Tag Archives: Murray & Roberts Cementation

MORE LOCAL ARTISAN SKILLS DEVELOPED AT VENETIA

As Murray & Roberts Cementation continues to push skills development throughout its projects, local community member Abram Sebola has recently graduated as a qualified electrician from the company’s learnership scheme.

Sebola, who has been working for Murray & Roberts Cementation since April 2015, is the second local artisan produced from the company’s team at the Venetia Underground Project (VUP) near Musina in Limpopo province. He began his three year apprenticeship in 2019. The company has been the lead contractor on the VUP project since 2014, which includes the sinking, equipping and commissioning of two vertical shafts and a decline shaft.

“The highlight of my journey towards becoming an artisan has been the vast knowledge that I have been exposed to in the electrical field on this project,” he says. “I have also been exposed to different working areas, and different supervisors; this has assisted me in establishing valuable relationships with different role-players on all levels – helping to make my journey interesting and full of learning.”

His interest in the electrical field had developed while working as an engineering assistant on VUP, and he successfully applied to his employer to become an electrical apprentice. According to Murray & Roberts Cementation chief engineer at VUP, Shadrack Ntsele, the company provides accredited training at its world class facility at Bentley Park near Carletonville. Practical aspects of Sebola’s learnership were then conducted under qualified supervision on site.

Murray & Roberts Cementation has since the inception of the project developed employees from the local labour sending area not only in the engineering field but has also assisted individuals to obtain their blasting tickets. Ntsele explains that this forms part of the on-site development model where the objective is to recruit at the lowest levels and develop higher level skills from within the project, ensuring that employees get the opportunity to progress from general worker to utility vehicle driver, dump truck driver all the way to LHD operator and beyond.

“By following this model, we contribute to the continuous upliftment of the local communities in the area,” he says. “We value all our employees, and it gives us great pleasure to see them grow with our project.”

Sebola says he looks forward to sharing knowledge with others as he applies his trade in his future career.

“Of course, I still feel quite new in my status as a qualified artisan, and will focus on gaining experience in the next few years,” he says. “I hope that the hard work I put in from my side will help ensure that we can grow the Murray & Roberts Cementation brand at Venetia.”

Having achieved this life-changing milestone, his advice to others is to invest their time in something they are truly committed to. “When you are passionate about something, working on this will result in you being happier with your life,” he says.

ACQUISITIONS STRENGTHEN MINING CONTRACTOR’S CAPABILITY

The global Mining Platform of Murray & Roberts has significantly extended its capabilities over the past several years with two key acquisitions in the US and Australia, says Mike da Costa, CEO of the platform.

The two companies in which majority interests have been acquired are San Diego-based Terra Nova Technologies in the US, a materials handling specialist, and Australian start-up Insig Technologies, which develops and provides digital solutions in the mining field.

Terra Nova designs, supplies and commissions overland conveyors, crushing/conveying systems, mobile stacking systems and in-pit crushing and conveying systems. It has delivered around 75 projects in more than 15 countries.

“Terra Nova is a perfect fit for M&R’s Mining Platform and gives us the capability of delivering, for example, conveying systems of up to 12 000 t/h capacity,” observes da Costa. “Its biggest market is North America but it is also active in South America and has an office in Santiago in Chile. It has, in fact, just won a major contract in Chile. Our intention is to grow the business by leveraging our global footprint. We will soon establish an Australian arm and we could also bring the company’s services to the African market.”

Commenting on the Insig Technologies acquisition, da Costa says the company is playing a key role in the Mining Platform’s move towards greater digitalisation of its operations.

“We’ve been working on a digital strategy for the Mining Platform for some time now and the acquisition of Insig is central to our digital journey,” he says. “Insig’s speciality is extracting data from underground mining environments in real time and then using this data to optimise operations. The company also has in-depth capability in the remote control of machines. We will be using its systems in house initially but will eventually market them to the wider mining industry.”

