Not only does IPR’s SlurrySucker dredging system effectively clean process water ponds, return water dams or other water storage areas, it has become recognised as an ideal solution for cleaning water capture areas where silt is an issue, or where water retention and water holding capacity is being threatened. Some of these areas are environmentally sensitive and must be protected from causing any pollution.

Taking this innovative locally manufactured product to the next step, IPR recently launched its new generation unit – the SlurrySucker MK III. This powerful dredging system now incorporates the world renowned Toyo heavy duty slurry pump, making it the most efficient and cost effective electrically powered floating dredging system available on the market.

This is according to IPR Managing Director, Lee Vine, who says that the benefits of the SlurrySucker extend well beyond improving mines’ environmental footprints. “Bodies of water such as ponds, lagoons, dams and canals should be considered valuable plant assets and must be maintained to maximise their operational efficiency and contribution to optimised operational performance,” he explains.

“This is where the SlurrySucker has continued to deliver without fail, assisting our customers with some of their pressing issues including the need to increase water storage capacities, the recovery of minerals and improving process water quality,” he continues.

Equipped with Toyo heavy duty slurry pumps, the SlurrySucker MK III boasts enhanced solids handling capabilities. The pumps are fitted with robust cutter fans or agitators, facilitating the management of larger particles. Moreover, they can effectively handle slurries with a high specific gravity (SG).

Commenting on the effectiveness of the SlurrySucker MK III, Vine says the unit can be sized to meet an individual plant’s slurry removal requirements in terms of particle size, aggregation, distribution, cohesiveness, flow characteristics, sedimentation rates and specific gravity.

He is quick, however, to point out that while desilting or cleaning of settlement ponds may seem like a simple task, it is not always as straightforward as it would initially appear. Cleaning these facilities can become an onerous task, as it involves the pumping of high solids materials from the facility being desilted and should an incorrect system or equipment that is not fit for the task be specified this could cause issues including environmental harm.

“Historically many operations have used manual excavation methods for desilting and cleaning, but our established track record has proved that this is not only inefficient, but it often fails to remove the required volume of sediment,” Vine says.

There are several ways to accomplish effective desilting, but it has to be done effectively and cost efficiently, and this is where IPR’s skilled and experienced team comes into play. The best option, according to Vine, is a site visit to assess the application requirements and conditions.

“In some instances, it is possible to pump the high solids material to another nearby dam or reservoir. However, this is sometimes not possible and in this type of scenario we implement an alternate solution such as capturing and storing the content in specialised geotextile bags while the water is separated from the solid material,” he explains.

Once the actual condition of the dam or pond has been assessed the decision can be made as to how to proceed. The SlurrySucker itself needs sufficient volume of water on which it can be floated, and should there be areas where this is not possible, then a hydro-mining solution is applied to these drier areas.

“What is also important is that we can effectively ensure mine and industrial water contaminated sites do not negatively affect surrounding areas and being equipped with remote controlled height adjustment of the primary slurry pump and dredge head assembly allows the SlurrySucker to operate without causing damage to plastic liners in dams and settlement ponds.

Vine highlights two product options – the Maxi SlurrySucker which is capable of moving 250 m³ an hour at 20% to 30% by volume – equivalent of approximately 70 dry tons per hour. The Mini SlurrySucker® operates at 100 m³ an hour, again at 20% to 30% by volume for roughly 30 dry tons every hour.

The SlurrySucker comes standard with a galvanised frame structure and IPR’s flexible design provides the option for stainless steel with polyethylene and UV-stabilised pontoons.

In conclusion, Vine says that the opting for the SlurrySucker option is also far safer as the barge itself can be operated remotely from a defined distance away from the dam or pond edge. This is much safer than having equipment and personnel on the dam.


It was a sombre tone at this year’s annual AfriSam Budget Breakdown event, but sales and marketing executive Richard Tomes reminded stakeholders that the company’s 90 years in business should be an inspiration that the construction sector remains so resilient.

