With some important road contracts secured for 2021, AfriSam is well placed to bring more capacity on stream as and when there is an upswing in South Africa’s roadbuilding sector.

This is according to AfriSam’s Construction Materials Executive, Avi Bhoora, who says the company will be supplying construction material to the significant road upgrade from Lynnfield Park to Dardanelles, south of Pietermaritzburg.

“The construction materials market is now only about a third of its 2012 level, when roadbuilding in the country was at its peak,” says Bhoora. “The whole construction sector is looking forward to the release of more road upgrade projects this year, especially on the N2 and N3 national highways.”

He says there are nine work packages expected to be released by the road authority, which could together add up to about R40 billion in contract values. AfriSam has recently been active in the Watt Street Interchange Project in Wynberg near Sandton, where it provided almost 9,000 m3 of readymix for concrete works. This contract included two large, challenging concrete pours of over 550 m3 each. 

It has also been busy in KwaZulu-Natal, including a bridge upgrade in the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project at Inanda Road and interchange upgrades in Westville, Richmond Road and Camperdown. 

AfriSam’s strategy for the future includes gearing up for more rural work, in addition to its traditional focus on urban centres. 

“This means becoming more flexible and mobile in our operations,” he says, “such as converting equipment to a modular format that can be readily moved to and operated from outlying areas.”

Bhoora notes that roadbuilders who are concerned about their carbon footprint will prioritise having a commercial supply of construction material as close to the road project as possible. This will reduce emissions from the trucks transporting the material. With AfriSam’s commitment to quality and environmental management, he emphasises that customers can always be assured that their construction material will be compliant and to specification – irrespective of location.

“Road contractors look to AfriSam for solutions to two important aspects of achieving a quality road: modification and stabilisation,” says Bhoora. “When contractors must deal with lower quality material on site – with high clay content and plasticity index (PI) – this generally needs to be modified with the use of lime.”

This means that higher quality – or ‘bluer’ materials from the underlying rock layers rather than from the overburden – may require additional strengthening through stabilisation. AfriSam’s Roadstab cement is a popular solution, with its 32.5 classification in terms of the SANS 50917-1 standard. It is manufactured at the company’s Dudfield and Ulco factories.


Having met the requirements of South Africa’s environmental regulations, AfriSam is proudly moving beyond compliance toward a more sustainable future.

As the first cement manufacturer in southern Africa to publish an environmental policy – as early as 1994 – environmental concerns are a central mandate for the management team, according to Nivashni Govender, environmental specialist at AfriSam. 

“We consider ourselves as leaders in this field within the cement and construction materials sector, as it has been our focus since the early 1990s,” says Govender. “Our prioritisation of people, planet and performance is now a personal commitment for each employee in their area of work.”

This highlights that, with government regulation becoming steadily more stringent, AfriSam has now identified that four of the 10 most high risk Acts governing the company’s compliance  relate to the environment.”

These four Acts – the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), the National Water Act, the National Environmental Management Air Quality Act and the National Environmental Management Waste Act – have provided the framework against which AfriSam has been continuously improving its environment-related performance, she says. 

“With the commitment from as high up as board level, we will be increasing our environmental awareness levels within the business this year,” she says. “This supports not only the senior and middle management levels who drive environmental compliance, but also is important in raising awareness among all employees.”

Managing water

Water is a key focus for the company across its cement, readymix and aggregate divisions, she highlights. At the cement operations, considerable water volumes are required for dust suppression and other purposes – so rainwater is collected and stored in sumps, as well as in the mining areas. This is used to meet many of the plant requirements, to the extent that the Ulco plant near Barkly West in the Northern Cape, does not rely on municipal water supply. Drawing a limited volume from the Vaal River, the operation treats water for its own use, including potable water,  thus reducing reliance on the already stressed municipal system. 

“The same principles apply at our aggregate operations, where the aim is to reduce any consumption from municipal sources, thereby easing pressure on their resources,” says Govender. 

At the readymix operations, water is extensively reused and recycled. Among the most water intensive activities is the cleaning out and washing of concrete residue from the inside of concrete mixer drums after product is delivered. This water is channelled and stored in lined settlement facilities, and is then reused in the batching process of making concrete. 

