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Coal mines need lower costs, higher productivity

Home Infrastructure Construction & Civils Coal mines need lower costs, higher productivity

DESPITE South Africa’s energy supply being heavily reliant on coal, weak prices and more demanding mining conditions are putting pressure on coal mines and their suppliers to do more with less.

That’s according to Frengelina Mabotja, Senior Metallurgist And Capital Sales Engineer at vibrating screen specialist Kwatani, who said, coal prices were low and any recovery in the short term was very unlikely.

“Going forward, as coal seams with more overburden have to be mined, surface mining will potentially become much more expensive.”

Adding to the coal industry’s challenges is the unwillingness of many lenders to fund new coal plants and expansions, leading to great uncertainty. The result is a strong drive for ongoing cost reduction and increased productivity across both majors and juniors in the sector, said Mabotja.

“While most of SA’s coal supply is produced by a handful of major mining houses, Eskom has in recent years sought to develop the junior market with black ownership. Kwatani partners with majors and junior miners alike, offering two distinct equipment ranges tailored to each segment’s specific requirements and capital budget.”

She said that vibrating equipment requirements can vary significantly between a smaller-scale junior miner and a long-life major. This is in terms of the equipment’s size, operating lifespan, tonnage throughput, efficiency and yield requirements.

“Apart from the initial capital expenditure, mines’ process equipment has an enormous influence on their production efficiency, tonnage and operating cost. Our long-lasting, robust vibrating screen and feeders are designed for continuous tonnage throughput and high efficiency. This reduces the processing cost per ton and the overall cost of the machine over its lifetime.”

For the large mine segment, Kwatani’s designs have included high capacity and performance screens such as its 4,3 m wide banana screen. Its brute force grizzly feeders for run-of-mine (ROM) operations are capable of sizing and feeding material at up to 2 000 tph, even from high drop-heights.

“Our engineering team has optimised the structural integrity, weight distribution and lifespan of this equipment. We have many of our 4.3m wide banana screens operating at the largest opencast coal complex in the world.”

At the same time, Kwatani supplies screening equipment below 2,4 m wide for smaller-scale, modular plants processing up to 250 tph. These units are tailored to budget and provided within short delivery times, Mabotja said.

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