Interestingly, Insig is playing a key role in developing an energy-saving solution at an Australian mine where our Australian company is working. “Basically, we’re looking at capturing the energy that would normally be wasted in a hoisting shaft and storing it in batteries,” da Costa explains.

The Murray & Roberts Mining Platform consists of three regional businesses. These are Murray & Roberts Cementation, headquartered in Johannesburg but with branches in Kitwe in Zambia and Accra in Ghana; Cementation Americas (which incorporates Cementation USA), based in Salt Lake City, which handles the Americas; and RUC Cementation, which operates out of Perth in Australia and works throughout Australasia and south-east Asia.

BENTLEY PARK GOES GREEN WITH ITS OWN SOLAR FARM

Taking forward its sustainability agenda while safeguarding operational performance, Murray & Roberts Cementation is now powering its Bentley Park site near Carletonville using solar energy.

The move puts the multi-purpose training and engineering facility on a stable and reliable energy platform, according to Murray & Roberts Cementation engineering services executive Hercilus Harmse. It is also in line with the company’s strategic aim of reducing its carbon footprint. 

“In recent years, the case for a more sustainable energy supply has grown – especially with ongoing load shedding and power outages due to cable theft,” says Harmse. “This solution allows the leveraging of solar energy to protect the facility against the direct and indirect disruption caused by unreliable electricity supply.”

The solution is a hybrid system using solar energy for most of the site’s requirements, with lithium batteries providing continuous electricity in the case of outages. The existing backup diesel generating system adds another level of redundancy.

“This comprehensive design assures customers that we can continue to deliver our training and refurbishment services irrespective of the threats facing our national energy network,” he says. 

The photovoltaic installation comprises almost 1,400 solar panels and will generate 726 kW of power for the site. Securely situated adjacent to Bentley Park’s offices, training rooms, workshops and other infrastructure, the solar farm comprises about a hectare of north-facing, ground-mounted photovoltaic panels at an efficient 12-degree angle. These also feed into 800 kWh of battery capacity, which provide uninterrupted flow to the range of sophisticated electrical and electronic equipment on site.

“As our operational technology at Bentley Park advances, there is steadily more risk posed by unplanned outages,” Harmse notes. “Our training equipment, for instance, today includes sensitive and costly computerised tools such as simulators, which ideally require constant and controlled energy supply.”

These risks add to the time and opportunities lost when outages prevent training being conducted according to plan, or refurbishments and other engineering work being completed on time. He argues that the direct and indirect costs of power failures made the decision to invest in renewable energy a “no-brainer”. The board approval of the project’s budget allowed work to proceed from mid-2021, with the installation starting in November 2021 and commissioning was completed at end-January 2022. It is estimated that the investment will pay itself back through direct savings in just seven years.  

Prior to starting, the project required extensive data collection and analysis to identify electricity usage patterns and peaks – leading to the most effective strategy. Harmse says the renewable power project forms part of a broader sustainability strategy at Bentley Park, which includes environmental initiatives related to water, recycling and the reduced use of hydrocarbons in energy generation. 

“This bold step into a renewable future puts us on a firm footing where customers can feel confident about our commitment to sustainability and our ability to deliver,” he says. 

TRAINING SUPERVISORS FOR A MECHANISED, AUTOMATED FUTURE

Smart mining is a key focal point of leading underground mining contractor Murray & Roberts Cementation, and its digitisation strategy is strongly supported by its approach to supervisor training. 

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is having major impacts on how we mine, so it is to be expected that our training focus must adapt accordingly,” says Tony Pretorius, education, training and development (ETD) executive at Murray & Roberts Cementation. “To underpin our digital strategy as a business, our training is evolving in terms of its outputs and its methodologies.”

Pretorius highlights that technology is improving safety and productivity in mining by facilitating automation, through either line-of-sight or tele-remote operation of equipment. 

This is placing new demands on supervisors, in their task of influencing better team performance. The company is introducing a range of digitisation initiatives in its projects, including a condition monitoring system to track the monitor the health of trackless mining machines (TMMs).

