Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy]]> vol. 115 num. 4 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Journal Comment</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>President's Corner</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>South African National Committee on Tunelling Young Members Group - 'SANCOT - YMG'</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Handover of model stope to Wits School of Mining Engineering</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>New head of Wits Mining School announced</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Wits-SRK link boosts rock engineering skills</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Re-aligning the cutting sequence with general support work and drafting a support sequence at Simunye Shaft</b>]]> 'Roof support awaiting time' (RSAT) is a term used at Goedehoop Colliery's Simunye Shaft to describe the potential production time lost due to the continuous miner (CM) standing idle waiting for roof support to catch up. Investigations revealed that in 2013, Simunye Shaft had approximately 1400 hours of RSAT, which suggests that the mine could have potentially produced an additional 280 000 t of coal. This project consisted of two parts. Firstly, the causes of the high RSAT and means to improve the situation were investigated. Secondly, as insisted by mine management, the CM cutting sequence was investigated as a possible cause of high RSAT. Machine-related challenges due to the roofbolter installing support too slowly, geological conditions (mostly hard roof conditions and slips), logistical challenges pertaining to the CM cutting sequence, man-related challenges related to operator fatigue, re-support, operator inexperience, and the absence of support targets were identified as main contributors to RSAT. Furthermore, results showed that the roofbolters in the sections at Simunye Shaft are slower than the CMs. A target of 28% reduction in RSAT was set. Experts from Kennametal and Fletcher were consulted to find solutions for the identified causes. In total, eight solutions for RSAT were identified, but the solution that contributed most significantly to reducing RSAT was to use hard roof drill bits as a standard product at Simunye Shaft. Calculations showed that by using hard roof drill bits, RSAT can be reduced by 43%, which is more than the specified 28% target. The cutting sequences at Kriel, Greenside, and Simunye Shaft, together with three newly developed cutting sequences, were simulated using the UCMS (Underground Coal Mining Simulation) program. A re-aligning principle was incorporated into the newly developed cutting sequences to align the cutting sequences to general support work and to reduce RSAT. A decision matrix revealed that a cutting sequence in which boxing takes place in R3 (third road to the right of the belt road) and in which the realigning principle has been incorporated will be the best option for Simunye Shaft. The recommended cutting sequence will lead to a 5% increase in production. <![CDATA[<b>Mining through areas affected by abnormal stress conditions at Syferfontein Colliery</b>]]> This paper investigates the conditions leading to the indefinite termination of production in four critical primary panels at an underground coal mining operation, the observed shortcomings in the mining approach, and the proposed strategy to mine through the affected panels. Initial assessment of the abandoned panel conditions indicated time-dependent strata failure, (i.e. bolted roof failure overrunning intersections), which occurred from mere minutes to up to four weeks post-production, with and without prior warning of failure. This prompted the constant re-supporting of back areas, which raised safety and productivity concerns. Investigation of the initial mining conditions revealed that the failures were due to a critical combination of factors, the chief of which was isolated horizontal stress. Other factors that were initially overlooked by the mine (i.e. influence of hydraulic stress, misinterpretation of borehole data), resulted in the conditions being described as abnormal. Remedial actions were determined, and in so doing, a new strategic approach was formulated to thoroughly address all failure concerns. The four panels were explicitly planned to serve as the main intake and return airways for the recently commissioned secondary ventilation shaft, as well as providing access to millions of tons in proven coal reserves. It is thus imperative to mine the panels. A feasibility study showed that the proposed strategy set for implementation would be financially viable. <![CDATA[<b>A critical evaluation of the water reticulation system at Vlaklaagte Shaft, Goedehoop Colliery</b>]]> Water is a very important component in the production process at underground coal mines. Current unfavourable economic conditions have forced the coal mining industry to identify and address every possible bottleneck preventing optimal production. An increase in water-related downtime was identified as one of the bottlenecks at Goedehoop Colliery's Vlaklaagte Shaft. The purpose of this project was to identify the various causes that contributed to the high downtime (501 hours in 2013, which led to a potential profit loss of R12.9 million) and to suggest possible solutions. After a thorough investigation the main causes of water-related downtime were identified as low water pressure and low water flow caused by pipe leakages and bursts. The main root cause for the low water flow and pressure was identified as being the low pressure resistance (1600 kPa) of the thin-walled galvanized steel pipes used in the underground inbye water reticulation system. The pipes were selected according to the previous 1000 kPa pressure requirement for the continuous miner. However, the pressure requirement changed to 1500 kPa, which resulted