Foundry and engineering company Thos Begbie is ordering a bill of materials to begin fabrication for a contract that it secured in October 2020, under the leadership of Thos Begbie sales engineer Ethienne Erasmus.
The contract is set for completion by June 2021. The company was invited to participate in the tender phase in August 2020, says Thos Begbie sales engineer Esli Bantjes.
The company is required to repair two bus tube bundles and fabricate four new bus tube bundles using vital copper components, he adds.
“We needed to procure about 550 m of bus tube, totalling about 7 852 kg. Flag plates and flag extension plates also needed to be supplied for the transformer connections and for the electrode connection side respectively. The total mass for these components amounted to 1 800 kg of copper plates.”
In addition to completing all copper- related work, Thos Begbie has to fabricate the framework, build perforated stainless steel enclosures and insulate the bus tubes and fiberglass enclosures, which had to be sourced from Cape Town.
Bantjes explains that “a sound bus tube arrangement means that the current load will be balanced between the electrical phases and electrical resistances will be lowered, thereby lowering the current usage”.
This, ultimately, serves as a reduction in electrical energy consumption and reduces operational costs for the operation, he adds.
Before the contract was awarded, Thos Begbie had been supplying the smelter with furnace components for more than two decades and Bantjes says that receiving this order reaffirmed the company’s ability to assist with all requirements at the smelters.
Owing to copper being a sought-after component to sell as scrap, based on its high value, no shortcuts are taken in terms of security.
The bus tube bundles will have to be transported as abnormal loads, as a result of their lengths, and will be escorted by unmarked armed security for protection against theft, he states.
Meanwhile, Bantjes highlights that Thos Begbie maintained a constant flow of orders throughout the pandemic and that adopting aspects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution enabled it to stay in contact with international customers.
The company’s site team has received a steady influx of work following the initial lockdown in March 2020. The amount of site work depends on when smelters require rebuilds and/or maintenance shutdowns.
“We had some instances where orders had been placed on hold or cancelled, as a result of not being able to deliver the components to site in time for the planned shutdown.
“However, in most cases, our international customers understood the restrictions, as the Covid-19 pandemic was global, and they rescheduled,” Bantjes says.
Some components were containerised and stored at a port, pending the easing of restrictions. Upon the easing of restrictions, the containers were loaded on the cargo vessels and dispatched to their final destinations.
Owing to the specialised nature of the services Thos Begbie offers, diversified miner Anglo American has written a recommendation letter to assist the company in attaining its Specialised Service permission letter, which enabled the company to continue its operations and assist on-site, as and when required, during the lockdown periods.
As a result of the pandemic, the preparation for on-site services and repairs had to be done months in advance, as the company had to book its site team into a quarantine accommodation for ten days and produce medical results proving that all members had tested negative for Covid-19.
The hard lockdown also affected on-site staff availability.
Further, the team had to conclude an onboarding process, which comprised medical screening, police clearance and completion of hazard identification risk assessment training.
“Although we’re always under pressure from one of our major competitors, we specialise in the implementation of Monel Cooling Coil imbedded in the copper components, and we’re the industry experts in repairing and welding this material,” he says.
“Most of the major platinum smelters continuously ask us for assistance when they need it. These relationships were established through our superior product supplied to the smelters over the years,” Bantjes concludes.