“It is also vital for us to monitor water quality at our cement and aggregate plants, so we conduct monthly testing on all applicable waterpoints,” she says. “By applying certain parameters for identifying chemicals through SANAS accredited laboratories, we are able to pick up any signs of pollution timeously and respond accordingly.”

It is also important to have all stormwater facilities in good working order, to maintain the separation of clean and dirty water. AfriSam has invested heavily over the years in the implementation of stormwater plans for its cement and aggregate facilities.


As part of the global effort to reduce carbon emissions and put the brakes on climate change, AfriSam has taken a number of approaches over the past 20 years to reducing its carbon footprint. These range from the development of composite (or extended) cements to ongoing energy-efficiency initiatives at its cement plants.

The company has for many years been a leader – along with other local industry players – in the development of composite cements. These cements contain not only clinker but other cementitious materials such as fly ash from power stations and ground granulated blast-furnace slag (GGBS) from steel-making plants. The scientific usage of these products into AfriSam’s cement significantly enhances the performance of the resulting concrete without compromising on quality.

“In addition to essentially re-using waste products from other industries, this process also reduces the amounts of limestone that we have to mine and clinker we have to produce, again reducing carbon emissions from those processes, as well as reducing waste to landfill,” she says. “We are constantly searching for new extenders and additives to further reduce our carbon footprint and our impact on the environment as a whole.”

At the cement plants themselves, AfriSam is busy with a five-year emission reduction programme to upgrade various key items of equipment. This will reduce emissions in alignment with the minimum emission requirements as contained in Section 21 of the NEM: Air Quality Act.

Controlling dust

Concern with air quality extends beyond point source emissions from stacks, to the management of fugitive dust created at the company’s operations. In the cement and aggregate quarries, dust fallout monitoring has been conducted for many years. Levels of dust fall-out are checked on a monthly basis, and can now be usefully analysed and trended to better understand how levels change according to the seasons and onsite activities. 

“Our monitoring efforts over the years have generated sufficient data to now allow us to proactively identify activities that contribute to increase in dust fallout, such as the windy season between August and October,” she says. “We can then implement more intensive management measures during this particular period, such as increased dust suppression on haul roads and on stockpiles.”

Dust fallout monitoring is not legally required at readymix sites currently, but AfriSam conducts this proactive monitoring nonetheless, with a particular focus on determining the potential environmental effects the operations may have on surrounding areas. 

Less waste 

Govender emphasises that the company has established more aggressive recycling targets for this year, encouraging all operations to increase their reuse and recycling of general waste and thereby reducing the amount of waste destined for landfill. 

“At the readymix sites, for instance, unused concrete that is returned from construction sites is taken to the nearest AfriSam quarry to be recrushed and re-used at a later stage,” she says. “This recycled aggregate and crushed cementitious material can then – in consultation with the customer – be used to augment aggregate orders.”

She notes that this process reduces the amount of aggregate that needs to be mined and crushed, saving energy and reducing associated dust and carbon emissions. It also removes unsightly waste concrete from the surface environment and again reduces waste to landfill.  

In terms of AfriSam’s 2021 roadmap, all company operations are steadily rehabilitating a portion of their disturbed footprint, part of an overall effort to reintroduce biodiversity to mined out areas and return these areas to a self-sustaining landform. The biodiversity management plan implemented a few years ago supports this effort.

“Environmental stewardship is today an integral part of any responsible business, representing the seriousness with which we view our role as custodians of our fragile planet on behalf of future generations,” says Govender.


Scientists will soon gain even further insights into the evolution of galaxies in the universe as the MeerKAT telescope array is expanded. This is an exciting project presenting some unique challenges for leading South African contractor Concor. 

In partnership with OptiPower, Concor has been awarded the R202-million infrastructure project that will allow the addition of 24 dishes to the 64 dish MeerKAT radio telescope. Located in a remote area of the Northern Cape, MeerKAT was launched in 2018 and is a precursor facility to the next-generation radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

According to Concor’s contracts director Joe Nell, the scope of Concor’s work will include a construction camp for about 250 people, 40 km of gravel access roads to the dish positions where the antenna platforms will be constructed, and the structural concrete foundations for the 24 telescope dishes. The camp will include facilities for wastewater and sewage treatment, settling ponds, water storage and security fencing. 

