An important milestone in the development of the US$2 billion De Beers Venetia Underground Project (VUP) has been reached with the completion of the first of six water control doors which are designed to counter water ingress into the underground mine. The doors have to be completed in advance of first production from the VUP, expected in H1-2023.

The first water control door is a huge structure, with the steel frame some 8 m high, 8 m wide and 1 m thick. It is designed to hold back a 100 m head of water. Its construction has been undertaken by leading underground mining contractor Murray & Roberts Cementation, whose scope of work includes a further three doors. Construction of the second door has recently started.

The need for the water control doors arises from the fact that the new underground mine, a large-scale caving operation, is being developed directly beneath the current open pit.
The need for the water control doors arises from the fact that the new underground mine, a large-scale caving operation, is being developed directly beneath the current open pit.

The need for the water control doors arises from the fact that the new underground mine, a large-scale caving operation, is being developed directly beneath the current open pit. At times of heavy rainfall, the pit will act as a giant funnel, potentially allowing large volumes of water to penetrate the underground workings. Although the Venetia mine is located to the west of Musina in Limpopo Province in an area generally regarded as hot and dry, heavy rains can occur in the summer months.

The water control doors will be activated in the event of water inflows into the mine exceeding the capacity of the underground pumping system, which will ultimately have the ability to pump 4 500 m3/h out of the mine. They are designed to seal off the ‘dry’ side of the mine, where the water pumps and other critical infrastructure are located, from the ‘wet’ side, where mining operations on the kimberlite pipe take place.

According to Jacques Labuschagne, Murray & Robert Cementation’s Contracts Manager for the construction of underground works at the VUP, the construction of the water control doors is not a run-of-the-mill assignment for the company.

“This is not a ‘first’ for Murray & Robert Cementation but certainly the sheer size of these doors is unusual,” he says. Labuschagne and his team were handed over the site for the construction of the first door – the first of two on 46 level – late in 2021. “Our task was to construct the water door in the roughly 9 m high by 9 m wide excavation, and one of the immediate challenges was the considerable undulations of rock surface due to the blasting required to create the excavation. One of the main consequences of this was that the 40 mm steel rock anchors – each of which varied in length – required to anchor the door into the host rock increased from 120 to 234 in number, however this was necessary to ensure the integrity of the structure.”

The steel sections making up the door were prefabricated on surface by a specialist steel company and transported down the decline in sections. These sections, which weighed up to 8 tonnes each, were then lifted into place by the Murray & Roberts Cementation team. The completed structure comprises about 60 tonnes of steel. In addition, approximately 80 m3 of concrete had to be poured to seal the area around the door to create a watertight interface between the door and the host rock.

The first water control door is a huge structure, with the steel frame some 8 m high, 8 m wide and 1 m thick.
The first water control door is a huge structure, with the steel frame some 8 m high, 8 m wide and 1 m thick.

Labuschagne says that three crews – civil, structural and electrical – totalling 19 people were deployed to construct the door. “Our safety record was excellent and no LTIs occurred,” he says.

The water control doors are just one part of a much wider contract for construction of the VUP’s infrastructure which is being undertaken Murray & Robert Cementation. The work is varied and includes the construction of pumps stations, water walls, automated ventilation doors and truck loadout ramps. All told, Murray & Robert Cementation has around 370 workers on the site.

The De Beers VUP is one of the biggest and most complex mine developments underway in the world and will see a vast underground mine – based on the cave mining method – replacing the open pit operations which have sustained the Venetia mine since it was opened in 1992. The VUP, which will extend the mine’s life till at least 2046, will produce around 4,5 million carats a year. The vertical shaft and the decline of the VUP were both completed by Murray & Roberts Cementation.


Classified as hazardous areas, offshore oil rigs require that any equipment installed on them is designed and certified accordingly – including electric motors to drive critical gas compressors.

Foster Yeboah, Zest WEG’s regional sales manager for the West African Region, says that WEG electric motors for these applications comply with IEC standards and associated hazardous area specifications, which certify equipment for use in ‘explosive atmospheres’. Considering the hazardous marine environment, all the WEG machines were supplied with tough epoxy paint and conformed to an IP65 rating.  

Foster Yeboah, regional sales manager for West Africa, based at the Zest WEG Ghana branch.
Foster Yeboah, regional sales manager for West Africa, based at the Zest WEG Ghana branch.

