Murray & Roberts Cementation, a leader in underground mining contracting, recently marked a significant milestone in its vent shaft contract which forms part of the Palabora Mining Company (PMC) Lift II expansion project. On 2 November 2023, the company celebrated 1 Million Fatality Free hours, a testament to its unwavering commitment to safety and operational excellence.

This impressive achievement at the PMC Lift II expansion project is not just a numerical milestone but a testament to the shared commitment to safety and operational excellence by both Murray & Roberts Cementation and PMC. Crucial to PMC, the project will extend the life of operations to beyond 2040 with the 8.5 metre diameter ventilation shaft being integral to the Lift II block cave as part of its overall mining infrastructure. 

The vent shaft project’s complexity and technical challenges highlight the expertise and experience of all parties involved. Under the leadership of Fred Durand, Senior Project Manager at Murray & Roberts Cementation, the project team has consistently emphasised safe execution. Durand notes that the company’s stringent safety protocols have been pivotal in reaching this milestone.

“The achievement of 1 Million Fatality Free hours is more than just a number; it’s a reflection of the deep-rooted safety culture that permeates every aspect of the project,” Durand says. “From planning stages to daily operations, safety is the cornerstone of the project’s success, demonstrating that even in the most technically challenging environments, prioritising safety is key to achieving remarkable outcomes.”

Aidan Schoonbee, Senior Manager for PMC’s Lift II Construction, Concentrator and Vent Shaft, says that as the PMC Lift II project continues to progress, this milestone serves as a reminder of the importance of safety in the mining industry. “It is a shining example of how collaboration, expertise and a steadfast commitment to safety can lead to extraordinary achievements.”


Forging transformation in the diamond sector through nurturing carefully selected small businesses, De Beers takes a hands-on approach that adapts to past experience. 

This has led the company to extend its support beyond the cutting and polishing segments, and into manufacturing and jewellery, according to De Beers Beneficiation Manager Kagiso Fredericks. The first cohort of De Beers Beneficiation Programme, which graduated in 2019, took five cutting and polishing SMMEs through an intensive three years of incubation, training and mentoring. 

As a leading supplier of rough and polished diamonds, De Beers established the Beneficiation Programme on the basis of its key role at the beginning of the diamond value chain, he explains. However, Fredericks emphasises that the cutting and polishing of rough diamonds is only one next step in a longer journey to the end-customer.

“When we consider the scope for beneficiation, our focus is really on value addition – so the programme could cover design, manufacturing and all the other phases through to retail,” he says. “Our 2020 cohort therefore included a jewellery manufacturing and refinery business and also jewellery designers and retailers.”

An essential aspect of this programme, he says, is to encourage participants to sharpen their vision and value proposition – to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and clarify exactly what business they are in. This has led to exciting results during the three year incubation period. A refining business in the programme, for instance, explored ways of adding value to its business model.

“As a refiner, you are limited considerably by the market price of the commodities you refine,” he explains. “This business saw the opportunity to expand into jewellery manufacturing as it was already dealing with the raw material, but could achieve better margins in the jewellery space while diversifying their customer base.”

By emphasising that business success is built on a clear strategic focus, the Beneficiation Programme has seen remarkable innovation in business models in the diamond sector. A company in the current cohort was initially involved in trading diamonds, with the owners being well endowed with cutting and polishing expertise.

“The trading environment, however, is extremely competitive – with many people equipped with the necessary skills of cutting, polishing, identifying and valuing diamonds,” says Fredericks. “This company therefore explored how they could create a niche for themselves, and evolved into educating diamond buyers. This training focus suited their skills, as one had been a trainer and the other a student in the De Beers-sponsored Kimberley International Diamond and Jewellery Academy.”

Important learnings within this incubation are issues that are very specific to each business – such as succession from one generation to another. A mother and daughter team tackled this daunting task and – with support and guidance – managed to transition to the daughter taking over as CEO in a business started by her mother. 

“It is impressive to see the growth of the people within these businesses, taking on more responsible roles and talking in the media about their work and offerings,” he says. 

The programme’s adaptation to include other phases of the value chain has opened doors to collaboration between the participants, he notes. The cutters and polishers are able to work closely with jewellery manufacturers, for example, in co-creating the magic of the final items. 

Another of the companies in the programme began in the trading of rough and polished diamonds, and has also been able to branch out through strategic targeting of new markets. He highlights that being a trader did not preclude them from developing and marketing jewellery into selected markets – including high-end items for corporate long-service awards. 