Concor will also be building four guardhouses, which will be powered by solar energy. OptiPower will carry out the electrification of the works and the provision of fibre connectivity to the new installation with approximately 60 km of trenching, electrical power cables, fibre ducting and fibre cables required. The Concor-OptiPower venture (COP) will also design a further 109 satellite foundations, with the associated roads, power and fibre installation. 

“A key constraint of this current project is the need to limit any radio frequency interference (RFI) in the vicinity of the MeerKAT telescope array,” says Nell. “This is due to the highly sensitive nature of the radio telescope equipment, which is designed to detect extremely weak radio signals from astrophysical sources.”

He highlights that RFI from manmade radio signals emanating from commonly used equipment like cellular phones, vehicle electronics, microwave ovens and many more can easily distort or corrupt weaker signals, and even damage the telescopes themselves. 

“This means that we have set up our office in the town of Carnarvon, some 100 km from the site,” he says. “We are in the design stage of the project, and will begin work on site in June this year.”

Nearer the time of site establishment, a specialised RFI container will be established on site from which the team can communicate and operate certain electronic equipment. The container will be insulated to prevent any signal reaching the telescopes. Dealing with the RFI means that every vehicle and item of equipment required on site will need to be tested and certified, says Concor site agent Roy van Leeve. 

“We have employed an RFI expert to test our equipment and submit the necessary data to the client,” says van Leeve. “After careful analysis of this data, we will be granted a permit for that particular item of machinery or advised what steps need to be taken before machinery can be passed for use on site.”

He notes that just about every model of construction vehicle built within the last decade is likely to include telematics, which presents a potential RFI risk in this project. The construction camp itself also needs to be located a suitable distance from the MeerKAT site to avoid RFI, so it is planned to be about 15 km away. 

For the roadwork, Concor will be operating in a geological environment of mainly sandstone and calcrete, overlying mudstone and shale, where 20 tonne hydraulic excavators will be put to work. 

“It is vital that the roads be well designed and constructed, especially in terms of their vertical and horizontal alignment,” he says. “This will ensure that the low-beds and other heavy trucks delivering construction material and large componentry can navigate the route safely.”

For the radio telescopes’ concrete foundations, Concor will be using two methods depending on conditions. Where bedrock founding conditions are deeper than three to four metres, eight piles will be cast for each foundation’s seven metre diameter cap; most of the foundations will be done this way. In those cases where bedrock is shallower, a pad foundation will be cast with an 11 metre cap.

The limited number of foundations has meant that Concor’s common practice of establishing its own on-site batch plant is not feasible. Instead, the concrete will be sourced commercially – presenting another logistical challenge.

“We will require about 5,000 t of concrete aggregates, which will have to be delivered some distance in trucks with capacity of 34 t each,” says Van Leeve. “Added to this, the trucks will need to undergo RFI testing well in advance, so that they have the necessary RFI permit to enter the site and discharge their load.”

The same restrictions apply, of course, to all suppliers that must deliver to site. Where the testing and permitting of vehicles is not possible or viable, he says that a certain amount of double-handling of equipment and materials is likely to be inevitable.

Broadly speaking, however, Concor’s proven track record on constructing similar projects has positioned it well for the work at MeerKAT, Nell says. The infrastructure aspects are quite similar to the eight wind farms that the company has constructed to date. It is also in the process of completing another two of these wind farms. 

“Contractually, we have been very successful in carrying out these projects efficiently and on time, in a spirit of collaboration that has overcome various challenges and earned us considerable repeat business from clients,” he says. “Our experienced management team and staff ensures that planning is detailed, and implementation is professional.”

Concor will also be making use of SMME suppliers from the local Kareeberg municipal area, which includes the towns of Carnarvon, Brandvlei, Williston, Loxton and Vanwyksvlei.


By solving the challenge of pumping boiling groundwater to surface, water specialist Grundfos has allowed a road construction to proceed through an extremely hot and dry area of desert in Ethiopia. 

The road upgrade project – conducted by Grundfos client Defence Construction Enterprise – was close to Ethiopia’s most active volcano, Erta Ale. This basaltic shield volcano is continuously active and is well known for its persistent lava lake. 