Six large WEG motors are being installed on an oil platform off the coast of Ghana, over a staggered schedule from late 2020 through 2022.

Four of the new motors are large 9,500 kW, WEG MGW800 machines, and two are 7,000 kW MGW710 machines. With weights of up to 23 tonnes, these electric motors exceeded the 19 tonne weight limit of the oil platform’s crane which meant that the motors were shipped to site in component form, for assembly on site.

“Despite Covid-19 disruptions and challenging logistical conditions, Zest WEG is successfully supplying, testing and installing these motors for the customer,” says Yeboah. “These six WEG motors are upgrades of previously installed WEG motors, which have been operating successfully on this site for over a decade.”

“Of course, the Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) is always vital, so this has to be conducted on all the motors after they are manufactured and tested,” he said. “Covid-19 initially made it impossible for the client to be physically present at the factory in Brazil, so some tests were witnessed virtually.”

The WEG motor and compressor.
The WEG motor and compressor.

To deal with the weight restriction of the crane on site, the electric motors then had to be dismantled in the factory before shipping, he explains. Rather than being shipped as a single unit – as is normally done – the motors were carefully packaged into component form. Particular care had to be taken with protecting the rotor during shipment.

“The rotor is a critical item, and it is crucial that great care is taken when transporting this item,” he says. “The packages are then shipped and stored at the customer’s warehouse in Ghana, before being taken to the offshore oil rig.”

Zest WEG technicians assemble the electric motors on the oil platform, including the various electrical and hydraulic connections and piping. Commissioning and testing are done before the system goes online. The first of the six installations had to be done when Covid-19 restrictions required quarantining periods – adding to the complexity of planning.

The large WEG motors in this application are cooled using the IC81W air-water cooling principle, says Yeboah. Air is circulated through the motor base where the rotor and stator generate the most heat. A heat exchanger then extracts the heat from the internal circuit air flowing through it.


Close monitoring is the basis for keeping vibrating screens productive and achieving the lowest cost of ownership, says Kenny Mayhew-Ridgers, chief operating officer of leading South African vibrating screen specialist Kwatani. Moving from paper systems to digital solutions is a vital step towards this goal.

Kenny Mayhew-Ridgers, chief operating officer of leading South African vibrating screen specialist Kwatani.
Kenny Mayhew-Ridgers, chief operating officer of leading South African vibrating screen specialist Kwatani.

“Where machine data recording – combined with periodic inspections and regular maintenance – can be captured in the digital sphere, you can generate a complete picture of the equipment’s lifecycle,” says Mayhew-Ridgers. “Real-time data monitoring is a game changer for screen reliability and performance.”

Wherever there are operational deviations from the prescribed norm, sensor-generated data can quickly alert the right people on the mine – giving them the ability to react timeously, he says. Importantly, this technology also allows patterns to be detected in the relationship between component life and throughput.

“By analysing these patterns, the mine can make well-informed decisions about its maintenance strategies, being aware of the optimal conditions for its equipment duty,” he says. “It also gives us, as original equipment manufacturers, the opportunity to compare machine performance in detail across different customer sites – so that we can adapt and advise accordingly.”

Where Kwatani sees one customer getting longer life from their exciters, for instance, the relevant data is easily available to make comparisons and identify distinguishing factors. He explains that Kwatani can monitor its vibrating screens using industrial sensors and measurement technology which is readily available and supported worldwide. In other words, it is not so specialised that it becomes unaffordable; neither is it so complicated that customers cannot maintain it themselves.

“What is key to the successful application of digital technology is that the raw data that we process must be analysed to become useful for decision making and planning,” says Mayhew-Ridgers. “This means streaming it seamlessly to databases, and allowing our customers to visualise the information effectively.”

To do this, Kwatani partners with system integrators and works closely with its mining customers so that the end-users get the most out of the information without spending time and money to process the raw data themselves.

This digital monitoring can also help to overcome a common challenge in many mining operations: working in silos. Paper systems do not easily lend themselves to sharing of data across different aspects of the operation. This in turn makes it difficult to improve equipment performance on a holistic basis. The availability of various streams of data on a single platform enhances transparency between service technicians, foreman, engineers and the OEM of equipment on site.

