Tackling integrity worries
African Mining Brief surveys the flame proof supply market which is specifically targeted at African mines, and what emerges are lamentable facts on product reliability, lack of standards, limitations of supervision and pmaintenance.
The flameproof equipment market has witnessed the entry of products which can withstand the explosion-prone mining environment in ways previously regarded as the stuff of science fiction barely a decade ago. Nonetheless, a problem has ensued too.
There is worrying trend: there are charlatans out there out to make a quick buck for themselves, with little or no concern to what happens to the end user after a transaction is sealed. The unscrupulous are out to boost their bottom-lines at the expense of customers.
Even worse, there are still personnel in supposedly adequately resourced mines who just can’t tell a genuine product from the counterfeit, or take time to do some digging on the integrity of the suppliers or the authenticity of the ‘fail-safe’ product qualities made. Understandably, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) feel hard done by, considering the enormous resources they devote towards product research and development in order to produce best possible solutions.
Although the situation is not a crisis, it is a challenge, nonetheless. In point of fact, it might be rooted in many factors, but African Mining Brief analyses two of them: limitations of possible supervision systems (if they are any) and grey areas in standards to be followed.
In almost all countries, shady suppliers have exploited insufficient monitoring. The main challenge has been that flameproof market has become so diverse that is has made it difficult to supervise activity. A case in point is in the explosion-protected electrical apparatus arena, where products range from sophisticated machinery to a simple socket. It has become uncommon for some suppliers to claim to have a flameproof product tailored for a particular mining application (though such claims cannot be easily verified, according to what was raised during last year’s conference on flameproof equipment in South Africa).
In view of the situation, there is an urgent need to introduce standards and raise awareness in the mining market. Relevant organisations (hoping they exist) in various countries need to do take charge.
Laudably, South Africa, which has the continent’s most advanced flameproof sector and is also the leading supplier to African mines, is stepping in. The South African Flameproof Association (SAFA) has been going all-out to raise awareness amongst customers, in addition to ensuring that suppliers adhere to best practice. The body’s main focus in recent months has been on mine safety and preventing hazardous explosions.
Hearteningly, the significance of having industry specific standards was discussed at length during last year’s SAFA event. SAFA member and director of Electrical engineering consulting firm Dario Campetti & Associates, Dario Campetti, suggested system for the control and management of explosion-protected electrical apparatus that can be installed at coal mines to increase operational safety. The solution outlines the minimum requirements for a coal mine’s management system to ensure that the mine complies with the legal requirements and reasonable safe working practices when using explosion-protected electrical apparatus. Hopefully, this will result in the development of similar innovations for other applications.
Possibly the direct consequence of the above mentioned situation, may well be the poor the maintenance of flameproof equipment that is supplied to mines, which has been exposed through common failures that occur during and after maintenance and repair work. This was singled out during the Conference.
A suggested solution which was broached was on the necessary requirements for ensuring flame proof safety, from the time equipment is delivered to site. Moreover, it stressed that it is the duty of everyone involved in the supply chain, from suppliers to apprentices and artisans at the coal face of operations.
Safeguarding supplier-end user trust
The long and short of it, it is for the ultimate benefit of both suppliers and end users of flameproof equipment that products of the best products should be supplied. What would be the use of supplying equipment to mines which ends up causing accidents and damages capital equipment?
There would be no winner, if the poor practices are allowed unfettered. The reputation of suppliers would be at stake and compromise their standing. As for mines, compliance levels would drop and authorities might revoke their operating licences. Therefore, trust between suppliers and end users should be safeguarded all the time.