AfriSam’s Executive Chairman Eric Diack agreed the company had seen many ups and downs, and hailed the Johannesburg event as an important forum for AfriSam and its stakeholders to gain vital insights to chart the path forward.

A regular contributor to the Budget Breakdown, Econometrix Chief Economist Dr Azar Jammine highlighted that the construction and building industries were still in the doldrums, with little sign of emerging from it soon. Dr Jammine pointed to the low economic growth rate and the poor level of gross fixed capital formation as the key culprits of the challenging milieu. While the Budget Speech contained a theoretical commitment by government to focus on infrastructure, there was not much to boost confidence.

He noted that private sector capital investment in South Africa had shown some improvement, but this was mainly in machinery and equipment. Investment in construction – including civil engineering – and building had declined 40 to 45% over the past decade. The slight recovery in residential building between 2020 and 2022, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, had faded.

“This is horrific, and there is little sign of it recovering,” he said. “The big loser is in the commercial space, which has fallen by 80% in terms of plans passed.”

Employment in the construction industry also continued to drop, and isnow 40% down from 2019 figures. The sector’s contribution to national employment is today only about 4,5%, having been over 6,5% around 2017.

“No other sector in the economy has been performing as badly,” he said. This was also reflected in the retail sales at builders’ merchants, which now ranked as the weakest segment of the retail sector.

Dr Jammine reiterated that crime was also a central factor in holding back progress in the construction industry, and was encouraged by the Business Leadership South Africa’s workstreams to work with government on energy, transport and crime.

“I don’t need to remind members of this audience of the debilitating effect that the construction mafia are having,” he said. “I only hope that government will listen to the private sector and involve them more in finding the solutions.”

With the ‘semi-gration’ of many South African professionals to the Western Cape, he noted that this province had recently taken the lead over Gauteng in terms of residential building plans passed. There had been a slight rise in numbers in Gauteng recently, however, which may point to a revival.

According to Richard Tomes, AfriSam Sales and Marketing executive, the insights from Dr Jammine confirmed that the construction industry will remain under pressure for some time.

“However, what we can learn from AfriSam’s 90-year legacy is that the industry is very resilient,” he said. “Over the past 90 years we have seen good times, and we have also survived through extremely tough times.”

He said he believed the construction sector – as with AfriSam – will come through this challenging period and will continue to create concrete possibilities for South Africa.

“As AfriSam, we look forward to being the construction industry’s partner of choice through thick and thin,” he said.


Data centres are experiencing significant growth in South Africa as the digital revolution continues to gain momentum. To keep up with the demand, these facilities must have the flexibility to expand rapidly when needed, as must the substations that provide them with power.

David Claassen, Managing Director of Trafo Power Solutions, says that modular substations have emerged as a perfect solution for accommodating the expansion of data centres over time. “Typically, data centres start with large structures that are only partially equipped with servers and related equipment, usually about 30% to 40%. The strategy is often to set up a cost effective facility to serve the initial customer base and expand the infrastructure as this base grows,” he says. “Modular substations offer the advantage of scalability, allowing data centres to start with the required number of substations and add more as demand increases.”

Data centres operate around the clock, demanding reliable and uninterrupted power. They employ backup systems like diesel generators and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) to ensure continuous operation. These backup systems can also be scaled up by adding additional units as needed.

Claassens says speed is of the essence in planning, constructing and expanding data centers since earlier operation means quicker revenue generation. “Modular substations are the preferred choice due to their quick design and construction capabilities, with the repetitive nature of manufacturing facilitating rapid production, and economies of scale in material requirements.”

Dry-type transformers and medium voltage switchgear are typically provided in data centre substation solutions provided by Trafo Power Solutions. These units step down incoming medium voltage power for low voltage servers and ancillary equipment on racks with the substations designed to seamlessly interface with other aspects of the data centre including low voltage distribution, medium voltage switchgear, UPS systems, and the overall control and monitoring system.