According to Grundfos Country Manager for Ethiopia, Maru Necho, the volcanic conditions heat groundwater to temperatures of 82°C – making it difficult to extract the water for use above ground. 

As there was no available surface water in this harsh desert environment, it was essential that water be drawn from underground sources to allow the road project to be successfully done. In addition, the road construction project was making use of asphalt concrete which uses far more water than the usual petroleum-based asphalt method. 

“Our customer had tried several other solutions to secure the water supply they needed, but these did not last long enough to be productive,” says Necho. “In preparing our solution, Grundfos consulted with expert engineers and considered every technical aspect of the project. This allowed us to develop a response that would be the most suitable for this challenging application.”

Necho notes that a key challenge given the high water temperature at the pumping depth of some 430 m below surface was the cooling of the submersible pump. This type of extreme heat would usually lead a motor to frequently stop and start, inevitably causing premature failure. 

“We installed a Grundfos SP60-13 six-inch borehole pump, constructed of EN1.4401 stainless steel fitted with a 26kW rated motor,” he says. “It was constructed of high-alloy austenitic stainless steel for optimal corrosion resistance, as well as fluoro carbon synthetic based rubber or FKM rubber parts which are excellent in withstanding high temperatures.” 

This configuration is able to deliver water at 5,2 litres per second to the surface. Grundfos also installed a control panel fitted with specialised temperature sensors, to protect both the pump and the motor. 

“We used a Pt1000 sensor with a soft start control MP204 motor protection unit, which was set to stop the pump, in the event that the motor temperature reaches 90⁰C,” he says. “This gives our customer a reliable water supply, while at the same time protecting the lifespan of the pump.”

Necho highlights that the customer was very happy with the result, and also with how Grundfos had been able to develop a solution in good time to facilitate the project. He says the first phase of the road project involved two boreholes, and Grundfos was also contracted to supply more application sites for the project’s next phase. There will, in time, be an added community benefit resulting from the success of Grundfos’s work.

“After the roads project is complete, the boreholes will be handed over to the communities in the area as a source of boiling water,” he says.


Pioneering the use of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) in the mining sector, De Beers Group is successfully rolling out this safety innovation across its operations in southern African.

The world’s leading diamond producer places Putting Safety First Everywhere  as its number one value and has been fatality-free for the past two years, according to Dr Urishanie Govender, De Beers Group Head of Safety and Sustainable Development. 

“The application of ADAS aligns with our culture of pioneering brilliance as we equip our operations for Future Smart Mining,” says Dr Govender. “This exciting initiative has provided another valuable tool for our amazing people on site who are constantly looking for ways to improve our safety performance.”

She highlights that the intervention contributes to the De Beers Group’s critical control management, one of  the areas for advancement identified at the company’s regular safety summits. “Driven by the chief executive officers across the group, the specific focus areas are Competence, Culture, Connectedness, and Cultivating Care to enable everyone to be Ready to Respond to Risks.”  

Head of Asset Strategy and Reliability at De Beers Group, Meshal Ruplal says the first phase of the ADAS initiative saw the technology being installed on buses and any vehicles that carry five or more people. In a second phase, vehicles with four passengers were fitted with the equipment. The technology comprises a range of functionality, including cameras to monitor harsh and distracted driving. 

“The camera software can also check on the driver’s eyelid movements and other indicators of drowsiness, and can transmit short video clips to a control room for improved monitoring,” says Ruplal. “It can register infringements like changing lanes without indicating, or crossing a solid barrier line.”

The technology – which has been well proven in the trucking industry abroad – assists the driver by checking if there is a safe distance to the vehicle in front, recognising speed limit signs and detecting whether the seat belt is being worn. 

“ADAS makes an important contribution to our coaching and training activities, as the data we gather is fed back to drivers to continuously improve their performance,” he says. “Used as a proactive warning system the technology has generally received good support from drivers and their trade unions.”

He notes that De Beers Group’s contractors – who assume much of the company’s staff transportation function – have been quick to come on board and align with the ever more stringent safety standards. 

Govender emphasises the collaborative approach taken to ensure all the necessary stakeholders are together on the safety journey, requiring that contractors participate actively in the company’s efforts to leverage technology in pursuit of resilience and sustainability. 


