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Issue 27 of 38 Next Issue | Previous Issue | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38
November 2007
Safety Efforts Need to be Stepped Up. A Unique Water Program. Lebowa Platinum Mines Opens ABET Centre. Thabazimbi Saves R2.5 Million Using Locally Developed Dust Suppressant.
 
 

SAFETY EFFORTS NEED TO BE STEPPED UP

The current safety improvement rate is inadequate to reach the planned safety and health targets by 2013 and a concerted effort by all stakeholders in the mining industry is needed.

This was the message heard by tripartite delegates attending the 5th Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) Summit recently in Kempton Park.

In her opening address, the minister of minerals and energy, Buyelwa Sonjica, noted her concerns about the lack of real progress towards the safety milestones. “I am concerned that after 10 years of the Mine Health and Safety Act, there still seem to be different interpretations of what constitutes a risk assessment – often evidenced through generic codes of practice that span an entire mining group, rather than being specific to a mine or working place,” she said.

“We’re also finding that in some cases, risk assessments are done with a predetermined outcome – when costly control measures would be required, risk assessments are tailored to show that such measures are not required. Another concern is the shortage of skills in all disciplines required to ensure the health and safety of our mine workers.”

She pointed out that, despite the mini-indaba on seismicity and rockbursts held in September, accidents relating to these occurrences were still claiming lives, notably the four rockfall fatalities at the Mponeng mine on 28 September. She said this underlines her call for urgent action.

“I would like to challenge the mining industry to ensure that relevant research results from the Safety in Mines Research Advisory Committee (SIMRAC), other local or international research agencies and the outcomes of investigations and inquires are assesses and implemented without delay to ensure that the mineworkers reap the benefit of a healthier and safer working environment,” she said.

In addition to the challenges of operational safety, the minister raised the issue of HIV and AIDS, saying that it presented one of the greatest health challenges to the mining industry. Combined exposures to occupational health hazards, such as silica-bearing dust, HIV and TB hastened the onset of disease and increased the level of risk associated with each individual hazard.

“The occupational health of mineworkers has sadly been neglected in the past and owing to the long latency periods before diseases manifest themselves, I would like to see focused, long-term research programmes being developed and conducted and the results supplied to the MHSC and the Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate for inclusion into the policy development programme.

“I would like to challenge the tripartite stakeholders to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the milestones we have voluntarily set for ourselves are achieved within our time frames – failure is not an option,” she concluded.

The MHSC’s annual report states that it earnmarked more than R43-million for its 2006/7 research programme, corresponding to a per-capita research expenditure of R92 per mining employee.

A UNIQUE REWATERING PROJECT

Gold Fields’ Kloof Division has mandated that it will not discharge any polluted water into the area in which it operates.

With this in mind, in 2004 the mine began talking to all concerned parties and stakeholders in the area. With buy-in form all parties, the mine began to plan a number of scenarios before implementation and construction, in 2005, of what it terms the Kloof Pumping project. 

Kloof pumping project 

Explains Alwyn Lass, environmental manager Kloof Gold Mine, “owing to the flow of groundwater, into mine workings it is necessary to undertake systematic dewatering of the various groundwater compartments surrounding the shafts.

“The Mine is currently dewatering fissure water via the Kloof Mine No. 5 Shaft and discharging the water into a one metre diameter pipeline, which finally discharges into a natural drainage channel (Wonderfonteinspruit). On average some 32 MI of water is discharged on a daily basis.

“However the sidewalls and timber beams of No. 5 Shaft have deteriorated rapidly owing to the age of the structure. And unstable rock in the shaft also poses a significant risk to the current pumping arrangement at the shaft. Therefore, the mine had to look at discontinuing pumping form shaft No. 5.”

These considerations, and the decision that no water will find its way downstream unless it is drinkable, led to a unique solution from the mine. 

Consulting with stakeholders 

Says Peter Turner, vice-president and head of operations at Kloof: “Following consultations and studies we found that the best option was to reroute the water to No. 10 shaft via underground workings. The water is then pumped to the surface and discharged via biomonitoring dams into two 610 mm pipe columns en route to the one metre diameter Wonderfonteinspruit pipeline.”

To achieve this some of the existing pump chambers were upgraded to accommodate the increase volume of water to be pumped from No. 10 shaft.