Efficiency is crucial for data centre success, as these facilities consume substantial electrical power. Trafo Power Solutions contributes to efficiency by designing and manufacturing energy efficient dry-type transformers with some of the lowest losses globally. These air-cooled transformers require minimal maintenance compared to conventional oil-filled transformers, reducing operational costs and minimising downtime.

Trafo Power Solutions has been involved in various data centre projects, ranging from 1 MW to 60 MW, supplying up to 20 modules for each project. They have also been involved in a  data centre project in the Netherlands, where they are supplying three 22,5 MVA, 50 kV/13.8 kV dry-type transformers being used in the intake substation, demonstrating their expertise in delivering customised solutions to meet unique project requirements.


Work is progressing well on the Wolf Wind Farm in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, with Concor carrying out the civils balance of plant – including an innovative design for a steeply inclined concrete road to the site.

The contract, which is being tackled in a consortium with Murray & Roberts company OptiPower for developer Red Rocket, will see Concor building 17 foundation bases for wind turbine generators on a ridge in the Klein Winterhoek mountain range. Concor Contracts Manager and Lead Project Manager for the consortium, Stephan Nel, explains that the bases are for two sizes of turbine: there will be five 6,2 MW Vestas V162 turbines – the largest in South Africa – and twelve 4,5 MW V163 models.

“The foundation bases for V162 turbines measure 22,5 m in diameter, while the V163 foundations are 21,2 m,” says Nel. “The larger bases will consume over 650 m3 of concrete each, with the slightly smaller bases taking almost 600 m3.”

Concor is conducting over 180 000 m3 of bulk earthworks for the base excavations and roadways on site – which includes 15 km of access road to reach the 17 wind turbines.  A total of 100 000 m3 of rock will be blasted during the construction of the project. After cleaning, a concrete lining is applied and specially designed anchor cages of steel reinforcing bar – weighing either 64 t or 70 t dependent on the base size – are installed.

Concrete from the batch plant at the foot of the ridge will – like all other wind turbine components and related equipment – have to traverse a steep 18% incline gradient to reach the top of the ridge where the turbines will be located. He highlights that this challenge required an innovative solution that could be rapidly executed.

“In collaboration with the client, consultants and specialist service providers, we designed a concrete roadway that could be constructed using the slipform method,” he says. “The 1,100 m roadway, measuring 7 m wide, was completed in January this year, paving the way for the on-schedule execution of the project.”

Among the challenges in the road construction was designing a concrete mix with a 35 slump – to prevent the poured concrete from moving on the slope – that would still be workable for the required window period. Nel notes that high daytime temperatures of 36 degrees C and above aggravated this issue further.

“After considerable planning, investigation and trialling, a solution was developed to allow the slipform paver and the cement trucks to operate on the steep incline, and to lay down the concrete road as planned,” says Nel. “The road was continuously poured at an advance rate of about 200 m a day, consuming some 1,600 m3 of concrete – reinforced with anchor beams and intermittent steel bars.”


Pilot Crushtec’s crushing and screening solutions are key for a wide range of applications within the energy minerals sector, and the company has built a significant footprint in these industry segments. Wayne Warren, Sales Manager Africa at Pilot Crushtec, highlights that the company has crushing and screening equipment operating successfully in lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, copper and graphite operations in the region.

“The flexibility of our mobile and modular equipment allows customers to tailor solutions to match diverse ore characteristics and processing plant requirements. This adaptability is crucial, especially when dealing with variations within the same commodity category, like lithium ores that differ in behaviour,” he explains. 

Pilot Crushtec’s equipment selection also considers material abrasiveness, minimising equipment wear by bypassing crushers when necessary. Their mobile equipment often includes pre-screening options as standard, reducing the need for additional screens.