“This of course requires that we integrate our systems with our customers’ existing infrastructure, which is an important focus for us,” he says. “Whether greenfields or brownfields project, it is important that information be compatible and seamlessly shared.”

He highlights that the data generated is valuable not only for reflecting a machine’s current status, but because it can store an entire life cycle history. Digital systems can keep track of the equipment’s inspections, maintenance and operational performance over its lifespan.

“The insights gained from this can lead to improvements in the design, or in the way that it is operated,” he says. “This can result in better efficiencies, improved production or other benefits.”

In 2021 the multi-national Sandvik Group acquired Kwatani with its more than 45 year legacy as an original equipment manufacturer and it South African manufacturing facilities are set to become the global engineering and manufacturing base for vibrating screens and feeders for both local and international customers.

The company, known for its commitment to compliance with the South African Mining Charter, is a proudly Level 2 B-BBEE organisation and the internationally recognised Kwatani brand, with its promise of being engineered for tonnage, remains unchanged. The Kwatani brand will continue to be used across Africa while products sold internationally will be sold through the Sandvik sales channels under the Kwatani product name.


One of the most spectacular civil engineering projects currently underway in South Africa is the Msikaba Bridge near Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape. A 580 metre long cable-stayed structure, it spans the 198 metre deep Msikaba Gorge and will rank as the third highest bridge in Africa after the Bloukrans Bridge and the still-to-be-built Mtentu Bridge. Both Msikaba and Mtentu form part of SANRAL’s N2 Wild Coast project.

Plants were relocated to two on-site plant nurseries.
Plants were relocated to two on-site plant nurseries.

While construction of the Msikaba Bridge has presented multiple technical challenges to the contractor, the CME JV (Concor – Mota-Engil Joint Venture), the project is also involving a range of measures designed to protect the natural environment which will set new standards for the civil engineering industry.

“Part of our work, in collaboration with the environmental consultants, Simply Enviro JV, has involved an ambitious plant search and rescue programme, which has seen 14 788 plants being rescued,” says Bruce Paul, Concor’s Group Environmental Manager. “They were relocated to two on-site plant nurseries, will be monitored for several years and then re-planted within carefully selected ‘no-go’ natural areas within the vicinity of the bridge which would not be affected by construction activities.”

He stresses that care was taken to ensure that all plant species requirements were considered and that plants were only relocated to habitats that matched those where they were found.

Protected and endangered species to benefit from the programme include Stanger’s cycad, the forest cycad, the Oribi spear-leaf conebush, the bugle lily, the fence aloe and the mountain vygie.

A colony of rare Cape vultures – between 170 and 190 breeding pairs that regularly nest in the cliffs of the gorge – also needed to be protected. The Cape vulture, also known as the Cape griffon, was listed in 2015 as a regionally endangered species and the Msikaba colony has been identified by experts as a conservation priority in the Eastern Cape.

“We had to make sure that we did not unduly disturb the breeding pairs and special care had to be taken to ensure there were no chicks in the nests during blasting,” says Paul. “We monitored the colony over a period of a year while blasting for the roadworks and bridge foundations was in progress. No disturbance of the colony was observed, indicating that the control measures implemented were very effective.”

Concor and its partners also had to remove and relocate many snakes, both venomous and non-venomous, encountered at the site. The most common snakes to be relocated were puff adders, night adders, boomslangs, twig snakes and spotted bush snakes.

“Rarely have we been involved in a project where such a range of natural flora and fauna has to be protected on a single site and we are extremely happy with what has been achieved thus far,” says Paul. “The project provides an excellent example of how construction can be carried out responsibly, even in the most environmentally sensitive areas.”


Drive technology specialist SEW-EURODRIVE is installing four of its large segmented girth gear systems at De Beer’s Venetia Diamond Mine in Limpopo province.

Venetia mine, in operation since 1992, is upgrading its two primary scrubbers and two secondary scrubbers, and the girth gear replacement is an integral element of this project. According to Bruce Farthing, project engineer at SEW-EURODRIVE, the order was placed in 2020 and all four units were manufactured and delivered within six months. This short lead time was achieved despite the global disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have planned the installations in close collaboration with Venetia mine, making sure our teams are ready when the mine’s shutdown periods allow,” says Farthing. “The first girth gear was installed on one of Venetia’s secondary scrubbers in September 2021, confirming the accuracy and duration of our installation procedure.” 

