There is no doubt that mine workers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world with the threat of injury almost constant. Working in a confined, hazardous and constantly changing environment, they face a plethora of dangers from rock falls to electrocution and explosions.
South Africa produces 10% of the world’s gold and has 40% of the world’s known resources. But some of these resources are becoming increasingly difficult to exploit due to the great depths where they are situated. The South African Chamber of Mines reports that gold production has fallen due to depleting resources so mines are under tremendous pressure to go ever deeper to get to deposits. With eight of the ten deepest mines in the world, South Africa is mining at the world’s deepest depths. A gold mine located south-west of Johannesburg is currently the deepest mine in the world pushing beyond the four kilometre mark.
However, the deeper the mine the greater the risk to miners’ health and safety. A safe miner is a productive miner and safety goes hand in hand with efficiency and uptime. The Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate, established in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act, 1996 (Act No. 29 of 1996), as amended, strives towards a safe and healthy mining industry.
To achieve maximum productivity and safety, it is essential that superior quality and rugged reliability are the hallmarks of every piece of equipment used in mining, from small electrical components to large machines; of equally importance is that equipment meets all necessary safety standards; there simply can be no compromise.
Powermite and sister companies, Proof Engineering and Ampco, are committed to mine safety and productivity and manufacture and supply a range of flameproof and explosion proof product solutions for mining applications.
Electrical components such as cables, connectors, plugs and sockets are critical elements in keeping mine machinery operational and literally thousands of these components are used throughout the mining industry. Electricity always poses a danger and must at all times be treated with the utmost respect and care. Electrical explosions and electrocutions are very real and constant threats for both underground and opencast miners. So when it comes to electrical components there can be no compromise when it comes to quality and reliability, These components must meet all mine safety standards. “Improper insulation can lead to the ingress of contaminants such as dirt and water causing tracking and failure, or worse, an electrical explosion or electrocution of a mine worker,” says Donovan Marks, Managing Director of Proof Engineering, a Division of Hudaco.
According to Marks, 3.3kV 425A plug and sockets currently being used by mines are presenting an enormous threat. “The plug and socket is supplied with three pilots but because only one pilot is needed, two pilots are removed which can potentially lead to flashes and underground explosions. As a result mines are being issued with a section 54 forcing them to close, leading to downtime which mines can ill afford.”
Avoid a section 54
Proof Engineering has developed a new 3.3kV 425A restrained plug and socket. Marks explains that as the new design has only one pilot there are no open spaces, this solution leads to much safer operation and uptime.
Plugs, sockets, adaptors, connectors – safety first
Proof Engineering incorporates the latest technology in the design of their comprehensive range of electrical components that include connectors, plugs and sockets, couplers and adaptors for opencast and underground mining applications. The unique phase-to-phase segregation eliminates the risk of phase-to-phase failures which can cause costly downtime and lead to serious injury.
Ampco plugs and sockets suitable for certain underground operations feature a unique interlocking design which prevents the end-user from removing the plug under load.
TPU mining cables for poor visibility and hazardous opencast mining environments
TPU copper-screened mining cables from Proof Engineering increase personnel safety and reduce the risk of cable damage. The special design of the cables, with flexible Class 5 tinned annealed copper wire conductors, includes an orange / silver reflective tape under an outer extra-heavy duty ICEA S-75-381 compliant TPU jacket for easy identification and visibility, especially at night. This rugged design extends component service life, reduces maintenance and increases uptime and productivity. The 67.4mm diameter cables are suitable for use on electrically driven machines, movable electric apparatus in hazardous areas, portable electric apparatus, section feeders, medium-sized draglines, shovels and drills.
Doubling-up on compression protection
The Orion Steel Wired Armoured AMPgland, the Crater UnArmoured and Taurus Encapsulated Exd cable glands set the benchmark in safe and efficient sealing and securing of cables. These all-inclusive, world-class, safe electrical installation solutions feature a double-compression O-ring for optimum compression protection.
Theft is another leading cause of downtime and brass couplers are popular theft items due to their high resale value. To counter this scourge, Proof Engineering has developed a unique coupler that is manufactured from a non-theft zinc, copper and aluminium combination material. The ProAlloy coupler holds no resale value and is 33% lighter than its brass counterpart. “The subsequent reduction in theft risk lowers the potential for unplanned downtime and subsequent production losses,” explains Marks.
Training is key
Powermite considers training as key to the optimal and safe performance of components and equipment. Proper training upskills mine workers to ensure the correct fitment and use of equipment for improved safety in the working environment.
A mine like any other industry must be productive in order to ensure profitability and longevity. The South African mining industry is under sustained pressure having to face numerous challenges such as weak commodity prices, increased operational expenses, deeper mining levels and strained labour-management relations. Powermite remains committed to developing and engineering solutions that contribute to the productivity of mines and that put the safety of mine workers first.