Warren points to one case study that involves the supply of Metso mobile Lokotrack® trains for lithium crushing, where production requirements doubled due to high demand. In another project, modular equipment was adapted for ore sorters, highlighting the need for precision in crushing to avoid over-processing.

Pilot Crushtec continues to innovate, introducing equipment to the market like the versatile Metso Lokotrack® LT200HPX™ mobile cone crusher and the Metso Metrix remote monitoring system that is fitted to these machines. These advancements improve optimisation levels and offer remote machine monitoring and maintenance assistance.

The company also supports the mining industry’s efforts to reduce power consumption and carbon emissions by offering low-emission, electrically powered equipment options.

For safety and productivity, units feature built-in dust suppression systems. Additionally, Pilot Crushtec provides a 24-hour response service and an extended protection service warranty programme, ensuring minimal downtime.

In South Africa, the company has expertise in coal crushing and screening solutions, including specialised mobile and modular crushers designed for the coal market, meeting strict product gradings.


The increasing reliance of South African businesses on generator sets (gensets) to mitigate power disruptions highlights a crucial need for proper selection based on specific operational demands. Despite their growing usage, there’s still widespread confusion about how to choose the appropriate genset, often leading to inefficient and costly decisions. 

Understanding the differences between standby, prime and continuous applications is essential to optimise genset performance and longevity. This is according to Craig Bouwer, Senior Manager Gensets at WEG Africa, who explains that many customers mistakenly select gensets based solely on nameplate rating. 

“Understanding the specific application of the genset is crucial for the right selection, and the first step is knowing that genset applications are broadly categorised into standby, prime and continuous, each with distinct operational requirements,” he says. 

Standby gensets are seldom used, typically kept for emergency situations. These units have a limit on operational hours per year and a specific load factor. In South Africa, due to frequent load shedding, few gensets are used solely for standby purposes.

Prime and continuous applications are more common in the country. Prime gensets can run unlimited hours annually with variable loads, maintaining an average load factor below their maximum rating. Continuous gensets also operate unlimited hours, but with a constant and predetermined load.

Damian Schutte, Engineering Manager at WEG Africa, explains that understanding the difference between prime and continuous ratings is also critical. The load factor is a key differentiator and not the unlimited time requirement, with prime applications having variable loads and continuous ones having fixed loads.

Schutte uses a vehicle analogy to illustrate the differences: a continuous genset is like a car on cruise control operating at a steady speed within its capacity on a long-distance trip, while a prime genset is akin to a vehicle driving in the city. Standby can be perceived as racing between traffic lights. 

The choice of genset rating impacts its expected lifespan and maintenance needs. For example, continuous power may be required in mines during load shedding to supplement limited grid power, while industrial applications like workshops, with variable loads, would need a prime-rated genset.

Bouwer notes that standby power remains vital in essential service sectors for health and safety reasons, especially in environments like mines, hospitals, and data centres.

WEG Africa, as an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), uses these categories to guide customers in their genset choices, aiming to match their specific needs and expected service life. They caution against oversimplifying the selection process by just matching the total load with a genset’s nameplate rating, as this can lead to premature failure and additional costs.

“To ensure the correct choice, we work closely with customers assessing their load requirements, usage frequency and operational conditions and through this process ensure optimal genset selection,” Bouwer concludes. 


It has been another good year for transfer chute specialist Weba Chute Systems, and signs are that it will get even better.

While demand from the mining industry can be volatile, the company has developed a solid pipeline of projects – not only in southern Africa but also abroad. Mark Baller, CEO of Weba Chute Systems, is expecting 2024 to get busier, and believes that this trend will continue into 2025. 

“As customers recognise the value of custom-engineered transfer points in their mines and plants, we have seen demand grow in various regions,” says Baller. “There are good prospects in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo – where copper and cobalt mining is strengthening – and in platinum prospects in Zimbabwe, for instance.”

