Mining and its related industries are critical to South Africa’s socio-economic development. The sector accounts for a large portion of the market capitalisation of the JSE and continues to act as a magnet for foreign investment in the country.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has also flagged the significant role the sector will play in accelerating South Africa’s recovery from the country’s coronavirus-induced economic slump.
We often think of mining in terms of miners doing the work – going underground to mine gold, or working in open cast pits to mine coal. It’s a labour-intensive industry. But running a mine efficiently is about so much more than extracting resources. It’s about ensuring that the mine remains operational at all times.
The causes and costs of downtime
There are many reasons why a mine may experience downtime, which is not only devastating to mining customers but has a knock-on impact across the mining value chain and ultimately South Africa’s economy.
Injuries and fatalities
When an accident takes place on a mine site, the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) may shut the mine down while the incident is investigated or insist on mandatory training. The costs associated with even a single mine shaft being closed down can be astronomical.
How we can help
Through our Adcorp partner business, ATT, we assist our mining customers with preventative training that ensures accidents are avoided. If an accident does take place, targeted training that is incident-specific can be conducted over one to two days to minimise the shutdown period as well.
Equipment manufacturer Cummins has estimated that the downtime of a mining dump truck can cost up to USD$1 000 per hour, and an excavator that is not operational costs even more.
There are two types of downtime that mines experience: unscheduled downtime due to equipment breakdowns and failure and scheduled downtime for maintenance.
The problem with unscheduled downtime is that often the symptoms are attended to and not the root cause. Root cause failure analysis is an area where having the right skills on site is critical to avoid future unscheduled downtime. If you are only treating the symptom, the event is likely to occur again.
Here’s an example of how a root cause analysis looks: A conveyor gearbox was installed on a mine site and it was sized to the load as per the norm. Over time, the load of this particular conveyor increased beyond the design specification of the gearbox, resulting in premature failures. What was causing those failures? A root cause analysis identified this and a new gearbox correctly sized to the current – and future – load expectations was installed.
The lesson? Skilled plant shutdown and maintenance experts who are efficiently ready and available to mobilise to clients’ sites as soon as notice is given, working with mines from the planning phase to the wrap-up phase of the shutdown.
With a well-executed shutdown and maintenance plan, a significant reduction in downtime and increased operational efficiencies can be achieved.
Scheduled downtime is necessary to avoid or reduce the failure and breakdown of equipment in the future, however, as we’ve seen, any downtime costs mines, which is why there are a number of key considerations that should be taken into account during production planning. This involves all disciplines working together to understand the entire value chain of how downtime impacts operations.
Specifically, maintenance should be proactive and predictive. This allows best practice to be put in place.
Unfortunately, when a mine only reviews problems once a failure has occurred, the losses are already piling up. Working with a partner trained in best-practice ensures that a forward, future-orientated approach is taken to all operations. Mining may be one of the oldest industries in South Africa, but there are many ways to streamline operations and boost operating profits through a skilled resourcing partner.
How we can help
BLU offers a team of plant shutdown and maintenance experts who are efficiently ready and available to mobilise to clients’ sites as soon as notice is given. With a well-executed shutdown and maintenance plan, BLU offers a reduction in downtime and increased operational efficiencies. Our team of experts endeavours to work with the client from the planning phase to the wrap-up phase of the shutdown.
When labour unions call for shutdowns, the knock-on effect can be extremely costly. It is very difficult for mines to maintain healthy cashflows if no mining is taking place. These shutdowns can often take weeks to negotiate, during which time no minerals are being extracted and contracts are not being met.
How we can help
Through our ability to immediately supply skilled labour on demand, we have supported clients in the chemical industry, maintenance sectors, in sugar mills and power plants amongst others. We have even had core crews on standby and maintenance teams available to immediately assist in an emergency.