“Every business and entrepreneur is unique – just like diamonds,” he says. “One of our participants in the cutting and polishing trade has been able to develop her own direction by matching her interest in art with her work in diamonds.”

This is leading her to engage with artists and art studios, to curate art that speaks to the diamond story. This innovative angle is a very fresh concept, he says, but will see its expression during 2024. 

Despite the competitiveness of the diamond cutting and polishing, the programme has been able to help those participants in this trade to grow turnover significantly during its second year. He explains that after the first year of establishing commitment, De Beers supplies rough diamonds for year two. 

“Even with their better turnover, our emphasis remains on helping the SMMEs build a healthier bottom line,” says Fredericks. “This really underpins our work, as the vision is to create sustainable entities that will transform the sector while meeting participants’ diamond dreams.”


In a project innovation that will allow early hoisting of ore at Ivanhoe Mines’ Platreef project, Murray & Roberts Cementation will be repurposing its 3 Shaft – a ventilation shaft – to serve a dual function.

“This is a unique project in many respects, as the shaft will be hoisting ore at that same time as allowing upcast air to reach surface,” explains Graham Chamberlain, New Business Director at Murray & Roberts Cementation. “We were able to bring our well experienced experts into the planning process to develop a safe and effective solution.”

The project has followed the sinking of the vent shaft by Murray & Roberts Cementation, which had required very accurate drilling, using raiseboring equipment guided by directional drilling technology. The 5,1 metre diameter shaft meets horizontal development at a depth of 950 metres below surface.

“During this process, Ivanhoe looked at bringing forward some of their ore generation activities, and this required adding hoisting capacity,” he explains. “The timeline for their main shaft meant that it would not be able to contribute to this capacity, so a team was established to consider how to retrofit the vent shaft into an early hoisting shaft.”

As an integral part of that multidisciplinary team, Murray & Roberts Cementation conducted a feasibility study on the options, allowing for the selection of the most suitable methodology. The company also carried out the necessary designs, including winders and headgear as well as hoisting and tipping arrangements. In September 2023, the project was awarded to Murray & Roberts Cementation to implement, and is scheduled to take about two years. 

“This project stands out in terms of innovation, adaptability, teamwork and design,” he says. “With our many decades in the sector, we were able to draw on hundreds of years of experience in mining – and leverage this in our design team.”

Among the range of technical challenges is the need to work within the vent shaft while it is performing its function of channelling an upcast current of air to surface. Any blockage of the air current in the shaft would affect the development operation of the mine, so this is critical to avoid.

“There needs to be periods during which we can reduce the ventilation, but we will have to ensure that air flow is always adequate,” he says. Another vent shaft is planned to add ventilation capacity for the future. 

Chamberlain points out that it will be necessary to deal with the slight deviations in the shaft; while accurately drilled, vent shafts are not designed to the same tolerances as hoist shafts. An important aspect of the design was the steelwork required to accommodate those deviations.

“The work will be conducted by a relatively small team of our highly skilled people,” he says. “This will include the installation of a compact headgear using refurbished winders from our strategic stockholding.”

The infrastructure will employ technology that will allow man-less operation to enhance safety, using automated processes in loading and measuring functions, for instance. The project will require specialised subcontractors on much of the equipment employed, but the more day-to-day consumables are procured locally to support local businesses. 

“In the absence of a supplier, we would then develop their capability through our procurement system and enterprise development commitment,” he says. “In this way, we foster small businesses and help to nurture them until they are self-sustaining.”


When a mining operation in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province found that one of its planetary gearboxes on a high-torque conveyor was failing, it called SEW-EURODRIVE for a solution.

Leveraging the latest intelligent technology, the solution is a pioneering innovation providing a cost effective replacement that will ensure reliable performance. Greg Lewis, Business Development Manager Projects for SEW-EURODRIVE, says the application at the mine demanded a customised and carefully considered approach. 

“The application itself was in the plant where a steel-belt transfer conveyor moves extremely slowly – with the 4 metre diameter head pulley turning just one revolution every 25 minutes,” says Lewis. “Two planetary gearboxes drive the pulley, with one on each side, and the mine had been facing the pending failure of one of these, which needed to be replaced.”

With the original installer of that gearbox unavailable, the mine came directly to SEW EURODRIVE, he explains. The drive specialist already has a good relationship with the mine, and has provided most of the power transmission items on the site. 