The G3 full line of planetary gearboxes from Zest WEG are among the world’s most robust and capable of running for 10 years before major servicing is required.

With an output torque range from 400kNm to 8,750kNm, the range boasts bearings designed for over 100,000 hours of operation. These gearboxes are popular in central drive applications in diffusers and sugar mills, where they are also used as pinion-less and assist drives. 

In addition to their high mechanical efficiency and robust gear and bearing sets, the gearboxes are flexible in their installation. The high performance hydraulic system has quality lubricant oil filtration, with 10 micron absolute filtration elements and air-oil heat exchanger for optimal cooling. 

The pioneering electronic monitoring system checks oil temperature, pressure and vibration variables to ensure the gearbox is not subject to over-torque. This guarantees smooth and reliable operation within the established limits, allowing optimum equipment usage and reduced maintenance costs. 

Manufactured in Brazil by WEG company TGM WEG, these leading gearboxes include components which are heat treated in world-class facilities in accordance with API-6 standards. Committed to quality and environmental responsibility, TGM WEG is certified in terms of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. The company’s modern industrial complex features gear machining centres, milling machines, grinding machines, a bearing manufacturing department, a lubricating oil analysis laboratory and an assembly and testing unit for gearboxes and multipliers.

With an extensive footprint in South American market, these units are successfully operating in sugars mills in Zimbabwe and Angola. 


FLSmidth was chosen as the preferred provider for four large bolted thickeners for a large customer in Mozambique. Two of the thickeners are designed to reduce water load on the filters allowing for a drier filter product, while the other two thickeners recover water from the plant tailings. 

The installation, which includes E-Volute™ feedwell technology for superior flow distribution, will contribute to achieving optimal water balance at the coal plant in Mozambique. 

“The thickeners measure 45 metres in diameter and will control the density of material to the belt filters, improving the plant’s output,” says Howard Areington, FLSmidth’s General Manager for Projects and Account Sales in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. “The design was based on the test work we conducted on the customer’s material, allowing us to determine the best thickener solution.”

He emphasises that a bolted thickener is quicker and safer to construct on-site, saving on costs and improving quality control. This suited the project’s remote location.

“The extent of welding in the construction of normal steel thickeners typically runs into kilometres,” he says. “By contrast, the amount of on-site welding required by a bolted thickener can be measured in metres.”

The four thickeners include E-Volute™ feedwell technology which improves flow distribution, leading to lower flocculant consumption, better settling rates and improved overflow clarity for the optimal performance of the thickener.

Despite the Covid-19 lockdown, good progress was made on the fabrication of the thickeners in South Africa, according to FLSmidth Project Manager Kevin Kockott. This has been managed by leveraging FLSmidth’s global resources and the design teams’ ability to work remotely.

“Our local South African office collaborated closely with our engineering hub in Salt Lake City in the United States, ensuring that our engineering work on the project was able to continue without interruption,” Kockott says. 

FLSmidth has been involved with this project for almost a decade and has provided a significant portion of the coal preparation equipment. To date, this has included reflux classifier technology, pumps, screens and feeders.


Globally, the quarrying sector is embracing a trend in the automation of surface drill rigs; operations in sub-Saharan Africa are not expected to be left behind. 

Vanessa Hardy, business line manager surface drills at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, says she looks forward to growing interest especially in Southern Africa, with many quarry customers already owning Sandvik drill rigs which are automation-ready.

“The move towards autonomous drilling will be increasingly difficult to resist, especially as more users see the benefits in terms of productivity and cost-saving,” says Hardy. 

She highlights that Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions offers a high level of flexibility, allowing customers to select the level of automation that best suits their operation. 

“Where the customer still wants an operator in the cab, for instance, there are various one-touch buttons to improve performance and accuracy,” she says. “These functions include the rig being able to level itself before operation, to automatically bring the drill up into a drilling position, and to auto-collar the drill.”

The on-board technology also allows the operator to set, store and recall operating ‘recipes’ for different drilling applications. These recipes – which apply a certain predefined combination of rotations, pressures and other variables – can be automatically implemented at the push of a button.