He notes that Weba Chute Systems has for many years been active in overseas markets, and is looking forward to fulfilling some large foreign projects. The company expects to supply a large package of about 50 chutes to a project in the US, and a gold mine expansion in Turkey will be supplied with up to eight custom engineered Weba chutes. 

“We continue to attract new customers who have heard about our specialised solutions, and who approach us with specific challenges they are trying to overcome,” he says. “We have had interesting engagements recently with companies operating in Jordan and Saudi Arabia – which promise to extend our reach beyond traditional markets.” 

Closer to home, Weba Chute Systems has continued to design and deliver substantial projects for Southern African customers. In South Africa, the company manufactured and installed 32 bespoke chutes for a steel plant. Through a leading EPCM company, it also supplied 10 large chutes to a platinum mine in Zimbabwe – to handle large run-of-mine material. 

“An expansion project at a local manganese producer has requested our services, so we have completed the engineering design for nine chutes and will soon begin the manufacturing process,” he says. “We have also been designing and delivering multiple chutes to three diamond mines in Botswana, and this will continue into next year.”

Baller highlights that the company has remained resilient to production disruptions such as loadshedding by the national utility in South Africa. As the owner of its design and manufacturing facility in Wadeville, south of Johannesburg, Weba Chute Systems has invested extensively in both renewable energy and backup power. This allows the facility to continue work uninterrupted, to meet customers’ deadline requirements without compromising quality. Its on-site solar power installation also assists in mitigating the rising cost of energy.

“By carefully managing our work environment and ensuring that all phases are fully resourced with the latest technology, Weba Chute Systems can deliver cost effective solutions that are tailored to each specific transfer point,” he explains. “For foreign contracts, we often have a cost advantage by conducting the design and manufacturing work in South Africa. At the same time, the value of our solutions is really measured by the extra production our customers achieve by optimising uptime through our high quality, engineered chutes.”


At the end of December 2023, De Beers’ Venetia Mine near Musina celebrated reaching 10,2 million Fatality Free shifts, a remarkable achievement as it transitions from open pit to underground operations.

The challenging journey to date has included reskilling the company’s open pit employees for underground operations, while coordinating the many contractors working to implement the ambitious Venetia Underground Project (VUP). Gavin Anderson, Senior Manager for Safety and Sustainable Development at Venetia, says the vision of ‘Pioneering a Brilliant Future for Venetia Mine’ needed a bold and innovative approach to safety. 

This challenging task was underpinned by a very comprehensive risk management programme – but there was a difference: instead of focusing on safety risk, the decision was made to take everyone on a personal journey towards safely creating one Venetia Mine.

“We developed our own holistic approach to operational risk management,” he says. “Rather than focusing purely on safety or on occupational health and hygiene, we have worked on giving employees a psychologically safe workplace in which to operate.” 

He explains that ‘psychological safety’ is a concept that moves away from a focus on management, and towards a new appreciation of leadership. Where leaders demonstrate care for their employees, he argues, then companies can drive safe production. 

“Traditionally, a manager would pursue safety compliance through checking that certain standards and procedures were in place,” says Anderson. “A psychologically safe workplace, however, is where employees feel free to speak up when they believe a procedure or risk assessment is not adding the necessary value to their safety efforts.”

From this foundation, employees can engage directly with leadership and there can be collaborative efforts to design and apply safety improvements. He notes that, once the right environment is created, more effective safety interventions and tools can be applied. One such initiative at Venetia is the Safety Sentry, in which each team elects a sentry to capture and communicate the safety observations of his colleagues during that shift. 

Using a tablet to record images, conversations or videos underground, the Safety Sentry is able to highlight areas where improvements can be made at the workface. Leveraging digital communication technology, this data is uploaded to a manager who can view, assess and take forward the observations or suggestions – both with the team and senior management. 