In total the cost of the project was R29-million of which the bulk was spent on infrastructure. This included the upgrading of the total pumping system and ancillary equipment, the establishment of a preferential flow path, the flooding of the underground areas up to 27 level, the construction and commissioning of all the surface discharge arrangements, the flushing of the connecting haulages and associated workings to evaporation ponds and obtaining approval for the discharge of the water to the Wonderfonteinspruit one metre pipeline. 

Biomonitoring dams  

“It was decided to route the discharge water via a series of dams, to introduce a monitoring strategy whereby invertebrates, including fish could be used as indicators for water quality” Says Turner.

To set up the dams, the mine again consulted various stakeholders including the friends of the River and Wildlife Action Group.

“We found partnerships and planned and established the ecosystem. We removed all alien vegetation and have introduced six different indigenous tree species which in total adds up to 600 trees,” explains Johnny Lancaster, project manager at Kloof. 

Fish Introduced  

Fish have also been introduced into the dams. Says Lancaster: “We introduce six fish species into the three dam system. All the species are indigenous and were obtained from the Hartebeespoort Dam Fisheries, which also insisted with their introduction. Altogether about 50 000 fish were introduced. These fish also serve as an indication of the water quality as they are very sensitive to water changes. There is also a monitoring system on the dam outflow and the water is tested regularly. We also have a continuous monitoring system.” 

Quality of water drinkable  

The water in the dams is class 2 (SABS classification), which means it is drinkable. “There are only a few constituents in the water that cause it to fall into the class 2 category. It is very close to being class1 water,” says Turner, who says the project has attracted great interest from other mines and the government. 

Unique solution 

“We believe this is a unique and very pertinent project that has broken new ground in rewatering technology.”

A representative of the Potch Practitioners, a community environmental watch body in the area, are pleased with the project and says the mine was open and transparent throughout the project. “The Project, with its openness bodes well for the future.”

LEBOWA PLATINUM MINES OPENS ABET CENTRE

Anglo Platinum’s Lebowa Platinum Mines (LPM) has opened an Adult Basic Education & Training (ABET) centre to help employees extend their education.

Stefan Crafford, LPM employee relations manager, says education is a fundamental right of every South African citizen.

“Although students who enroll at the centre will have to work hard, it is the chance of a lifetime,” he said.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our next managers are ABET graduate!”

Speaking at the opening of the centre, Felix Manyanga, LPM mine manager, says education is a life time asset.

“It unlocks the doors of communication and information. The ABET programme enables communication challenges to be resolved.”

“Challenges create opportunities. We all learn new things daily and that applies to management as much as anyone else here.”

“Study hard and show us great results. I want to see you becoming a mine overseer one day soon. You have the potential. I know that you can do it.”

Employees may register at the ABET centre throughout the year and contractors who work for the company may also sign up for courses.

Already 146 learners have enrolled, with 21 learners attending full-time classes. These learners are expected to complete their programme by the end of this year.


 

THABAZIMBI SAVES R2.5 MILLION USING LOCALLY DEVELOPED DUST SUPPRESSANT

Thabazimbi mine anticipates a saving in excess of R50 000 a month as a locally developed dust suppressant product is being utilized on the pit’s road surface in the Kwaggashoek East open pit section. The product, Roads Environmental Dust Suppressant developed locally by Samchem, is being tested over a six month period.

The tests, which began a month ago, are already showing impressive results at the Kwaggashoek East open pit, one of four pits. On water usage alone there are saving over 5.5 million litres of water a month.

“Using water as a dust suppressant needed 128 trips a month in a bower truck, with each traveling up to six kilometres and 45 000 litres of water used on each trip. We now only do one trip a week, over weekends,” says mine pit superintendent Grant Crawley.

“The monthly savings of 50 000 exclude water usage and only covers diesel savings, vehicle maintenance and tire wear and tear. If we included water savings the figure would be significantly higher.”

“There are also benefits to the environment, to employee health and overall safety. The product biodegrades in 30 days. In terms of safety, high levels of dust have been known to cause vehicle collisions, and excessive dust affects employee health,” says Crawley.

“Water is currently being applied in the other pits. It needs to be applied up to six times a day. This system is also more cost effective than other products which are not biodegradable, are more expensive, use more water, require a specially developed douser vehicle and can cause damage to vehicle paintwork and tires.”

 

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