“We have made safety, efficiency and productivity the main focus areas of our iSeries range of intelligent drill rigs, and these all help customers reduce operating costs,” she says. “Our automation technologies have also opened doors for remote working; this may involve an operator standing on the bench while watching the rig, or working from a control room far from site.”

She emphasised that the key advantage of these remote operation options was to enhance operator comfort and safety, while at the same time raising the performance of the machine. The sensors and automatic settings also protect the equipment from being pushed too hard, reducing the total cost of ownership by bringing down maintenance costs.

“It is important to remember, though, that the automation journey is not simple – and usually means many organisational and other challenges,” says Hardy. “With our experience in this field, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions commits to work closely with customers to ensure a positive outcome to this journey.”


Responsible mining companies the world over are moving steadily towards safety Level 9, and Booyco Electronics is at the forefront of fit-for-purpose proximity detection and collision avoidance technologies that comply.

Driven by leading global mining houses, the Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table (EMESRT) has been engaging with key original equipment manufacturers to improve the safety of equipment in mining operations. According to Bennie Smith, general manager engineering at Booyco Electronics, the company has developed technology that meets Levels 7, 8 and 9 of EMESRT’s safety best practice guidelines.

While Level 7 alerts a mobile machine operator and a pedestrian when they are close, Level 8 goes beyond this to an advisory function, showing the direction in which the vehicle or pedestrians are moving and advising the operator to slow down or stop. 

“Level 9 – currently the highest level of safety – takes it a step further by introducing an intervention engineering control measure,” says Smith. “This automatically instructs the machine – or the vehicle’s onboard control system – to slow down, or to perform a safe or emergency stop.”

He highlights that all mines globally are expected to meet Level 9 safety measures by the end of 2025. However, South Africa is moving faster, and has led the world by adopting the EMESRT guidelines in its latest mine safety regulations. These were expected to become law by the end of 2020, requiring local mines to be compliant. 

“Having been developing and adapting proximity detection systems (PDS) for South African conditions since 2006, Booyco Electronics is now a world leader in PDS technology certified to Level 9 safety,” he says. “We have successfully tested all our equipment with the Vehicle Dynamics Group at Gerotek, which is globally recognised for third party testing, verification and certification.”

Boasting the largest footprint of installed PDS systems and technicians in South Africa, Booyco Electronics has seen its equipment applied in surface and underground mines, and in both hard rock and coal applications.

“This has positioned us well to respond to the EMESRT safety best practices for mines to implement by 2025,” says Smith, “As a result, we have been receiving a growing volume of enquiries from across Africa, North and South America, Europe and Australia. 


The year has started strongly for mining services specialist Murray & Roberts Cementation, with a resounding safety achievement of five million fatality free shifts. 

According to Mike Wells, managing director of Murray & Roberts Cementation, this landmark has been reached as part of a concerted corporate journey towards Zero Harm. 

“This exciting milestone, which we reached in early January 2021, is the result of years of commitment by every member of the company – through multiple initiatives and programmes,” says Wells. “This has included our unrelenting focus on the Major Accident Prevention (MAP) programme, as well as stringent risk assessments and the verification of critical controls in the field.”

Perhaps the greatest outcome of these efforts, he highlights, is that the company’s safety leadership has succeeded in motivating and inspiring all employees in fully internalising safety principles. This has entrenched the belief that Zero Harm can indeed be achieved, with each employee returning home safely every day.

“We have seen a vital attitudinal change over the years, where success has bred more success and all our people take ownership of their safe work practices – both personally and collectively,” he says. “This builds a resilient safety culture, which has included a crucial commitment to doing work right the first time.”

Underpinning much of the success in safe working practices has been the increased investment in effective training strategies at the Murray & Roberts Training Academy at Bentley Park near Carletonville. Here, the latest technologies and methods – supported by realistic mock-ups of mining environments – ensure that all workers are fully prepared for all working conditions. 

“Our mining customers today regard the commitment to fatality-free operations as a given – not only for themselves but for their service providers,” he says. “We are proud to be able to demonstrate our success as part of the broader progress in this field by the whole mining sector.” 

Over the years during which the five million fatality-free shifts have been achieved, Murray & Roberts Cementation has conducted a diverse range of projects across sub-Saharan Africa, including large shaft sinking contracts. Employee numbers over this time have averaged about 4,000, says Wells.