Mine cleanliness is crucial and should be regarded with the same level of seriousness and consideration as mine safety, says an expert in the field.
“The safety of mines and cleaning of mines goes hand in hand,” says Grant Kriel, Nilfisk South Africa branch manager for Kimberley.
Mine safety in South Africa has again come into sharp focus after a triple fatal tragedy in the sector recently, forcing owners, the government and those conducting business with mines to take stock.
The latest tragedy brings to 22 the number of fatalities in the sector in the country for the first quarter of 2018.
In response, Mineral Resources Minister, Gwede Mantashe, called for “increased vigilance on health and safety in the sector”.
“In this regard the Minister urges employers and labour to continue to work with the Department in finding solutions to health and safety matters at the mines, through established structures including the Mine Health and Safety Council,” miningreview.com reported in March.
Kriel says the mining industry has quite specific cleansing challenges, especially below ground.
“At the end of the day it is all about achieving goals as set out in the occupational and safety rules we have to adhere to.”
As miningafricaonline.co.za points out: “One of the integral provisions of the Mine Health and Safety Act, 1996 (Act 29 of 1996) is to protect the workers in the mining industry from the adverse health effects of being exposed to occupational health hazards such as dusts, fibres, chemicals, noise, thermal stresses and radiation. Regulation 9.2(2) of the Act, read with Section 12, requires the employer to establish, maintain, and record occupational hygiene measurements.”
Says Kriel: “First you have to do a risk assessment– there are very strict criteria that determine how to address specific requirements in the mining sector.”
In terms of mines adhering to legislation and government oversight, Kriel says South Africa “has come a long way”.
“Legislation has made it safer and has provided for a safer working environment.”
As for the economic benefits, “downtime means loss of income”. “If we can provide a solution which can save time, and is cost efficient, it is a win-win situation.”
“What we do is improve cleanliness and safety which definitely supports better productivity and reducing mines’ costs.”
“Customisable cleansing programmes and equipment also improve ergonomics and reduces consumable usage. It means easier and lower maintenance for the mines.”
Kriel says most of their equipment has a lower impact on the environment.
“Our imported hot water machines, like the electric burners, complies to most of the requirements needed to make machines of an eco-friendly standard. We have electrically-heated machines, not diesel-powered machines, which is by far more environmentally friendly.”
“We cover all aspects of mine cleaning – below ground, open casts, and deal with the big mining groups. Outstanding technical characteristics distinguish all our products. Powerful in performance, economical in operating costs, with comprehensive fail-safe devices, compact in design, robust and constructed for a long service life.”
Kriel says being able to combine advanced imported technology with a proficient local manufacturing programme elevated the organisation to the role of market leader.
“It also resulted in a product range designed to withstand the tough environmental conditions and endurance requirements prevailing in the local industry and commerce.”
The equipment Kriel alludes to include the electrically heated parts washer which is designed for the cleaning of all types of small to medium sized components; and the cold water and electrical high-pressure pump stations, which are robust for underground and surface level mining operations.
“With access to the latest global technology our technical personnel are able to adapt and tailor-make cleaning equipment specifically for the South African market.
“Special attention is given to simplicity of operation, equipment reliability, protection against operator mishandling, easy component accessibility, as well as service and repair.”
Major challenges facing the mining sector include “limited general knowledge regarding the link between safety and cleanliness”.
“People still don’t think it is a big factor at the mines, but it is the number one starting point,” says Kriel.
Jaco Botes, director at IST Hadco, a supplier of mine cleaning equipment, agrees.
“Mine cleanliness is very important to improve workers’ health and hygiene as well as their safety and wellbeing, which will improve productivity.”
Botes says mines that follow a suitable cleansing regime “reduce the amount of air pollution (inhalable and respirable particulate fractions) which reduces the exposure for employees and residents of the surrounding communities to minimize bad health and/or diseases of the respiratory system”.
“A clean environment reduces the likelihood of an incident happening. Clean equipment means less wear and tear which results in less downtime, lower maintenance cost. If equipment functions optimally, then there is less risk of malfunction and accidents,” says Botes.
Kriel concludes: “It boils down to achieving critical health and safety standards. Improving cleanliness and safety standards definitely lifts productivity and reduces costs.”