepen the sub shaft at Gold Fields’ Driefontein Number 9 shaft showcases the company’s full service offering.

What it offers the mining industry encompasses far more than the company’s extensive range of contracting services. One of the deliverables on all projects is providing good project management, which is ensured through its extensive investment in ongoing skills development and training.

Murray & Roberts Cementation’s vision is to be the first-choice mining contractor for underground mining. A high level of importance is placed on engaging mining companies early on in the project development phase. This ensures that resources are identified early and used to optimise the methodology and programme, so that project delivery is enhanced.

This model is gaining favour with the major mining houses, with Gold Fields’ Driefontein Number 9 shaft being an excellent example of how the company strives to work hand in hand with a client. This approach is allied to Murray & Roberts Cementation’s strong belief in the Alliance Model for project development and implementation.

As a mining contractor, Murray & Roberts Cementation brings expertise to the table that will stand to make projects more viable. Becoming involved at a much earlier stage of a project allows it to add expertise that traditional consultants are unable to offer. This expertise is related to practical, fit-for-purpose solutions and programme optimisation.

Work on the 62-month Driefontein Number 9 shaft project began in June 2007, with completion scheduled for August 2012. The original depth of the shaft was 3,059 metres when operations were halted. The total depth of the sink, which is scheduled to start during the fourth quarter of 2007, will be 1,062 metres. This will bring the total shaft depth to 4,121 metres, making it one of the deepest worldwide.

Murray & Roberts Cementation will be responsible for developing ten mining stations from the shaft. The total development to be undertaken is 1,995 metres, with the normal end sizes measuring 4 metres high by 4.4 metres wide. The diameter of the shaft, which will be internally lined with concrete, will be 9.15 metres. The lining thickness will be 300 mm.

A new electro-hydraulic drill rig will be utilised at Driefontein Number 9 Shaft. While electro-hydraulic drilling is not new in the mining industry, its application in vertical shaft sinking in South Africa is novel. Innovation continues to be a priority at Murray & Roberts Cementation. The main benefit of the new drill rig, apart from increased productivity, is improved safety, as fewer people are required at the shaft bottom. The new rig is also capable of drilling horizontally for the installation of support.

Safety is an area where significant improvement is needed in the South African mining industry. Innovation in pursuit of less risky methodologies, or to engineer risk out of the workplace as is possible, remains a key focus area of Murray & Roberts Cementation.

The new drill rig represents a novel approach to shaft sinking and station development, with the main aim being to increase productivity and improve safety levels. It draws on Murray & Roberts’ Canadian experience in hydraulic drilling, and applied this to shaft sinking. In the process Murray & Roberts Cementation integrated a number of proven technologies in a highly innovative fashion. One of the main drivers of this innovation is to best use the available skills within the shaft sinking industry.

Murray & Roberts Cementation has also made a substantial contribution to mining innovations using its RVDS technology, developed to ensure the best possible accuracy on pilot hole drilling in raiseboring of deep vertical holes.

Murray & Roberts Cementation is making a significant investment in training and development. It currently has 30 bursary students at universities and technikons, employs 22 graduates on a graduate development programme, and has 32 learner miners and 57 apprentices on a structured training programme. Technical skills training is provided at the Murray & Roberts Training Academy, and supported further by the Gold Fields Training Academy.

All these initiatives are necessary so as to ensure that Murray & Roberts Cementation has the capacity to provide a sustainable, world-class contracting service to mining companies.