The expertise of the installation team was brought to the fore by the scrubber’s specific design. The bearing design in particular makes it impractical to bring the whole drum to ground before changing over the girth gear. Instead, the replacement has to be conducted with the drum in situ, at a height of about three storeys high. 

“In the first installation, we therefore assembled the girth gear on the ground, lifting it into position once the old components had been removed from the scrubber,” he says. “The challenge, of course, was to ensure no damage to any of the new components, which we managed with careful planning and experienced execution using large overhead cranes.”

These large girth gears measure 5,3 metres in diameter and weigh about 6 tonnes each. Given the scale of the equipment, the segmentation of the gear makes for easier transportation and handling. He explains that each girth gear is made up of 10 identical segments which are easily assembled on site. 

“The segments allow for relatively quick assembly with less lifting equipment,” says Farthing. “A further advantage is that individual segments can be kept in stock and used as replacements in the event of a breakdown – keeping downtime to a minimum.”

The second and third installations – to be conducted on the two primary scrubbers – are scheduled for later this year. With the limited time available during a plant shutdown, the installation team adopts a 24-hour work cycle. 

The contract includes the supply of SEW-EURODRIVE’s large two-stage industrial gearboxes and the external pinions to drive the girth gear. The motors are coupled to the gearboxes using a fluid coupling on a purpose-built, drop-in baseplate. Smaller gearboxes from SEW- EURODRIVE’s X series range are also coupled to the main gearbox as auxiliary drives for commissioning and maintenance.

Farthing notes that the company’s segmented girth gear systems have recently been a popular choice for South African customers, with six orders being received within about a year. Apart from the four supplied to De Beers Venetia Diamond Mine, SEW-EURODRIVE also recently supplied these solutions to applications in a paper mill and a cement mill. 


Disruption on work sites will grow in the next few months as rain returns to many of the country’s provinces, demanding a rapid dewatering solution. 

Pump and dewatering specialist IPR – previously known as Integrated Pump Rental – has added capacity for the inevitable spike in urgent enquiries. According to IPR operations manager Henru Strydom, renting of dewatering pumps remains a great option for dealing with emergencies. 

“The high level of responsiveness that IPR offers is directly related to the available fleet that we have developed,” says Strydom. “We have always been proactive about growing our rental capacity as we do not believe in leaving dewatering to chance during the rainy season.”

Having a rental fleet that is commensurate with the growing market demand has been vital to IPR’s ongoing success and interestingly most of these are trailer mounted. He explains that trailer mounted units allow optimum mobility and flexibility. Pumping units can be deployed rapidly to sites when required and can also be easily moved on the site itself.

“Renting or leasing offers many advantages over buying your own pumping equipment for infrequent dewatering needs,” he says. “This is especially the case if companies lack the staff or resources to regularly maintain equipment; they never know whether the equipment is serviceable when unexpectedly high rainfall leads to a sudden emergency.”

He notes that pump ownership inevitably incurs hidden costs related to labour, training, maintenance and spares. Many pump owners may not be aware of the attention that pumps need if they are to be ready for action at a moment’s notice. 

“As a quick-response team that is completely focused on our equipment’s readiness, IPR of course handles all the maintenance requirements of rental pumps,” he says. “We can also provide on-site training to customers’ staff, so that the equipment is employed to its fullest value.”

What this all adds up to, says Strydom, is better control of project costs. It also means that the right equipment is supplied for the job at hand, which is vital when heavy rains cause unexpected flooding. IPR’s fleet of rental dewatering pump sets is large and diverse, ensuring that suitable units are always available when needed. These cover the full range of submersible drainage, dewatering, slurry and sludge pumps. Diesel driven dewatering pump sets are most often the solution of choice, as it is easy to get these units started and operational even on remote sites where there is no access to power. 


Lack of attention to maintenance on heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems on mobile mining equipment such as dump trucks, excavators, dozers and drill rigs can cost mines dearly. This is the view of Brenton Spies, managing director of HVAC specialist Booyco Engineering, a company which has been a leader in its field for more than three decades.