“Supervisors today still need to manage processes, systems and schedules to meet their objectives,” he says. “In addition, though, they also need the capacity to interpret the wealth of data that digital technology produces.”

The Murray & Roberts Cementation Training Academy (MRTA) at Bentley Park near Carletonville prepares supervisors with a series of e-learning modules including TTM appreciation, supervisory soft skills, legal liability, and mine-specific standards and procedures. 

However, the programme becomes more innovative with the inclusion of its neuro-leadership component.

“This course teaches supervisors about various personality types, their respective strengths and weaknesses, and how the brain influences the behaviour of those personalities,” he says. “This helps our learners to understand the different approaches inherent in personality types, and to take these into account in developing their leadership skills.”

The training itself leverages the use of two-dimensional and three-dimensional animations in the classroom, as well as interactive touchscreens. Supervisors are also exposed to the virtual reality space, where they are required to identify workplace hazards and risks and apply measures to manage these risks. 

“Our virtual reality modules include waiting place procedures, entry examination and safe declaration, as well as emergency preparedness and survey,” says Pretorius. “This is followed by learning in the mock-up environment, where they perform marking on the 3D blast wall with laser technology, and also sequential firing and blast advances.”

COACHING LEADERSHIP FOR SUPERVISOR IMPACT

As a leading innovator in mining skills development, the Murray & Roberts Training Academy (MRTA) is using a coaching initiative to strength the outcomes of its supervisor training. 

According to Tony Pretorius, education, training and development (ETD) executive at Murray & Roberts Cementation, the aim is to raise the impact of the training investment, to deliver optimal team performance. This intervention builds on the success of the company’s Licence to Supervise Programme which targets miners, artisans, shift bosses and engineering foremen.

“By deploying specialised coaches who understand the concepts of neuroscience and safety leadership – as well as technical skills in mining – we can ensure our supervisors effectively apply in the workplace what they are taught on our courses,” says Pretorius. “While the Licence to Supervise Programme is run over four weeks, the coaching is an ongoing process.”

He notes that behaviour is not always changed overnight, and sometimes requires an extended period of corrective and developmental coaching. The coaches participating in the scheme are well qualified and highly experienced at mine overseer level, and are licenced to supervise trainers. The process of coaching reinforces key areas of supervisor responsibility such as leadership as well as risk management in the fields of safety, health and environment (SHE).

“It often takes time to secure the application of soft skills in the workplace,” he says. “The learning journey is intended to progress our supervisors from compliance to resilience, to support our corporate vision as a leading mining engineering contractor.”

The coaching is currently focused on supervisors in Murray & Roberts Cementation, but can be offered to external clients who are interested in taking a similar approach in their skills development practices. The Licence to Supervise Programme has been initiated by and applied within Murray & Roberts Cementation, but will be rolled out across the group’s other platforms where required. There are 800 to 1000 supervisors working in the business at any one time, he says, highlighting their key role as facilitators of safety and productivity.

“Leaders need to understand that they influence the behaviour of those reporting to them,” says Pretorius. “By instilling a positive approach to safe production – among operators and other staff – supervisors are critical to successful projects; our coaching will further enhance their development and performance.”

TRAINING MECHANISED OPERATORS ENTERS VIRTUAL AGE

Virtual reality, simulation and mock-ups are among the range of learning platforms that the Murray & Roberts Cementation Training Academy (MRTA) is using to raise the bar in training operators of mechanised equipment. 

The impact of these enhanced training techniques is not just improved safety and productivity in mining operations, but also a business cost awareness, says Tony Pretorius, education, training and development (ETD) executive at Murray & Roberts Cementation. 

“Our unique approach to training mechanised operators takes the process well beyond the regulated requirements,” says Pretorius. After covering the psycho-motor skills, induction, legal and technical skills, and the relevant standards and procedures of the mine, MRTA takes an innovative approach to the more practical elements of the training. For instance, learners are placed in a virtual environment to assess the condition of equipment, followed by videos which show how this equipment operates in the workplace and how it is to be inspected. 

