Forging 21st century skills to boost productivity in South Africa’s mining sector, Murray & Roberts Cementation has further enhanced its training facilities to develop scarce skills in modern underground mining.
The well-known Murray & Roberts Training Academy (MRTA) at Bentley Park near Carletonville in Gauteng now boasts a specialised Engineering Training Centre for trackless mining machinery (TMM). According to Tony Pretorius, education, training and development (ETD) executive at Murray & Roberts Cementation, the centre will raise skills levels among operators, servicemen, artisans and apprentices.
“As mining becomes more mechanised locally, it is vital that the mining sector keeps up with the technical demands to maintain and repair advanced underground machinery,” says Pretorius. “There are simply not enough suitably trained and experienced artisans to keep the growing number of TMMs well maintained and fully operational.”
He highlights that there was considerable value in upskilling TMM operators to better understand and correctly operate their machines, for instance. This could take some of the pressure off artisans while also ensuring more uptime between equipment servicing.
“Mines aim to raise productivity levels with mechanised mining machinery, and this comes with greater technical demands on mine production and support staff,” he says. “This training will equip artisans with specific skills in mechanised engineering, which are not currently part of the syllabus for conventional trades.”
The centre – which was constructed during the national Covid-19 lockdown at a cost of R1,8 million – includes a workshop, wash bay and refuelling bay with all the necessary tools and infrastructure. It offers training suitable for people undergoing a trade or having completed a trade, introducing them into the wider mechanised mining equipment engineering space.
Pretorius notes that many people remain unemployed after completing their trades at an accredited trade centre; this new centre now enhances their employability while filling an important need in the mining industry’s technology trajectory.
“Here at Bentley Park, we have workplace approval with the Mining Qualifications Authority, authorising us to offer practical training to those undergoing trade training who need workplace experience,” he says. “Our mechanised mining equipment engineering centre can address the workplace learning element of their trade certificate – phase two and phase four of their training.”
The focus is on underground mechanised equipment such as load-haul dumpers (LHDs), roof bolters, drill rigs and utility vehicles. The training incorporates the MRTA’s leading-edge blended training methodologies including e-learning, virtual reality, simulation and workshop practical hands-on training.
“This gives our learners the knowledge, understanding and skills required in mechanised mining equipment engineering,” he says. “In addition to our own employees, we also provide training for the mining sector broadly, and can customise training for mining companies.”
The centre has already enrolled 19 apprentices in the mechanised mining equipment engineering training, and expects considerable interest from the mining industry as a whole. The MRTA is also working closely with the Mining Qualifications Authority to make the training available to qualified work-seekers.