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International Acclaim for Mining Conference

The international conference on mining structures held recently at Sun City was exceptionally well received says Southern African Institute of Steel Construction’s (SAISC) executive director Dr Hennie de Clercq. “Our feedback from the delegates both local and foreign indicates that the subject matter was both relevant and informative and that the standard of presentation was outstanding,” says de Clercq.

Structural safety issues in relation to structures like headgears, machinery that convey both people and material up and down shafts and other safety critical structures came under the spotlight at the conference.

De Clercq says that one of the strong features of the conference was that it was addressed by practicing engineers making the information disseminated practical and implementable. “When one considers that many mines have been around for several years and that just a little rust in the wrong places can be life-threatening, clear and cohesive action plans are required to avert future disasters,” says de Clercq, “and the conference was an important step in formalising this process.”

Anglo America’s engineering manager: structures, Dr Geoff Krige, concurs. “The conference brought together, perhaps for the first time, engineers from around the world whose focus is specifically mining structures. It made clear the fact that there is a strong fraternity of dedicated specialists who are both capable of and willing to make a difference to the mining industry,” he said.

Krige added that while the conference affirmed that South Africa is the leader in structural mining engineering in the world, there is an urgent need to develop its academic research capacity to ensure that techniques are state-of-the-art. “Our miners tend to invest in research in processes which will help get the product out of the rock cheaper and quicker and ignore the mechanical issues. I hope that one of the results of this conference is having set in motion a process whereby management will in future recognise both the human and financial benefits of turning structural engineering on the mines into a state of the art science,” he said.

Krige says that there’s no reason why South Africa shouldn’t be the leader in promoting this process worldwide. “We have the advantage of being recognised as the world leaders in this discipline and our own SANS 10208, the only standard for mining structures that covers almost all aspects of structures in mining, is recognised around the world as the best. I have no doubt we have what it takes to make it happen.”

“We’ve also got to ensure that engineers who are made responsible for structures on a mine are competent to do so. At the moment the law says that an engineer will be appointed to be responsible for a mechanical operation on a mine but it does not stipulate the need for the engineer to be expert in that operation,” says Krige. The conference highlighted the necessity to ensure that competent engineers should be responsible for operations they understand.

De Clercq says that the conference was successful enough for SAISC to make it a regular event. “We’re looking at having it every three years or so in a different country. Obviously other large mining countries will be looked at like Australia, Russia, China, the US and other African countries. We are keen to ensure the continued dialogue within a fraternity of engineers whose subsequent actions can make a major difference to the quality of life of miners around the world,” he concluded.

The conference took place at Sun City from 9-11 November 2009 and among the list of prestigious presenters were Krige, Anglo American’s, Lincoln Electric’s Duane Miller, Hatch Australia’s Sabaratnam Logonathan, Hatch South Africa’s Francois du Toit and many others.

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