“They then progress to the use of simulators, where we can monitor three main areas of proficiency: health and safety; machine appreciation; and productivity enhancement,” he says. “The academy’s selection of simulators for this purpose includes the Sandvik DD321 drill rig, the Sandvik DD311 bolter, the Sandvik 514 load-haul dumper and the Sandvik 517 dump truck.”

He notes that a compact, mobile and immersive virtual reality drill rig simulator has also been introduced, allowing learners to experience a range of tasks. These include accurate indexing according to surveyed positions, different face conditions and various drill and blast patterns. It also simulates emergency triggers, and highlights where the operator’s drilling behaviour is sub-standard, showing the consequences of this for boom and drilling consumables. 

“Operators can also receive feedback simulations, where the cost of consumables and operational disruptions are explained,” he says. 

The learners can then be introduced to the mock-up environment at MRTA, where they can have the real experience of machine operation in a confined space. Here, they are required to demonstrate applied capability in emergency preparedness, machine inspections and brake tests as well as machine set-up and operations. 

“What is important for all operators to understand is how their behaviour impacts on mine costs and productivity,” says Pretorius. “This is one of the key areas where our interventions distinguish us in the training space.”

He says only after this intensive preparation are the learners placed in a workplace where they can progress to the required applied competency levels in a safe manner. 

SUPERVISORY LEADERSHIP HOLDS KEY TO SAFE MINING

While leadership development at the top management levels of the mining sector tends to be well-researched and better resourced, there is a burning need to build the capacity of the industry’s supervisory levels.

This is according to Tony Pretorius – Education, Training and Development (ETD) Executive, Murray & Roberts Cementation, who unpacked what this means in real terms for the mining industry. 

“This is particularly important in the arena of safety, where significant gains can be made if production teams are imbued – through good leadership – with a daily commitment to safe working practices,” Pretorius explains. “It is clear to most forward-thinking businesses today that organisational culture underpins positive results; as importantly, it is also accepted that such a culture must be driven by leadership.”

He says there can, however, be barriers to the effectiveness of leadership. This presents as a kind of ‘permafrost’ at certain levels within an organisation, and the quality of supervisory skills can be vital in preventing this barrier from forming. To help address this, the field of neuroscience has been one of the most exciting themes running through training and development in recent years.

Supervisory training programmes can leverage neuroscience by giving learners a better understanding of how the brain interprets the information it receives. It gives supervisors insight into how this information is ‘translated’ – based on how learners feel and on their level of emotional intelligence. It considers, for instance, the importance of personality types, their respective strengths and weaknesses, and the ways that negative emotions can undermine team performance. 

The next important step, he says, is to consolidate the value of this training into the organisation’s performance management system. This means refining key performance indicators to hold supervisors accountable. Such as approach ensures that new skills are applied and strengthened, rather than lost through lack of use, and can be measured by their impact in the workplace. 

“In many ways, performance management has been the weak link in the chain – although it is critical to changing the way that leaders behave. Only with this kind of change will industry see further improvements in operational safety,” he says. 

The role of senior management is, of course, an integral part of this journey to instil a culture of safety. In addition to the company’s interventions in supervisor development, Murray & Roberts Cementation is also working with the University of Pretoria to gear its top leadership teams for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including a programme focused on human factors in safety risk.

Pretorius says that the honing of skills by both managers and supervisors has an added benefit: it leads to more fruitful engagement between these two levels, building the organisational culture and the way that key company messages find their way into behaviour patterns. 

“As a company, Murray & Roberts Cementation accepts that we work in a hazardous environment. However, we believe that zero incidents are achievable, as is zero harm. Safety is not just a priority but a value, and our focus is on empowering people to manage risk.”

“In the end, safe production brings gains and efficiencies in time, cost and quality – giving companies a range of bottom-line benefits deriving from smooth operations and from delivering projects according to plan and specification,” Pretorius concludes. 