in the pipes being exposed to much higher pressures than designed for. The water reticulation system was reviewed and current and future underground pipe layout and water requirements were determined for the shaft. The time frame in which the water consumption would be the highest was determined to be between 1 January 2014 and 7 September 2014. Machine and sprayer specifications were used to determine the water consumption at the shaft. Three different solutions were considered to solve the water-related downtime problem and to ensure the efficient supply of water to the newly open sections. Permanent underground concrete dams, semi-mobile dams, or new pipe columns with a higher pressure resistance of 3200 kPa were considered. A trade-off study (taking into consideration cost, time to completion and ease of implementation, maintenance requirements, safety, and flexibility) was completed to determine which of these solutions would be most viable. <![CDATA[<b>Optimization of shuttle car utilization at an underground coal mine</b>]]> The purpose of the project is to convert current shuttle car utilization on an underground coal mine to best practice by focusing on change-out points and tramming routes, which have a major influence on shuttle car away times. Time studies were an integral part of the project as these enabled the determination of shuttle car away times. An indirect proportional relationship between shuttle car away times and productivity is established. Through the time studies, it is deduced that a third shuttle car will make an insignificant contribution to production when there is only one split open. During this time, maintenance on the third car can be optimized. In order to satisfy the mine's key performance indicator of keeping shuttle car away times less than 75 seconds, a belt extension must be scheduled after the third split is open. It is established that at any given time, a minimum of two shuttle cars should be used. When cutting on the left-hand-side of the belt road with only two shuttle cars available, the centre and left (left of the feeder breaker) shuttle cars should be used for coal hauling. When cutting on the right-hand-side, the centre and the right-hand-side cars should be used. If only one shuttle car is available, the centre car is the most efficient to use. Alternative anchoring configurations can be employed so as to enable cars (left or right, especially) to reach the opposite extremities of the panel and hence minimize cable length restrictions. <![CDATA[<b>Explosives utilization at a Witwatersrand gold mine</b>]]> Gold bearing deposits of the Witwatersrand basin are generally less than 2m thick and require conventional narrow-reef mining methods for extraction and employ explosives as a means of rock breaking. Optimal utilization of explosives is dependent on the overall design of the blast. The under-utilization of explosives arises when shot-holes are drilled inconsistently, overcharged, and when tamping is absent. This can be rectified by emphasizing the importance of good drilling practices as part of induction programmes and refresher courses. The project was aimed at determining whether or not explosives are being optimally utilized at project site. This was investigated through a study of the properties of explosives, mine standards, and recommendations for usage. Underground observations were made to determine whether or not mine standards were being adhered to. Historic data was obtained to establish the historic relationship existing between the quantity of explosives used (kg) and the production output (m²). This was then compared to the quantity of explosives the mine expects to use per unit of production. The results obtained were analysed to determine the presence and extent of over- or under-utilization. It was found that explosives are being under-utilized at the mine. More explosives are ordered than expected per unit of production. The explosives' properties are not thoroughly exploited during blasting, thereby requiring the use of more explosives than prescribed. <![CDATA[<b>Critical investigation into the problems surrounding pillar holing operations</b>]]> An investigation into pillar cutting was carried out at a platinum mine on the western limb of the Bushveld Complex. The focus was on crush pillar design and implementation in order to ultimately improve the compliance percentage for pillar cutting. The major findings from the investigation suggest that the pillar cutting problem lies with the implementation of the design rather than the design itself. Observations of the practical issues underground that prevent good pillar cutting were made. After these issues had been identified, recommendations to rectify these problems and a few other issues identified during the investigation were provided. The recommendations are aimed at improving the pillar cutting compliance and reducing the likelihood of pillar bursts or pillar runs, which will ultimately create a safer mining environment. <![CDATA[<b>LHD optimization at an underground chromite mine</b>]]> Conzal Mine was not meeting production targets in 2013, and it was established that this was caused by the inability of the load haul dump machines (LHDs) to tram the required tonnages. An investigation of the LHD productivity was therefore conducted to identify the inhibiting factors. This was accomplished by carrying out a literature review on LHD operations to gain in-depth knowledge and conducting observations in the working environment. The relevant information and data on the LHD type used at Conzal was also acquired. The major inhibitor was found to be excessively long tramming distances in all the sections of the mine. The one-way tramming distances were all significantly greater than the 90 m set in the mine's code of practice (COP), with the Main Shafts section having the longest average one-way tramming