Another important avenue for Venetia’s safety approach is to remind employees of their families’ love for and reliance on them. A recent campaign asked employees’ family members to send video clips urging them to come home safely from work to enjoy the Christmas season – with these personal messages being played on screens in the workplace. 

“Focusing on the human component has given Venetia Mine the edge in terms of shifting safety practices,” concludes Anderson. 


Known for its extensive mine training offerings and innovative learning approaches, Murray & Roberts Cementation has further raised the bar with a ‘mock-up’ facility for underground mechanised mining. 

Tony Pretorius, Education, Training and Development Executive at Murray & Roberts Cementation, says the new installation is a quantum leap for mining-related training in Africa. Located at the Murray & Roberts Training Academy at the company’s Bentley Park complex near Carletonville in Gauteng, the new facility will give a fully immersive learning experience across the underground mining value chain.

“Our new mock-up facility is as close to a real mine as you can get,” Pretorius says. “Learners experience not only the look and feel of an underground bord-and-pillar mine, but even have the smells and sounds of such an operation.”

He emphasises that this experience is a valuable next step to complement the simulated and virtual reality platforms already provided to learners at the MRTA facility. To build skills, operators need to put their theoretical learning into practice – but the pressurised production environment of a real mine is often not the ideal location.

“Rather, our new facility provides a safe and low-cost learning environment, where learners can practice their skills without hindering production or compromising safety,” he says. “At the same time, they still get the sensory experience for developing the muscle memory they require for the real-life workplace.”

Equipped with essential first-line equipment such as drill rigs and bolters, the facility also has its own machinery for loading, hauling and dumping blasted rock. The realistic environment includes ventilation systems, support structures and blasting systems.

“Learners are taken through the full value chain of mechanised mining activities, from the waiting places, entry exam and safe declaration to the installation of support and cleaning of blasted rock,” says Pretorius. “They conduct marking, drilling and indexing of the face wall, charging up with inert explosives and simulating the blast with a centralised blasting system.”

He explains that MRTA’s extended reality framework follows the situational leadership model, which places considerable value on learner participation in activities – to entrench their applied competence. Built over recent years, the facility is housed in a large covered structure 3,5 metres high and covering some 1,125 m2. Together with its dedicated equipment, it represents an investment of over R35 million, he says.


With the implementation of Proximity Detection Systems (PDS) technology set to gather pace as surface mines seek to comply with gazetted regulations, PDS specialist Booyco Electronics is calling for careful attention to the management of ‘the people aspect’ to ensure successful adoption and utilisation of the technology.

Anton Lourens, CEO of Booyco Electronics, believes that the people aspect is the most important part of the PDS implementation journey, or any other new technology in general. Effective change management therefore minimises potential resistance and ensures a smoother transition.

The success or failure of any technological implementation depends, to a greater extent, on the effectiveness of the organisation’s change management strategy. The change management process, says Lourens, should involve not only those at the ‘coal face’ but also other key stakeholders such as management and executives to ensure understanding and seamless integration across the whole organisation.

“Employees’ willingness to adopt new tools in their day-to-day operations plays a key role in the overall success of the technology. It is important for people who use the technology to understand its purpose, benefits, capabilities and expected outcomes, which increase buy-in and user adoption, that are key to overall project success,” says Lourens. 

Booyco Electronics’ change management process helps mines get the most value out of their PDS investments, while also keeping personnel engaged and motivated. The first step, explains Lourens, entails a technical readiness assessment to understand how the technology will impact the mine in question. This often involves wide ranging engagement with the engineering and mining departments to explain the capabilities of the technology – what it can and what it cannot do. 

Once the technological capabilities have been defined, aligned to the mine’s Risk Assessments, the company starts with the provision of detailed training for employees to grasp why the mine is investing in the technology and how it works. 

“In addition, Booyco Electronics offers continuous refresher training courses in line with the identified needs of the mine. Based on the feedback from the mine, there is also a continuous optimisation process which helps support the ongoing success of the technology,” concludes Lourens.