HIGH-TECH REVOLUTION OPENS DOORS FOR ON-SITE MINE TRAINING

In a quantum leap for training in the underground mining sector, the Murray & Roberts Cementation Training Academy (MRTA) is strategically positioning itself to take its world class learning systems to customers on their own sites.

This innovative move, according to Murray & Roberts Cementation education, training and development (ETD) executive Tony Pretorius, incorporates the use of remote e-learning solutions coupled to Dover Assessment for psychomotor skills, VR Simulation, mass assessment tools and classroom response systems – or ‘clickers’. 

“It is an exciting step beyond the MRTA’s industry-leading facilities at Bentley Park near Carletonville, and opens doors for companies to generate and upgrade skills even during the Covid-19 pandemic”, Pretorius says.

“Making use of the latest technologies – such as interactive touchscreens – we can now offer two-dimensional and three-dimensional training interventions,” he says. “This can be deployed with virtual reality (VR) training modules, including the use of VR simulators that we are developing with our strategic technology partner, Simulated Training Solutions (STS).”

Among the high-tech advances being driven by the academy is a portable VR drill rig. The portfolio of ground-breaking training tools will be easily transported in a purpose-designed trailer to sites convenient to the customer – even on mines themselves. 

Applying the tools, he says, will be members of MRTA’s experienced team of trainers, accredited by the Mining Qualifications Authority.

“This gives even remote mining sites the chance to enhance skill levels, productivity and safety,” he says. He points to the ongoing difficulty that companies face in conducting group activities under Covid‑19 protocols, and particularly in moving personnel across borders. 

In addition to these regulatory restraints, this new training infrastructure could also reduce the cost of having staff attend off-site training for extended periods – where costs are raised by travel and accommodation.

“We believe that our state-of-the-art educational innovations can give remote mines unprecedented access to valuable skills transfer with real bottom-line benefits to be gained,” he says. 

Looking beyond mining operations themselves, Pretorius also highlights plans to reach out to communities needing skills development to combat unemployment. This socially responsible approach to training is already embraced at the MRTA facilities, but could in future be more widely available through this injection of technology. 

The academy’s new age of training systems will also be rolled out within the projects of Murray & Roberts Cementation itself, further enhancing the company’s reputation for performance excellence and safety. 

“This new technology definitely raises the level to which we can take industry skills, and we anticipate an enthusiastic response from both internal and external clients,” says Pretorius. “We believe strongly that this is the future of training – where we leverage digital technologies like VR to help take mining expertise into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

TAKING THE DIGITAL ROUTE IN UNDERGROUND MINING

As the mineral sector seeks safer and more automated operations in line with the ‘smart mining’ vision, leading underground mining contractor Murray & Roberts Cementation is making good progress with its own digitisation strategy. 

According to Mike Wells, managing director of Murray & Roberts Cementation, its new projects are increasingly embracing the power of digital technology to streamline operations and drive down unit costs. 

“Progress in applying wi-fi technology to underground mines is allowing us to introduce a range of digitisation initiatives in our projects,” says Wells. “This includes a condition monitoring system (CMS) to track the operating data of trackless mining machines (TMMs) in order to monitor their health.” 

This widens the scope for more effective predictive maintenance, and also indicates patterns in operator behaviour that management can address and improve. With modern TMMs being fitted with a higher degree of electronic control units (ECU’s), all interconnected and feeding data back to the machines’ control units, underground wi-fi now allows real-time data captured by the CMS data loggers to be sent to control rooms for instant analysis and action by specialist software applications 

“We are also applying production control systems (PCSs) – making use of heavy-duty ‘plods’ or tablets – in the cabin of machines,” he says. “Rather than using manual paper systems, operators can have digital pre-start checklists and can log the starting and stopping of various activities underground.”

These technologies provide valuable information to supervisors and managers in their allocation of people, machines and other services where they are required. In particular, the real-time transmission of the data allows decisions to be taken quicker – leading to better results and greater efficiency in the application of resources. 