“The fact of the matter is that an HVAC system that is malfunctioning can result in a multi-million rand mining vehicle being taken out of service, resulting in hours of downtime and possibly hundreds of thousands of rands of lost production,” says Spies. “Modern health and safety laws in South Africa are very demanding and operators are entitled to stop work if ambient temperatures in the cab are too high or, for that matter, too low.”

Booyco Engineering has an unparalleled track record of supplying and maintaining highly efficient HVAC systems for customers in the railways, defence and mining sectors. Its clients over the years have included Transnet, General Electric, Alsthom, Bombardier and, in the mining sector, Seriti’s New Vaal opencast coal mine. Booyco has supplied maintenance services continuously to New Vaal for more than two decades.

The company’s HVAC systems are locally designed and manufactured and are specifically designed for Africa’s rugged conditions. The units are assembled in Booyco Engineering’s 3 000 m2 Meadowdale premises in Germiston. “We outsource most of the fabrication but all design is undertaken by Booyco Engineering’s engineers and technicians at our premises using the latest software and specialised tools,” says Spies. 

According to Spies, the standard HVAC systems used on many off-road mining vehicles are unable to cope with the constant vibration, extreme temperatures and dust that are encountered in mining environments. “Our customised units are more expensive than these products but they are durable and can function for 20 years, or even longer, if maintained correctly,” says Spies. “By contrast, the life of standard units can be very short – no more than two or three years. Buying them is false economy.”

He points out that most ‘off-the-shelf’ HVAC systems are designed to cope with temperatures of around 35 deg C. “This is fine if your machines are working in Europe but totally inadequate for mining areas, such as the Northern Cape, where temperatures can soar into the 40s,” he remarks. “This why our HVAC systems are designed for ambient temperatures of up to 45 deg C.”

He adds that Booyco Engineering has such confidence in its HVAC systems that it offers a five-year warranty to customers, which he says is ground-breaking. 

Booyco Engineering is currently engaged in a fresh push into the mining sector to expand its mining footprint –– and is stressing to potential customers the benefits of the planned maintenance it can offer, not just on Booyco HVAC systems but those of other manufacturers. The company offers free site assessments to ascertain the current condition of customers’ fleets and to propose the most cost effective solution to ensure the customers’ HVAC’s operate at acceptable levels and meet availability standards.

“As part of our push, we’ve been on many mines recently and what we’ve noticed is that very few of them are maintaining their HVAC systems,” he observes. “For the most part, they do not have any consistent maintenance programmes in place and they entrust their maintenance work to technicians who have no real understanding of HVAC and who certainly don’t have any in-depth understanding of the refrigeration cycle. At best, they will assign the task to one of their mechanics or auto-electricians, who they might send on a one or two-day refrigeration course.”

He notes that – by contrast – Booyco Engineering’s technicians are the best in the business and have been thoroughly trained by the company in every aspect of HVAC maintenance. These technicians are deployed on or close to customer sites throughout South Africa.

According to Spies, HVAC systems ideally need to be thoroughly checked for leaks and have their return and fresh air filters cleaned on a monthly basis. Every three months, chemical cleaning of the condensers should be carried out and wiring, fasteners, V-belt tension, gas leaks and refrigerant pressures thoroughly checked. Annual services will include a compressor oil level check and chemical cleaning of the evaporator coil.

Spies says that Booyco Engineering can provide these services under a range of maintenance offerings, either long or short term, and is happy to negotiate appropriate arrangements with customers. 

“Our preference, however, is for ‘man on site’ contracts where our technicians are on the spot, maintaining systems according to a carefully planned maintenance programme and able to respond immediately to any breakdowns,” he says. “We regard this as the most efficient and cost-effective option from the mine’s point of view and one which, over the longer term, will lower the total cost of ownership very significantly.”


Pilot Crushtec has enjoyed considerable success with its Generac mobile tower lights since introducing them to the South African market more than a decade ago. The tower lights have found favour with customers across a range of industries, particularly mining and construction, and units are now operating throughout the southern African region, as far north as the DRC.

“Pilot Crushtec, of course, is best known for its comprehensive range of crushing and screening solutions,” says Fernando Abelho, export manager at the company. “We introduced the tower lights as a diversification from our main product lines and we’ve never regretted the decision. We’ve notched up truly impressive sales, many of them repeat orders from very satisfied customers.”