“One of the key challenges was that the mine required only the one gearbox to be replaced at that stage,” Lewis says. “It is important to understand that in this application the two gearboxes must run together, at exactly the same speed and torque. Any variation in the speeds is not an option.”

SEW-EURODRIVE was able to match one of its units very closely with the unit being replaced, but there was still a very slight difference in the ratios. This led to a 0,001 difference in the revolutions per minute. 

“While this may sound insignificant, it makes a difference when the gearbox torque is a couple of hundred thousand Nm’s,” he says. “At this high torque level, any misalignment or desynchronisation can affect the foundation and potentially cause catastrophic failure.”

With the expert input of one of SEW-EURODRIVE’s in-house mechatronics engineers, the solution uses the company’s MOVI-C technology in a way that has never been done before. The new planetary gearbox supplied by the company will match the torque of the original gearbox – ensuring that they turn at precisely the same speed. The solution involves removing the existing base plate and providing a new, drop-in solution with an SEW-EURODRIVE planetary gearbox – designed to match the current infrastructure in the plant.

“The technology on our planetary gearbox constantly changes the torque to match the existing equipment,” he said. To prove this intelligent design, SEW-EURODRIVE built a small-scale working mock-up for the customer to witness. Together with its own customised base-plate, the ‘model’ arrangement was taken to site and demonstrated to the customer’s satisfaction.

The mock-up was so successful that SEW-EURODRIVE colleagues around the world asked to see it, so that they could learn from the achievement. It was also a showpiece at the company’s exhibition stand at the2022 Electra Mining Africa event near Johannesburg. 

Lewis explains that the project was designed and delivered by SEW-EURODRIVE as a complete solution – from the fully customisable panels to the electronics and the installation of the gearbox. The installed unit is an XP planetary gearbox with shrink disk, with a primary X-series gearbox as a further reduction unit to achieve the required ratio. 

“We engineered the steel base to fit onto the existing concrete foundation without any modifications required from the customer’s side,” he says. The significance of the project is enhanced by the considerable scale of its elements. At about 1,7 m in height – and measuring 2,1 m wide and long – the gearbox itself is sizeable, weighing about 6 t. Moving at 0,07 rpm, it moves the steel belt that carries a fine cake of raw chrome material.

“There are not many companies who can produce a solution to meet these very slow revolutions,” Lewis says. “Being among those who can is a source of great pride for us. This project has been particularly rewarding as it demonstrates our capability in matching another footprint, eliminating the need for the customer to break down existing structures and build new ones.”

The unique requirements of the project meant extensive on-site engagement with the customer and detailed measurement of plant requirements. SEW-EURODRIVE’s engineers in Johannesburg generated the working drawings from which global counterparts within the group could begin manufacturing the unit in Germany. 

Lewis highlights the assurance that SEW-EURODRIVE can give the mine in terms of support, as the company has long been an established presence in the sector and the country. The customer was extremely happy with this creative solution that their other plants may well be looking at similar replacements in the coming years. 

“We are already assisting with our full service technicians, and we can provide experts in electronics, mechanical engineering and mechatronics, as the need arises,” he says. “The electronics in this solution will allow the mine to implement a range of enhancements in the future, including safety features and monitoring of operations.” 


To allow Eastgate Shopping Centre in Gauteng to upgrade its heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) facilities for greater energy and water efficiency, Concor is carefully strengthening the structure on which the heavy new chillers will rest. 

Concor Contract Manager Martin Muller explains that the HVAC system is located on top of a building on the centre’s roof parking area, in which tenants are active – and who need to continue trading during the renovation. Aside from the technical elements of the contract, therefore, clear and ongoing communication with the client and the tenants is a crucial aspect of success. 

“The construction work includes the demolition of an existing roof, walls and slab above tenants,” says Muller. “The structure will then be strengthened to ensure it can safely carry the seven 10 tonne HVAC chillers which are to be installed on the roof top building.” 

Due to the presence of a tenant running a call centre in the adjacent building, demolition can only take place outside of normal working hours. He highlights the importance of Concor’s safety culture in ensuring safe working practices at night.

What is important is for the considerable load of the new installation to be effectively transferred into the centre’s existing concrete columns under the roof parking – and hence down into the foundations. This is being done through the construction of interlinking stub columns which will create a grid to support the chillers. These columns are being cast systematically, working in a direction of priority for the HVAC specialists – so they can start their installations on the network of support steelwork and grating that Concor will provide.