Fixed installation monitoring is another important element of the benefits to be leveraged from a digital communication network, he says. This relates mainly to static equipment like dirty water pumps and ventilation fans, which are central features of most mining operations. 

“By linking these systems to the mine’s digital backbone, we are able to monitor their operation and importantly, also start and stop them, from a central control room,” says Wells. 

A key resource behind this strategic direction is intelligent solutions specialist Insig Technologies – recently acquired by group company Murray & Roberts – who is developing agnostic interfaces between the systems of various original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

“We are aiming for agnostic systems and data loggers that will ‘talk to’ machines from various TMM suppliers,” he says. “For instance, we want to be able to activate a ventilation-on-demand functionality from a remote location. This would allow an operator to divert ventilation capacity to a heading where a blast has just taken place, facilitating more rapid extraction of fumes and facilitating quicker re-entry.”

Murray & Roberts Cementation has already implemented many of these innovative strategies at B2B’s Otjikoto gold mine in Namibia, and will also roll them out with a battery-powered mining fleet at Ivanhoe Mines’ Platreef project in Limpopo province, South Africa. 

DEPTH OF ENGINEERING CAPACITY UNDERPINS MINING

Engineering remains the backbone of mining, and is a focus that Murray & Roberts Cementation continues to prioritise through its extensive capabilities in engineering services. 

“More than ever, our customers are looking to us for engineering excellence that will underpin their safety, productivity and profitability,” says Hercilus Harmse, engineering services executive at Murray & Roberts Cementation. “This means retaining a formidable base of local expertise, a well-resourced engineering facility and a range of specialised offerings.”

Located at the company’s 57 hectare Bentley Park premises near Carletonville, south-west of Johannesburg, is some 9,690 m2 of covered workshop space – constantly busy with a variety of engineering activities. The engineering personnel numbers almost 70 permanent, qualified technical staff, with more contractors brought in as work requires, says Harmse. The workshops link with the Murray & Roberts Training Academy, situated on the same site, to further develop hands-on artisan and technical skills.

“Key at our Bentley Park facility is our rebuild and refurbishment workshop for trackless mining equipment,” he says. “We can completely refurbish equipment such as load haul dumpers, drill rigs and utility vehicles from a range of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).”

This work is conducted on equipment in Murray & Roberts Cementation’s own large fleet, as well as on behalf of mining customers. During 2020, over 30 full rebuilds were conducted for customers, complete with on-site commissioning. 

“Our long history in the sector gives us a depth of knowledge and systems that comply with the necessary ISO certifications, as well as the stringent specifications of OEMs,” he says. “We work closely with OEMs to ensure quality assurance and quality control in line with customers’ expectations and codes of practice.”

The capability includes a fabrication facility for light, medium and heavy steel structures. The company’s fabrication and boilermaking expertise is applied in a number of applications, allowing complete new frames for LHDs and drill rigs to be built from scratch.

“This local refurbishment and fabrication capability is part of our wider contribution to the skills base of the South African economy, which we must nurture in pursuit of inclusive economic growth,” says Harmse. “This local content is today a more formalised requirement in the Mining Charter, but we have been working this way for many decades.”

Murray & Roberts Cementation’s specialised rigging team also plays a vital role in heavy rigging and installations, especially with regard to winders and winder ropes. Providing a scarce skill-set to mines in various countries, the team tackles the roping up of new winders, replacements, tensioning, servicing and remedial rope repairs among its tasks. 

“In response to our own needs – as well as those of our mining customers – we are also active in container conversions for specialised purposes,” he says. “We convert these 6 metre or 12 metre containers into change-houses, laundries, offices, pumping stations or storage facilities, to name just a few uses.”

The technical capability at Bentley Park covers the full scope of trades and skills involved in producing these structures – from metal work and racking to electrical wiring and plumbing.

“Our in-house capacity and experience in delivering this range of engineering services ensures customers of a cost-effective solution and rapid response times, while not compromising on quality,” he concludes.