Abelho cites the case of a leading civils, mining and drilling contracting company which bought its first units about four years ago after having been disappointed in the performance of a competitor brand. “The latest order from this particular customer has resulted in the company now having 27 Generac machines in its fleet, many of them operating in remote areas within our region under very tough conditions where they’ve proved their reliability and durability,” he says.

When it decided to add tower lights to its product range, Pilot Crushtec concluded a partnering agreement with Tower Light Srl, headquartered near Milan in Italy, one of Europe’s most successful tower light manufacturers. This company has since been acquired by US-based Generac but Pilot Crushtec is still supplied from the Italian factory.

“The quality for which Tower Light Srl was renowned has continued under Generac which has further developed what was already an outstanding product range,” says Abelho. “The Generac diesel-powered tower light is a truly premium product which is very compact, ultra-safe to use and extremely economic to operate. The attention to detail can be seen everywhere in the machine. The electrical wiring, for example, is all fully sleeved and neatly organised while the all-in-one control panel has been developed by Generac specifically for use in light towers. In addition, all the units come with liquid containment tanks to prevent environmental contamination.”

While Generac has a very extensive range of tower lights, Pilot Crushtec focuses on a single model, the VTevo, available in two variants, one equipped with a Kubota water-cooled engine and the other with a Yanmar air-cooled engine. Standard features on both machines include an earth spike, a 4 kg fire extinguisher and the necessary switchgear to allow connection to a mains electrical supply when available. A low-speed, single axis towing trailer allows a high degree of mobility on site.

“The two variants both offer 4 x 320 W energy-saving LED floodlights, able to illuminate an area of up to 4 500 m2,” says Abelho. “The VTevo-Kubota, however, has some additional features that the VTevo-Yanmar lacks. These include a day/night sensor and a GTL-01 controller which provides a programmable stop/start, maintenance alarms and additional safety and protection features. 

“We find that some customers prefer the lower spec VTevo-Yanmar as it is more competitively priced and they feel they don’t need any high-tech features. Many others though opt for the VTevo-Kubota. They find the programmable stop/start in particular to be indispensable and a great time-saver.”

Other noteworthy features of the VTevo that Abelho points to are its use of a telescopic vertical raise mast (with 8 m maximum height), which is safer than alternative designs; 340 degrees of mast rotation; two side doors to the engine compartment for ease of maintenance; and forklift pockets on all sides to facilitate handling. He adds that the machines have a silenced canopy for ultra-quiet operation.

Finally, Abelho also stresses the energy saving aspects of the VTevo. “The G4 LEDs used are industry-leading and have a life expectancy of 50 000 hours. They allow up to 220 hours of runtime on a single tank of fuel. Their efficiency is such that they can save up to 75 % of the fuel that traditional towers equipped with metal halide lights use, at the same reducing carbon emissions by up to 10 tonnes per year. We believe that the VTevo is the most eco-friendly lighting tower ever created.”


Mining customers at FLSmidth’s stand at Electra Mining Africa this year showed growing interest in digital solutions which drive sustainability while lifting productivity.

“Our customers recognise the value of reducing carbon emissions in plant operations, but are looking beyond a ‘big bang’ event to achieve MissionZero,” says Alistair McKay, FLSmidth Vice President for Mining in Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and South Asia. “Rather, they are looking for a longer term collaboration with technology partners like FLSmidth to steadily achieve sustainability goals.”

McKay highlighted that progress was not necessarily based on just new capital innovations, but on the ongoing optimisation of existing equipment throughout the process flowsheet. The performance of conventional equipment such as pumps can be optimised through smart monitoring and optimisation, he emphasises.

“An important question we are helping customers to answer is: How do we put the ‘building blocks’ of success together to support the MissionZero strategy?” he says. “This approach looks beyond quick wins to be etched up in an ESG rating, and considers a longer term and sustainable process.”

Digitalisation is already paving the path to greater efficiency and lower energy consumption, he explains. This includes making operational information on all equipment available to operators and decision makers in a usable format – on whichever device they are using. By pulling through all the relevant data and analysing it in real time, the performance of various equipment can be monitored and assessed for continuous improvement.

Mining customers at FLSmidth’s stand at Electra Mining Africa this year showed growing interest in digital solutions which drive lower emissions while lifting productivity.
Mining customers at FLSmidth’s stand at Electra Mining Africa this year showed growing interest in digital solutions which drive lower emissions while lifting productivity.