The new structure will also include a transformer room, and a perimeter louvre closure around the HVAC area. At about 3,5 metres high, the louvre will improve the roof top aesthetics by concealing the installation from view. Concor’s team and subcontractors receive working-at-height training and work strictly according to safety protocols – especially since the HVAC rooms are 8,5 metres above ground on one side of the structure and 20 metres high on the other. Completing the project will be a steel roof, louvres to allow fresh air to cool the installation, access doors and a steel staircase. 


Weba Chute Systems, a South African original equipment manufacturer specialising in custom-engineered chute systems, was honoured at the Exporter of the Year Awards hosted by the South African Capital Equipment Export Council (SACEEC) on 21 November 2023. This event recognised the significant contributions of industry players, highlighting 18 companies that exported over R8.4 billion to 67 countries last year.

The companies were evaluated based on several criteria, including marketing strategy, export turnover, local content, and participation in export promotion activities. The process involved strict confidentiality and expert judgment, including site visits to finalists’ premises.

Weba Chute Systems, celebrating its 40th year of operation in 2024, has established itself as a leader in transfer point design and manufacture, boasting over 5000 chutes successfully operating worldwide. The company’s focus on quality has been a cornerstone of its success, leading to its recognition as the Allied Services Exporter of the Year 2023 for companies with a turnover between R100 million and R150 million a year. 

Commenting on the significance of the award, Ted Cruickshank, Africa Business Development Manager, says that this accolade underlines Weba Chute Systems’ significant role in the industry and its contribution to South African exports. 

“The award acknowledges the continued demand worldwide for our custom engineered transfer point solutions. We have a solid pipeline of projects including platinum prospects in Zimbabwe and a busy copper landscape in the DRC, and just as importantly we are seeing exciting growth in a number of overseas markets,” he says. 

The company is looking forward to a major project in the US in 2024, where it expects to supply a large package of about 50 chutes. In Turkey, a gold mine expansion will take up to eight of its custom engineered chutes. Cruikshank says the company continues to be approached by new customers – recently in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan – who have transfer chute challenges and have seen or heard about the company’s specialised solutions. 


South Africa based, Integrated Pump Technology has been appointed as the exclusive distributor for Godwin diesel driven dewatering pumps in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This strategic move underscores Integrated Pump Technology’s remarkable success in providing high performance dewatering pump solutions across the mining sector in the region. 

Jordan Marsh, Managing Director at Integrated Pump Technology, says the company’s appointment not only grants customers access to the full spectrum of Godwin dewatering pump units but also marks the introduction of the powerful Godwin HL270, the largest dewatering pump in the range, to customers in the region.

Designed to tackle the unique challenges posed by dewatering in deeper mines as well as in high pressure water transfer applications with remarkable efficiency, the diesel driven Godwin HL270 is destined to become a popular choice for mining operations in both Zambia and the DRC. 

The Godwin HL270, one of the latest additions to the Godwin pump range, is set to change dewatering in the mining industry. With a maximum head of 300 metres and a higher efficiency impeller, the HL270 offers an unparalleled solution for mines operating at greater depths while minimising power consumption. 

One of its standout features is its ability to automatically prime to 8.5 metres of suction lift from a dry start. Moreover, this robust pump can handle various fluids and liquids, including those with solids up to 30 mm in diameter. 

Its flexibility in operation is another highlight, as it can be equipped with either automatic or manual starting/stopping options through an integral mounted control panel or optional wireless remote access, depending on the specific application.

“While access to high performance pumps is crucial, the importance of dependable aftermarket support cannot be overstated, particularly in remote mining regions,” Marsh says. “Our teams have extensive experience in the Copperbelt region, and this includes skilled field service technicians capable of providing comprehensive technical support on an ongoing basis. This ensures that mining operations in Zambia and the DRC can rely on prompt assistance, minimising downtime and maximising productivity.”

Marsh says this ready access to reliable aftermarket support, makes Godwin pumps a competitive choice for mining operations in these demanding African environments.

“Godwin dewatering pumps are not only powerful and efficient but also cost competitive, and this allows customers access to a quality manufactured product capable of meeting demanding dewatering needs,” he says. “This affordability makes Godwin pumps an attractive option for both large-scale mining operations and smaller ventures looking to optimise their dewatering processes.”

The Godwin range, distributed exclusively in Zambia and the DRC by Integrated Pump Technology, caters to a wide array of dewatering requirements. Another member of this range is the Godwin BD150 which is ideal for everyday dewatering applications. Its versatility makes it a reliable choice for a multitude of tasks in the mining industry.

