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Jul 13, 2012

SA to host mining conference, plans to move it abroad in future

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The Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (Saisc) plans to move the Structures for Mining and related Materials Handling (SMMH) conference abroad at some point, education director Spencer Erling tells Engineering News.

“The intention is to hold the conference in various other countries that have strong mining industries,” adds Saisc executive director Hennie de Clercq.

Erling notes that, should these plans proceed, Saisc will continue to oversee the event but will make use of events organisers and managers in different regions to manage the conference.

He admits, however, that these plans are still in their infancy and that nothing has yet been clearly defined.

South Africa will host the SMMH2012 conference, in October, following numerous requests for a follow-up event as a result of the successful gathering in 2009.

Erling points out that the attendees of SMMH2009 were canvassed on whether or not Saisc should hold another conference. The request to hold another one was almost unanimous.

He says a successful technical conference is about sharing and transferring knowledge. “In this regard, we believe the first SMMH conference succeeded admirably. The discussion sessions proved fruitful and many attendees contributed.”

De Clercq finds it appropriate for SMMH2012 to take place in South Africa because of the country’s role in the mining industry.

“Such is the extent of our global leadership in this field that the South African Bureau of Standards regulations for the design of mining-related structures, which were developed under the auspices of Saisc, are generally recognised as the leading standards in the world,” he says.

He believes that international interest in SMMH2012 from mining-structure design engineers across the globe affirms South Africa’s leadership in mining. He also attributes the success of SMMH2009 to the fact that it served the interests of engineers and other specialists, who focus on the design of mining and related mate- rials handling structures.

De Clercq points out that South African companies have developed procedures for maintenance management, which have assumed a position of global leadership.

Steel Construction and Mining Safety
He highlights safety as a major concern for mines and, with the danger of structures collapsing and serious injury or loss of life, rates safe structures high on the priority list.

“Mine structures are often subject to unusual and severe loading, as well as high levels of corrosion and, because of excessive vibration, metal fatigue is a real challenge,” De Clercq says. “These structures also tend to suffer abuse at the hands of miners, who could be more intent on getting the job done than preserving the structures.”

Erling also considers safety in mines to be a major issue and emphasises the need to ensure structures are robust enough for any eventuality. He lists some of the many ways in which a mine’s structural safety can be compromised as – but not limited to – unusual loads; the abuse of equipment; a lack of maintenance; and the way rope loads work in many directions, operating simultaneously on several conveyances.

Mining structures need to be carefully planned, designed, built and maintained and, as a result of the many challenges in the mining environment, the designs tend to be quite complex, adds De Clercq.

“A number of engineers worldwide have specialised in [mine construction and safety], developing these into a fine art. This is why the main aim of the SMMH conference is to give the global industry the opportunity to learn from experts,” he says.

Conference Overview
Long-time Anglo American principal structural engineer and South African Mining Equipment Standards Committee chairperson Dr Geoff Krige, who convened the first conference in 2009, will also convene SMMH2012.

“Krige is one of the world’s foremost experts in this field and we are delighted that he has, once again, accepted the responsibility of convenor. He is uniquely positioned to shape this conference and maximise the benefits for all stakeholders,” says De Clercq.

Krige will also coordinate the full-day workshop on design standards on the first day of the conference. The focus will be on SANS 10208, but relevant sections from other international design standards will also be incorporated.

The event will run from October 15 to 18 at the Riverside Lifestyle Resort, in Vanderbijlpark – about 50 km from Johan- nesburg and located in close proximity to major mining activity in South Africa.

Day one of the event is educational and will cover the use of SANS 10208, while day two and three will be used for the conference.

The scope of the two-day conference has been broadened to include more international speakers, and has attracted papers by specialists from South Africa, Canada, the US, Peru and Europe, says De Clercq.

It will cover seven themes – materials for structures, the life cycle of structures, heavy equipment and its impact on structures, project management, shaft structures, design issues and vibrations.

“All these topics have at least three speakers allocated to them, and a total of six international speakers overall,” says Erling.

A fourth day has also been added to cover the inspection and maintenance of steel mining structures.

On this last day, a limited number of delegates can also book to visit sites in the area. The details are still being finalised, but the schedule should include a visit to at least one operational mine, with full technical guidance by a person who is closely involved with the design and construction of the structures.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
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