distance of 260 m. The other inhibitor was LHD utilization, which in 2013 was only 47% against a target of 70%. Simulation of the LHD operation, taking these two factors into account, showed that production could be increased by more than 100%. As a result, it was recommended that conveyor belts should be extended regularly in order to keep tramming distances within the recommended one-way distance of 90 m. In addition, utilization can be improved by minimizing employee absenteeism as well as by modifying the travelling routes such that LHDs do not encounter unnecessary delays. <![CDATA[<b>The viability of using the Witwatersrand gold mine tailings for brickmaking</b>]]> The Witwatersrand Basin is the heart of South Africa'a gold mining industry. The cluster of gold mines located in the Witwatersrand Basin generates a significant amount of mine tailings, which have adverse effects on the environment and ecological systems. In addition, disposal costs are very high. The exponential population growth in the Witwatersrand area has resulted in pressure on the reserves of traditional building materials. Quarrying for natural construction material is very expensive and damages the landscape. This work therefore examines the use of gold mine tailings in the production of bricks. Different mixing ratios of gold tailings, cement, and water were used. The resulting bricks were then cured in three different environments - sun dried, oven dried at 360°C, and cured in water for 24 hours. The bricks were then tested for unconfined compressive strength, water absorption, and weight loss. The results showed that the mixture with more cement than tailings had a compressive strength of approximately 530 kN/m². It was also found that the best brick curing system was in a water environment. Bricks made from tailings cost more than conventional bricks because of the higher quantity of cement used, but the manufacturing process consumes less water. Overall, the results indicated that gold mine tailings have a high potential to substitute for the natural materials currently used in brickmaking. <![CDATA[<b>Evaluation of some optimum moisture and binder conditions for coal fines briquetting</b>]]> Coal mining is a thriving industry and 53% of the coal mined in South Africa is used for electricity generation. Mechanization has made coal mining more efficient, but fines generation has subsequently increased. Up to 6% of the run of mine material can report to the -200 µm fraction. Common problems associated with fines handling include dust formation, storage problems, and high moisture levels. A method to turn this material into a saleable product instead of stockpiling it can add value to a company. Briquetting is a pressure agglomeration method where loose material is compacted into a dense mass (FEECO International, 2014). The briquettes must be able to withstand rigorous handling and transport operations without disintegrating. This study aims to investigate the optimum binder and moisture conditions required to produce a mechanically strong briquette using two different binders - a PVA powder (binder A) and a starch powder (binder B). It was found that for binder A the optimum moisture level was 12% to 14%. At this moisture level the greatest compression strength gains were observed, and low amounts of fines produced in impact and abrasion tests. The minimum amount of binder added while still obtaining a strong briquette was 0.5% binder A. For binder B the optimum moisture level was also 12% and the minimum amount of Binder B to be added was found to be 1%. Briquettes that were dried outside reached their peak strength after about four days, whereas the briquettes that dried inside took about 20 days to reach their strength plateau. Hardly any degradation took place on the surface of the binder A film after exposure of 300 hours of artificial weathering. Thermogravimetric analysis confirmed that neither binder A nor binder B will add to the ash content of the coal fines, as both binders totally decompose above 530°C. Binder B yielded stronger briquettes after 15 days and also generated less fines. It is therefore superior to binder A and would be recommended for further use. <![CDATA[<b>Air drying of fine coal in a fluidized bed</b>]]> The demand for energy has continued to rise worldwide in line with population growth. The majority of South Africa's electricity is supplied by coal-fired power stations. The amount of fine coal (-2 mm) generated at coal processing plants has increased, due mainly to mechanized mining methods. Fine coal retains more water, which lowers its heating value. Drying the coal is costly and it is difficult to achieve the required moisture content. Consequently, coal fines are often discarded. An estimated 8% of the total energy value of mined coal is lost1. Fluidized bed technology is often used to dry coal thermally, but this method is expensive and has an adverse environmental impact. The objective of this study was to investigate the removal of moisture from fine coal (<2 mm) in a fluidized bed operated with dry fluidizing air at moderate temperatures as the drying agent. The effects of different air temperatures and relative humidity levels were investigated in a controlled environment. The study further investigated the influence of coal particle size on moisture removal. The drying rate was found to increase with increasing temperature. The relative humidity of the drying air had a more pronounced effect on the drying rate, even at temperatures as low as 25°C.. It became more challenging to remove moisture as the particle size decreased. The gain in calorific value was greater than the energy required to dry the coal samples, showing that a fluidized bed using moderately warm dry air is an energy-efficient drying technology. The energy efficiency of the fluidized bed compared favourably with other thermal drying methods.