Press Releases


    Friday, 31 May 2024

    A household name for shaft sinking in Africa’s mining sector, Murray & Roberts Cementation has over the decades developed a wide portfolio of mining services – some better known than others.


    “Through our constant innovation across a range of fields, built on the expertise of our highly experienced staff, we keep developing very interesting responses to customer’s challenges,” says Pieter Oosthuysen, Senior Project Manager at Murray & Roberts Cementation.


    Among the sector’s growing challenges has been the criminality associated with illegal mining activities. The company has developed solutions to prevent cable theft – including the encasing of cables in grout-filled pipes – and to seal off old areas using grout packs that create permanent barriers.


    “Water management has also become a key issue for mines, especially in the mature deep-level gold mining sector,” says Oosthuysen. “Here, their issues are about ensuring responsible water management as well as reducing pumping costs from dormant or mined-out mining areas. This often requires that old underground areas be sealed off to contain the massive water pressures at depth.”


    This is by no means a new issue, of course, but Murray & Roberts Cementation has been in this field for so long that they literally ‘wrote the book’, he notes. The company was part of the team that developed the Code of Practice for designing and constructing high pressure bulkhead plugs, and has a track record dating back decades with plugs and water doors.


    “Our team collaborates with plug designers to guarantee that the plug's design and placement are constructable,” he explains. “The successful construction and pumping of these plugs relies on the use of our mobile grout plants to overcome logistical obstacles.”


    It demonstrated this capacity many years ago, when the company’s intervention saved the West Driefontein gold mine from flooding back in 1968. Since then, it has pushed the boundaries of technology to achieve a successful plug at over 2,800 m deep at ERPM’s 68 Level – where it also placed its longest plug segment at an impressive 24 m.


    Managing water in the underground environment is not the only place where the company has excelled. As the public spotlight has focused on the safety of tailings dams, Murray & Roberts Cementation helps mines with the crucial task of draining water from these facilities.


    “If drainage pipes from the penstocks are damaged over time, these need to be replaced to ensure proper drainage to support the stability of the dam,” he says. “While the mine installs new penstocks and drainage, we wash out these old pipes, install intrusion pipes and seal them off to ensure no leakage.”


    Behind these achievements is Murray & Roberts Cementation’s pioneering role in the field of grout plants. It was the first to design and implement a high pressure pumping system that could convey grout from a surface plant to workings underground; the distances regularly covered by these systems have been between three and seven kilometres.


    With further capability in aspects including raise drilling, silo and settler construction, blind hole boring, vent passes and ore and shaft rehabilitation, the company presents an unmatched portfolio, according to Dirk Visser, who is also a Senior Project Manager at Murray & Roberts Cementation.


    “It is these additional support services that make us really unique in the market,” argues Visser. “Most other players will specialise in one or other aspect of this work, but we give customers the advantage of an integrated solution – allowing us to assume more project risk and relieving customers of significant coordination responsibility.”


    For this reason, the company can manage projects that demand drilling and cementation, for instance, while also providing the raiseboring and remote shotcreting functions. The capacity to deliver these offerings, he emphasises, demands skills and experience which requires considerable investment.


    “The core talent in our division has an average length of service between 12 and 18 years – with many employees reaching 30 to 40 years within the business,” he says. “We also continuously replenish our skills pipeline with up-to-date, relevant training which includes state-of-the-art training facilities including mock-ups for a grout plant, drop raise and raise drilling.”


    The necessary hardware is also an important part of any successful project, and the investment by Murray & Roberts Cementation has also been significant. There is an extensive fleet of machines for the raiseboring part of the business, with more than 8 km of drill pipe available.


    “All that we do is underpinned by our comprehensive Murray & Roberts Cementation safety system, which has been developed by taking best practice and enhancing our own CRM systems,” he concludes. “The effectiveness is our safety commitment is demonstrated by our track record – with over seven million fatality-free shifts.”