Tag Archives: Murray & Roberts Cementation


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.


The year has started strongly for mining services specialist Murray & Roberts Cementation, with a resounding safety achievement of five million fatality free shifts. 

According to Mike Wells, managing director of Murray & Roberts Cementation, this landmark has been reached as part of a concerted corporate journey towards Zero Harm. 

“This exciting milestone, which we reached in early January 2021, is the result of years of commitment by every member of the company – through multiple initiatives and programmes,” says Wells. “This has included our unrelenting focus on the Major Accident Prevention (MAP) programme, as well as stringent risk assessments and the verification of critical controls in the field.”

Perhaps the greatest outcome of these efforts, he highlights, is that the company’s safety leadership has succeeded in motivating and inspiring all employees in fully internalising safety principles. This has entrenched the belief that Zero Harm can indeed be achieved, with each employee returning home safely every day.

“We have seen a vital attitudinal change over the years, where success has bred more success and all our people take ownership of their safe work practices – both personally and collectively,” he says. “This builds a resilient safety culture, which has included a crucial commitment to doing work right the first time.”

Underpinning much of the success in safe working practices has been the increased investment in effective training strategies at the Murray & Roberts Training Academy at Bentley Park near Carletonville. Here, the latest technologies and methods – supported by realistic mock-ups of mining environments – ensure that all workers are fully prepared for all working conditions. 

“Our mining customers today regard the commitment to fatality-free operations as a given – not only for themselves but for their service providers,” he says. “We are proud to be able to demonstrate our success as part of the broader progress in this field by the whole mining sector.” 

Over the years during which the five million fatality-free shifts have been achieved, Murray & Roberts Cementation has conducted a diverse range of projects across sub-Saharan Africa, including large shaft sinking contracts. Employee numbers over this time have averaged about 4,000, says Wells.


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.


The sinking of the 1,200-metre deep ventilation shaft at Palabora Copper is proceeding apace, notwithstanding the Covid-19 shutdown and restrictions.

Work began on the 8,5 metre diameter shaft early in 2019; pre-sinking has reached a depth of 50 metres and the changeover from pre-sink to main sink is almost complete, according to Murray & Roberts Cementation project executive mine development Graham Chamberlain.

As part of the development of Palabora Copper’s new LIFT II underground block cave mining area, the shaft will be developed to a final blind sink depth of 1,190 metres, with a drop raise to its final depth. Completion is expected in the third quarter of 2022.

“We were required by the client and national lockdown regulations to pause our work schedule, but operations resumed as planned when restrictions were relaxed,” says Chamberlain. “The priority is to ensure that safe working conditions are maintained, and the Covid-19 infections are avoided.”

The project is using automated machinery at the shaft bottom, removing employees from high risk contact areas. Modern, high-penetration rate hydraulic drills are deployed on robotic arms nested on the shaft-sinking stage. This allows operators to conduct drilling at any position in the shaft without physically being in contact with the drills.

“We shorten our cycle times with the use of explosive delivery pods containing sensitised emulsion,” he says. “Electronic systems deliver real-time data on blast holes numbers, volumes and pressures, improving blasting efficiency and quality.”

To reduce potential disruption from the intersection of poor ground conditions, Murray & Roberts Cementation takes the shaft lining to the bottom of the shaft during sinking. In the past, industry practice tended to carry this lining to about 20 metres from the bottom.

“Our lining approach is applied with the use of a modified version of the traditional shuttering, and our specialised concrete mixes which we design for this specific purpose,” he says. “The mixes are prepared and delivered by our on-site batch plant.”

Chamberlain highlighted that the company’s focus on Zero Harm and a rigorous safety regime continues to deliver a high level of safety on the project.


Vancouver-based B2Gold plans to conduct mining of the Wolfshag zone at its Otjikoto mine in Namibia and has appointed Murray & Roberts Cementation in joint venture with Lewcor Mining to establish the underground stoping horizon.

According to Allan Widlake, new business director at Murray & Roberts Cementation, mobilisation on site has begun and the contract will take 28 months. Otjikoto Mine is Namibia’s largest gold producer and has been in operation since 2015. The Wolfshag zone at Otjikoto comprises a series of shallow, easterly dipping mineralised shoots that sub-crop below calcrete cover, plunging for a strike length of at least 1,600 metres.

The contract will see a decline of 5 metres wide by 5,5 metres high being driven to the orebody from a portal in one of Otjikoto’s depleted open pits. There will also be two 4 metre diameter ventilation shafts created using raiseboring methods. One will measure 200 metres in depth, and the other 80 metres.

“We will be conducting this project in a strategic partnership with a highly professional local Namibian opencast mining and earthmoving contractor, Lewcor Mining,” says Widlake. “Lewcor is an existing service provider at Otjikoto and is well-regarded by the client and the industry.”

He says the operation will be highly mechanised and efficient, with equipment including drill rigs, dump trucks, load-haul-dumpers and utility vehicles, as well as shotcreting and ancillary equipment. About 150 employees will be active on the project, including a highly experienced crew from a recent contract in Zambia. Most of those involved will be Namibians, who will be trained as part of a special counterpart training programme to transfer skills to local workers.

Widlake says he is excited by the project and the prospect of Namibia offering strategic opportunities in the mining sector, as other mines consider evolving from opencast to underground.

