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Murray & Roberts Cementation: Pioneering Underground Mining in Africa

The leading underground mining contractor is working with some of the world's most respected mining companies to pave the way for safe mining

by Victor Adetimilehin

Underground mining is a complex and challenging activity that requires a high level of expertise and innovation. Murray & Roberts Cementation, a subsidiary of Murray; Roberts Holdings, is one of the leading underground mining contractors in Africa, with a track record of delivering world-class solutions to the mining industry.

The company has been involved in some of the most prestigious underground mining projects in the continent, such as De Beers’ Venetia Mine, Ivanhoe Mines’ Platreef project, and Palabora Mining Company. These projects demonstrate the company’s ability to handle diverse and demanding underground mining operations, from shaft sinking and lining to infrastructure development and raiseboring.


Venetia Mine

One of the company’s flagship projects is the Venetia Underground Project near Musina, South Africa. This project, which started in 2013, is one of the largest investments in South Africa’s diamond industry in decades. It aims to transition the Venetia Mine from opencast to underground mining, extending its life until 2046.

Murray & Roberts Cementation have been engaged in sinking, lining, and equipping two shafts – the production and service shafts – to a depth of 1,080 meters. The company also developed a decline tunnel and is completing associated surface and underground infrastructure, including ventilation systems.

The project is now in its advanced stages, as the mine is starting to access the ore and develop the infrastructure levels. According to Graham Chamberlain, New Business Director at Murray & Roberts Cementation, the project showcases the company’s expertise in delivering complex and large-scale underground mining solutions.


Platreef Project

Another project that highlights the company’s innovation and excellence is the Platreef project near Mokopane, South Africa. This project, owned by Ivanhoe Mines, is developing a large-scale platinum-group metal, nickel, copper, and gold deposit on the northern limb of the Bushveld Complex.

Murray & Roberts Cementation is conducting all the infrastructure development at the Platreef project, including the sinking of a 5,1-metre ventilation shaft to meet horizontal development at 950 meters below the surface. 

Chamberlain says that the project is unique in that the shaft will be hoisting ore at the same time as allowing upcast air to reach the surface. This is a testament to the company’s ability to adapt to the specific needs and challenges of each project.


Palabora Mining Company

The company is also nearing completion of another vent shaft at Palabora Mining Company near Phalaborwa, South Africa. This project, part of the mine’s Lift II expansion, involves the construction of an 8,5-metre diameter shaft to a depth of 1,200 meters.

The project has earned an impeccable safety record, being fatality-free and achieving 574 days without a Lost Time Injury (LTI) in 2022. The project also opted for a blind sink method instead of raiseboring, due to the poor ground conditions that required immediate support to prevent scaling.

Chamberlain notes that the company has several other service projects underway related to grout plants and rehabilitation. The company also conducts extensive engineering work, such as rebuilding underground mining equipment at its Bentley Park facility near Carletonville.


Training and Localisation

Apart from its technical capabilities, Murray & Roberts Cementation is also committed to excellence and empowerment in its human resources. The company operates a world-class Training Academy in Carletonville, where it trains thousands of learners each year in underground mining and related skills. The company has also upgraded its facilities to enhance training technologies that allow learning to take place safely but in a realistic environment.

In compliance with many African countries’ localization regulations, Murray & Roberts Cementation has registered companies in eight countries in the Southern African Development Community. The company has been active in these countries with raiseboring projects and is looking to capitalise on more opportunities shortly.

Chamberlain says that the company is optimistic about the future of underground mining in Africa, as the demand for commodities such as copper, platinum, and diamonds remains strong. He says that the company is ready to leverage its experience, skills, and innovation to deliver safe and efficient underground mining solutions to its clients.

Source: Mining Review 

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