“We believe that the appointment of Integrated Pump Technology as the exclusive distributor of Godwin pumps in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo heralds a new era of efficient and cost effective dewatering solutions for the mining industry in these regions, Marsh concludes.


The growing renewable energy generation sector in Africa is realising the value of modular substations in solar and wind projects, as well as the suitability of dry-type transformers in these installations. 

According to David Claassen, Managing Director of Trafo Power Solutions, solar photovoltaic and wind farms have an important characteristic in common: they both have to deal with multiple sources of generated energy. At a solar plant, for instance, there is a large area of solar panels – especially when the project is of utility scale – that require many individual substations at different locations within the project. 

“Depending on the output of the plant, it could require 30 to 100 substations to service the generation capacity,” says Claassen. “This means that there is a large volume of essentially identical substations, which lends itself to factory-based production. In this way, projects gain the quality benefit of dedicated workshop conditions, as well as the cost benefits related to economies of scale when it comes to sheet metal, structural steel and other components.”

When production is streamlined in this way, the completion of the units is also quicker, he says, and is likely to be accomplished by a smaller team than would be required to build brick-and-mortar structures on a distant site. He noted that the locations chosen for these renewable projects – especially for wind farms – are invariably in quite remote areas, making logistics challenging. 

The usual inputs for on-site construction such as water, sand and aggregate are often difficult to find nearby, and can be costly to transport. The best places to generate energy from wind turbines are frequently to be found in hilly or mountainous areas, and there is usually little infrastructure to support the early on-site operations. 

“We have seen many of South Africa’s solar and wind power projects already incorporating this modular approach to inverters,” he says. “As a supplier of modular substations, we also specialise in dry-type transformers which are well-suited to these applications.”

He highlights that dry-type transformers fit easily into compact modular substations along with the inverter, switchgear and ancillary equipment. Perhaps most importantly, the design and operation of these transformers aligns closely with the sustainability philosophy that underpins the promotion of clean, renewable energy. 

“It makes sense for renewable energy projects, who are leading the charge to supplement and eventually replace fossil fuels, to employ technologies that do not rely on oil,” explains Claassen. “Unlike conventional transformers, which are cooled by oil, dry-type transformers are air-cooled and are much more environmentally friendly.”

The absence of oil as a coolant means that there is no risk of oil contamination through leakage, and much higher levels of safety. The safety ranking of dry-type transformers allows them to be situated close to human traffic and even indoors – as there is little danger of fire or explosion. 

With most of these renewable energy projects being driven and funded by independent power producers (IPPs), the cost per kilowatt-hour is paramount to their success. They are generally selling their electricity at a pre-agreed price to a utility or customer, so they need to carefully control their capital and operating expenditure. 

“While the manufacture of substations in a modular format saves them on the upfront capital, the dry-type transformers require minimal maintenance and save on the plant’s running costs,” he says. “In contrast, oil-cooled transformers need to be regularly inspected and the oil must also be changed; on renewable projects where there could be 100 of these units to be maintained, there are substantial costs involved.”

There are other important technical reasons why dry-type transformers are the best choice for renewal power applications. Claassen explains that it is vital for transformers to be purpose-designed, and in the case of solar plants especially, there are high ambient temperatures to be considered in the design. The cooling system must be capable of managing the heat, so that the performance and service life of the transformer is optimised. 

“Within our design for modular substations in the renewable energy space, we have multiple options for cooling, depending on the prevailing conditions,” he says. “This includes naturally ventilated air, forced ventilated air or cooling strategies using heat exchangers based on either air or water.”

He notes that Trafo Power Systems’ transformer units for these applications are rated as Class H on both the low voltage and medium voltage windings. 

“Another key aspect of the design is the fact that transformers in a photovoltaic application experience a daily cycle of full load and no load, so there is frequent expansion and contraction of the windings that needs to be accommodated,” he says. “Further to that is the non-linear supply from the inverter, so the transformer has to be designed for high harmonic content, which also translates into a temperature consideration.”

He emphasises that Trafo Power Systems has extensive in-house design experience to meet these requirements, and project management expertise for engaging effectively with clients, engineers and other stakeholders on each project. 

“In summary, it is crucial that wherever substations and transformers are supplied to renewable energy projects, the designers have a thorough understanding of thermodynamics,” says Claassen. “There is a considerable risk of poorly designed units overheating due to operating outside of their design limits; if all the project parameters are not fully considered, the results can be catastrophic.”