DMR and mines reconciled on bord width

DMR North West inspector of mines instructed mechanised bord-and-pillar mines to reduce bord widths from 10m to 6m, to reduce rockfalls. Some mines appealed.

DMR inspectors met Aquarius Platinum and other mines, to explain that the 6m mining bord width directive, in support of tunnel safety, did not imply “objective administrative interpretation”, but “a subjective interpretation imposed by the department”, said Aquarius.

The directive was intended “to invite mining companies to talk to [the DMR in NW province] about ways to work together to reduce rockfalls… It was not the intention of the department to unilaterally prescribe mining methods”, the mine said.

Affected mines were preparing reports on their safety initiatives to the DMR.

Chief inspector of mines, Thabo Gazi, said operators may appeal against orders that may be unfair, and should not ‘posture’ in the media.

Aquarius shares, operator of Marikana and Kroondal mines, had sharply dipped, and recovered some ground after the reconciliation meeting.

The instruction had followed a multiple fatal incident at Aquarius Platinum Marikana mine Shaft 4, where five contractors were killed and two injured in early July.

Aquarius appeals the directive, having hired a consultant and set up an informal forum with other mines, to offer alternative strategies.

Aquarius argued that narrower bord width would not improve mining safety, and would be to the economic detriment of some chromite and platinum mines. Aquarius Bathopile mine also uses bord and pillar method.

The Department of Minerals and Energy instruction reads; “…mining companies in North West region employing bord and pillar mining method are instructed in terms of Section 9(7) read with Regulation 7.4.4, still in force in terms of Schedule 4 of the Mine Health and Safety Act, 29 of 1996 as amended, to immediately review the Code of Practice for the prevention of rockfalls and rockbursts in metalliferous mines, related mine standards and procedures to cater for more effective safety measures including but not limited to;

–    Maximum mining bord width of not more than 6 metres
–    Extraction ratios should not exceed 75 percent
–    Supporting of prominent geological features by pillars
–    Boxing of roadways must be towards one direction
–    Orientation of leads and lags between headings must almost be aligned for effective ventilation.

Until the review is conducted, no headings or faces of more than 6 metres bord widths should be advanced for the purposes of production.

Mines employing bord widths wider than six metres must notify the Principal Inspector of Mines on action plans to convert to more safer and conservative mining parameters.”

Aquarius Platinum SA Kroondal and Marikana mines said they were assessing the impact of the instructions, “which may take some time”.

Aquarius is also urgently consulting government and the other mining companies affected by the instructions.

Marikana stopped after fatal FOG

Earlier, Aquarius Platinum suspended operations at Marikana mine Shaft 4 after five contractors were killed and two injured in an incident in July.

The seven miners trapped by a fall of ground, were employed by a contractor, Murray and Roberts Cementation. An investigation involving state authorities, employers and labour unions started after the stoppage.

Marikana is a joint venture of Aquarius Platinum and Anglo American Platinum, incorporated in Bermuda.

Platinum geology conditions are more hazardous than gold mining.  The fatal fall of ground follows two deaths earlier the same month at Blue Ridge mine, which was also stopped.

Aquarius production was cut by 20%, while Aquarius and Anglo share values had dropped after the incident.

PHOTO; 3D simulation of mechanised underground operation.

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