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Local interest soars, despite obstacles

DRILLING THE WAY Hydro Power Equipment’s Isidingo Drill is believed to be the lightest high-performance rotary percussive rockdrill in the world and paves the way for female operators

INDUSTRY FIRST Rham Equipment’s flameproof, battery-powered load, haul, dump underground mining vehicle is the first of its kind manufactured locally for the coal sector

LEHLOHONOLO MOLLOYI The Russian sanctions have created an increase in enquiries for South African products and Memsa’s members are taking advantage of the opportunity

7th April 2023

By: Tracy Hancock

Creamer Media Contributing Editor

     

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Local deep-level mining equipment manufacturers are noticing increased interest in their product offering on the back of Russian sanctions, but are being weighed down by the country’s ongoing energy crisis and recent greylisting, says industry cluster organisation Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa (Memsa) CEO Lehlohonolo Molloyi.

He tells Mining Weekly that the greylisting by global watchdog Financial Action Task Force in February is concerning, as the decision has a ripple effect on capital requirements for local investment in mining and a direct impact on the mining manufacturing supply chain.

“This will also have an impact on our members’ exports, with order books improving, owing to the sanctions placed on Russia in light of the Russia-Ukraine war. The country’s greylisting will inevitably delay payments into the countryand increase the cost of export credit insurance.”

South Africa is part of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, or BRICS, bloc of emerging economiesand is guided by government policy on which countries it does business with, says Molloyi.

“The Russian sanctions have created an increase in enquiries for South African products and our members are taking advantage of the opportunity.”

But this increased interest in locally produced deep-level mining equipment also comes amid severe energy constraints, which are driving up the cost of manufacturing. Hence, the prolonged effects of loadshedding – with power cuts scheduled for almost every day this year so far – are impacting negatively on Memsa members.

With most Memsa members based in the City of Ekurhuleni (CoE), in Gauteng, the association is in talks with the municipality to address power supply challenges.

“Unfortunately, the extra cost of running generators to continue manufacturing during loadshedding slots cannot be transferred to clients. The CoE has indicated that wemay beable tomotivate for the exemption ofcertain industrial areas from loadshedding.

“The municipality is also implementing feed-in tariffs for industrial companies with solar panels. We are confident that our members will take advantage of this tariff and the recent announcement of the solar panel rebate by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana during his Budget Speech in February,” advises Molloyi.

Unpacking Local Offering

The hard rock in the Bushveld Complex, running from Limpopo into the North West, represents the greatest demand for locally manufactured deep-level mining equipment.

“The outlook is very positive, as we have the largest platinum group metals deposit in the world and the work done by the Mandela Mining Precinct projects team will unlock more value in gold reef deep mining,” says Molloyi.

It is local manufacturers’ wealth of experience and understanding of the unique South African underground landscape that sets them apart from global competitors, he highlights.

“This is complemented by a rich history of mining innovation and a great amount of in-house innovation to remain competitive and assist the mining industry in realising zero harm.”

The uptake of battery electric vehicles (EVs) by the mining industry has been “very positive”, especially from a health and safety perspective, and with regard to satisfying environmental, social and governance requirements, notes Molloyi.

Memsa members have designed and manufactured battery-driven locomotives, people carriers, as well as load, haul and dump (LHD) underground mining vehicles locally.

“We are also working closely with State-owned research organisation the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to keep up to date on recent technologies in the battery EV space,” adds Molloyi.

He says the list of South African innovations “is endless” and is evident through the winners and runners-up of Memsa’s inaugural innovation awards held last year.

Hydropowered mining products supplier Hydro Power Equipment was awarded the Navin Singh Award for Innovation in Hard Rock Mining for the development of its Isidingo Drill and Drill Guide.

The oil-free, low-vibration and -noise rockdrill, is believed to be the lightest high-performance rotary percussive rockdrill in the world. By positioning the operator away from the rockface it makes it safer than its competitors and paves the way for female rockdrill operators.

Original-equipment manufacturer (OEM) Rham Equipment walked away as the winner of the Innovation in Soft Rock Mining category for its underground LHDs and dump trucks. The company’s flameproof, battery-powered LHD is the first of its kind manufactured locally for the coal sector.

Mining support systems manufacturer Mine Support Products won the Innovation for Safer, Healthier Mining–Mine Support Products category for its Rocnet modular netting system, which aims to improve the safety of miners in high-risk, fall-of-ground areas.

Drilling equipment supplier HydroPower Systems was awarded first place in the Innovation for Improved Productivity category (with special mention for Data Integration) for its electrically powered HV212 EOD water piston pump.

The pump can be used to power a complete suite of mining equipment suitable for narrow-reef stoping and underground mining activities. The HV212 EOD replaces the need for compressed air, increasing crew efficiencies at a lower operating cost.

“Innovation is part of our members’ ethos, and most are excelling at it. We are looking forward to the second Innovation Awards in May this year, which will again highlight the capability of South African mining manufacturers,” enthuses Molloyi.

While the challenges in the local mining industry are well understood by local OEMs, closer synergies between mining houses and manufacturers are needed, he believes.

“Technological developments in the local deep-level mining space are also influenced by the availability of funds for research, development and innovation. “The available funding needs to grow through collaboration with key stakeholders to industrialise South Africa and create much-needed jobs.”

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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