“Through our association with the Refractory Association of South Africa (Rasa), we were able to train learners to become qualified refractory installers,” says Refraline MD Manfred R�sch.
He reports that it took Rasa about four years to get the learnership approved by the relevant Sector Education and Train-ing Authority, the Construction Education and Training Authority, ahead of the first intake of learners was in 2003.
Learners who embark on the learnership programme work through a combined course of theory and practical work.
The theory part is done in New-castle, KwaZulu-Natal, through a training service provider known as Majuba Training College. In the theory course, learners are taught the installation techniques through a number of modules, each lasting between two and three weeks.
Once learners have completed the first theory module, they move on to the practical course. This course is run from Refraline’s head office in Meadowdale, Johannesburg. On-the-job training is carried out by learners shadowing industry professionals on actual projects to apply the knowledge gained in the theory sessions. This dual teaching method is practised throughout the learnership. He adds that each qualification level takes 18 months to complete. Once a learner has completed the course and has successfully passed the exams, he or she is an accredited refractory installer.
“The full learnership consists of four levels. A learner can progress through level one construction worker, level two refractory installer, level three refractory mason and level four refractory supervisor,” says R�sch.
The recognition of prior learning system makes provision for skilled people in the industry without formal qualifications to be examined by a qualified assessor against the unit standards. Once found competent as described in the unit standard, the learner can obtain the same qualification.
Refraline reports that the lack of skilled labour in the industry has been identified, steps are being taken to rectify the situation and training is ongoing to meet the growing demand for refractory installation skills.
“The company is currently involved in a project for a client in Botswana, BCL, which we have been working with for the past ten years,” says R�sch.
BCL approached Refraline to do a turnkey project on its submerged arc furnace, flash smelter and related refractory-lined units. Refraline demolished all linings on the exist- ing arc furnace and is currently working on the fabrication of the furnace steel shell. The project was awarded to Refraline in the beginning of 2007 with work on the plant starting in June. The submerged arc furnace, flash smelter and related refractory-lined units are expected to be commissioned in August 2007. “The company is using local labour from Botswana and skilled labour from South Africa,” he says. Refraline is tasked with installing new technology at the plant by upgrading the flash smelter with new copper coolers.
Refraline is also currently working on two projects for Pyromet, in KwaZulu-Natal. R�sch reports that the company was approached by Pyromet in May 2007 to carry out the lining of roof panels for the submerged arc furnaces at the Tata Steel Ferrochrome plant, in Richards Bay, and the Assmang project, in Cato Ridge.
Other activities in Africa by Refra- line include a project for Bateman Engineering on the Moma Sands project, in Mozambique.
R�sch reports that the company’s wholly owned subsidiary, Didier Corrosion Engineering (DCE), is involved in the Afrikander Lease (Aflease) project, which is carried out over a period of 12 months and is expected to be completed in August 2007. The project is a turnkey project that involves the supply, design and installation of two autoclave leach vessel linings.
DCE also supplied and installed autoclave linings at the Kansanshi mines in Zambia. Rosch reports that the autoclave shells for this project were imported from the Nevada desert, in the US.
According to Refraline, the company can look forward to the upcoming yearly maintenance work to be done at the Nesher Cement plant, in Israel. The project involves flying 40 skilled Refraline staff on short notice over to Israel. Our personnel will be working around the clock with a local labour contingent. During the three week shutdown, the rotary kiln will be completely relined as well as extensive work in the preheater, the tertiary air duct and the cooler undertaken. Refraline installed the complete refractory lining at two new cement plants for Nesher Cement in 1995 and 1999. Nesher subsequently contracted Refraline to perform maintenance on the two plants twice a year on an ongoing basis.
The company will also be involved in a project for Nampak Wiegand, where Refraline will be rebuilding a glass tank for the company in joint venture with Sorg Feuerungsbau & Service. Work on this project is expected to start in January 2008 and will be completed in March 2008.
R�sch says the state of the refractory industry is presently healthy. He reports that the growth in the industry is due to both the mining and the engineering sectors working at full capacity. There have been upgrades and rebuilds of existing plants in the market. The main factor contributing to the healthy state of the industry is the various investment projects in progress. R�sch is very optimistic and has great confidence in the industry’s future.
Refraline reports that the greatest growth potential for the industry lies in capacity improvement where companies are looking to add to their current capacity. Great potential for growth in the mining sector lies in Zambia and in the Demoratic Republic of Congo.
Besides the skills shortage, R�sch reports that the biggest challenge the company faces is the opening up of the industry to companies from the Far East and their access to cheap labour.
R�sch explains that the company holds the Dekra ISO 9001:2000 and the OSHAS 18000 certification. In compliance, the company adheres to strict health and safety standards on its work sites. He adds that, as far as he is aware, Refraline is at present the only refractory contracting company in South Africa holding both certifications.
Refraline aims to capitalise on the present strong market by strengthening its position for the long-term benefit of all its stakeholders. The company is currently working at full capacity and is planning to expand capacity as an immediate goal.
Over the medium and long term, R�sch adds, the company would like to diversify into industries that it is not currently operating in and into other countries in the South-ern African Development Com- munity.
Refraline’s head office is based in Johannesburg, and the company has permanent sites in Cato Ridge, Witbank and Meyerton, serving the ferroalloy industry. Refraline is 40% owned by Burwitz of Germany. Burwitz is part of the Beroa group that owns refractory installation companies, such as Karrena, in Germany, and Forter, in Portugal. The remaining 60% of Refraline is 50% owned by the mangement of the company, with employees holding the remaining 10% shares in the company through an employee share option scheme.