“Our LoadIQ™ smart sensor, which is used to optimise mill loads, is a perfect example of this,” he says. “By measuring volumetric filling and ore trajectory in real-time, LoadIQ™ allows mill operating parameters to be automatically adjusted as grinding conditions change.”

Its application on a mill at a large copper mine in South America led to throughput improvements of 10% – translating to additional revenues of some $150 million per year.

Deon de Kock, FLSmidth President for Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and South Asia, supports this assessment, pointing to customers’ concern to ‘achieve more with less’. They are looking for more production from the same plant, with less energy and less water, says de Kock. 

“Plant operators are looking to us to help them get more from their existing plants,” he says. “This means reducing their carbon footprint and water consumption while optimising production.”

The expertise to apply the necessary technology to do this is readily available in FLSmidth’s operations around this region, he says. Further specialist knowledge can be drawn in from the company’s global network, providing the necessary insights and experience. 

Electra Mining Africa also provided a great platform for FLSmidth to confirm the exciting news of its acquisition of thyssenkrupp’s Mining business. De Kock highlighted that the organisational integration was underway for the two companies to be operating as one by year-end. 

“This acquisition boosts FLSmidth’s position as a global leader in mineral process solutions, particularly with the newly acquired high pressure grinding roll (HPGR) technology, eccentric roll crushers and bulk materials handling equipment,” he says. “This expands our pit-to-plant range of sustainable solutions and supports our central ambition of bringing sustainable technology to mines, increasing productivity and reducing the environmental footprint.”


A process plant at a gold mine in Ghana has become the first in Africa to install WEG’s fully withdrawable WEG CCM06 boards, which safely improve the plant’s flexibility when isolating selected circuits for maintenance and repair. 

“The customer’s existing motor control centre (MCC) regulated many operations, which all had to be shut down when attending to a single item of equipment,” says Foster Yeboah, regional sales manager for West Africa based at Zest WEG’s Ghana branch. “This led to significant downtime, which the customer wanted to avoid.”

The mine required a solution which would allow the plant to isolate the electrical feed to specific equipment, allowing targeted maintenance to be conducted on those items without necessitating a complete plant shutdown, says Yeboah. The answer came in the form of a double containerised electrical house or E-house with a key element of this solution being the fully withdrawable boards.

“The WEG CCM06 boards are compartmentalised functional units which can be turned off and pulled out, without affecting the power to the other units,” he explains. “This is a valuable feature when considering that important equipment such as mills and discharge pumps must ideally operate continuously to keep the plant efficient.”

With the new MCC, operators will now be able to conduct a straightforward process of isolating the unit they want to attend to – simply by opening a latch, turning a shaft and drawing out the relevant board. It is then secured to allow work to proceed safely on the specific equipment, while the plant continues running. Yeboah emphasises that access to the live parts is not possible when the functional units are removed, significantly enhancing safety. 

“Once a board is taken out, the design ensures that there is no risk of electrical shock to the operator,” he says. “To further enhance safety, the board can also be placed in ‘test’ mode for safe testing procedures.” 

This allows it to receive and display signals for testing while being disconnected from mains power. The system also includes smart relays so that operators can control the MCC remotely.

“In our experience many process plants in our region operate under the same constraints as this customer, having to completely shut down when maintaining equipment,” says Yeboah. “With this innovative fully withdrawable board solution, we fully expect there to be considerable interest by other operations.” 

He highlights that a plant’s energy costs can also be significantly reduced by limiting the number of stoppages and restarts. With electric motors consuming a substantial portion of the energy in a process plant, continuous operation is an important factor in economising power consumption.

“Motors use much more energy on start-up so by reducing the number of times they are stopped and started, plants can cut back on the peak starting current that pushes up energy costs,” he says. 

The fully withdrawable boards are among a range of other WEG equipment which has been included in the E-house, which was constructed by Zest WEG at one of its South African manufacturing facilities. 

A major advantage with E-houses is that all equipment can be installed and tested before shipping to site, and factory acceptance tests (FAT) can also be conducted virtually to expedite customer sign-off.

Yeboah concludes by saying that Zest WEG’s Ghana office, with its team of competent sales engineers, has been running for more than 10 years and also boasts a training centre for upskilling customers’ teams.