He highlights that Murray & Roberts Cementation is one of very few companies worldwide with the experience and capability to conduct both development work and raiseboring as part of a single package.

“This gives us as the contractor much closer control of our projects, allowing us to reduce our subcontract-related risk,” Widlake concludes.


Further enhancements at the Murray & Roberts Training Academy (MRTA) training facility, Bentley Park, are keeping the organisation at the top of its game in mining skills development.

The extensive training infrastructure near Carletonville in Gauteng is constantly adding to its resources as the demand requires, according to Tony Pretorius, education, training and development executive at Murray & Roberts Cementation.

“Among our new facilities is an indexing wall on which drill rig operators can be trained to drill on a horizontal plane,” says Pretorius. “We are also constructing a new tunnel with a face wall on surface to teach miners how to take line and grade and accurately mark off a development end with laser technology.”

He highlights the value of the MRTA’s ‘blended learning’ approach, which makes the learning process more effective by including not just classroom lectures but also e-learning, virtual reality, bench modelling, simulations and integrated learning in a workplace mock-up.

The facility prepares trainees mainly for the hard-rock underground mining environment, in which Murray & Roberts Cementation is a leading contractor.

Other recently developed mock-up facilities at the site include a board-and-pillar layout constructed on surface, to facilitate practical, supervised training for most primary and secondary trackless activities. There is also a figure-of-eight surface roadway for LHD driver training, complete with brake-test slopes. The fleet of trackless vehicles used for training at MRTA includes LHDs, a drill rig, a bolter, a telescopic boom handler, a mechanical scaler and a mechanised shotcreting unit.

“The quality of our skills output – combined with the ongoing demand for entry-level skills by Murray & Roberts Cementation’s mining projects around the country – allow us to turn training into jobs,” he says. “In fact, we are creating hundreds of career opportunities for unemployed youth from communities near our operations.”

With grant-funding from the Mining Qualifications Authority, MRTA will this year train 176 young jobless learners in basic mining-related skills. Those who successfully complete the six-month programme will earn a Level 2 National Certificate in Health, Safety and Environment for Mining and Minerals. Most trainees – of which half are women – are taken up by Murray & Roberts Cementation’s contract mining operations, to begin exciting careers in the mining industry.


Murray & Roberts Cementation, Africa’s leading mining contractor, has been awarded a contract by Palabora Mining Company for a 1,200 metre deep ventilation shaft.

The shaft, with a lined diameter of 8,5 metres, will reach a final blind sink depth of 1,190 metres before a drop raise takes it to its final depth, according to Braam Blom, project executive at Murray & Roberts Cementation.

“The duration of this project is expected to be just over three years,” says Blom. “After mobilisation, site establishment and surface civils have been completed, we expect to conduct pre-sinking until the end of 2019, with the use of our special shaft sinking gantry to a shaft depth of 65 metres.”

A surface headgear and winder installation will then be constructed from January to March 2020. This will facilitate the slow sink to 200 metres and the main sink until February 2022. Canadian shutter and lining methods will be employed. The team is expected to conduct shaft stripping by mid-April 2022 and to dis-establish the site by the end of May 2022.

“There will be no stations or other excavations required, so this will help keep the team in a sinking cycle and optimise production levels,” he says. “We will run full calendar operations (Fulco) with 12 hour shifts and cycles of five day shifts, five night shifts and five shifts off.”

A relatively small labour force of 123 people is planned for steady main sinking conditions, with some sub-contractors conducting surface piling and civil works for the winder, headgear and other site construction. Shaft drilling itself will be done with two twin-boom Komatsu shaft drill rigs, and mucking by a Komatsu excavator with close to a ton of loading capacity.

“Ground conditions are expected to be a challenge in some areas, as profiled from the cover and core drilling,” says Blom. “However, we have various ways of reducing the risk and downtime during these intersections – such as keeping the shaft lining as close as possible to the shaft bottom.”

Blom highlights that the company continuously improves performance based on lessons learnt from its wealth of previous projects. This allows a constant focus on securing safe, sustainable and efficient shaft sinking, to deliver on the completion target.

Among the unique benefits offered by Murray & Roberts Cementation is its world class training facilities at Bentley Park, including mock-up shafts where employees and trainees build up first-hand experience of operating conditions underground.


Final year mining engineering students from the University of Pretoria recently had a taste of Murray & Roberts Cementation’s highly effective simulated learning environment.

The company’s world-class Training Academy at Bentley Park near Carletonville in Gauteng province offers a unique blend of e-learning and experiential learning in simulation conditions. The facility includes mock-ups of mine development areas and shafts, as well as a virtual reality blast wall which the Tuks students were able to experience.

With their leading-edge, technology-driven approach, executives from Murray & Roberts Cementation often lecture at local tertiary institutions and universities, adding to the knowledge base of students.

“The Tuks students were able to appreciate our targeted and holistic approach, in which we apply simulators in a blended learning experience,” says Tony Pretorius, the education, training and development (ETD) executive at Murray & Roberts Cementation. “This improves the way we transfer knowledge and build capacity among South African companies, to strengthen and build the local mining sector.”

Learners at Bentley Park complete structured e-learning modules, followed by visual training and pre-simulation training. They then undergo simulation training, followed by in-workplace learning using an actual machine under the direct supervision of a competent person.

“This is how we apply the situational leadership development model of ‘Tell, Sell, Participate and Delegate’,” says Pretorius.