HomeBase MetalsInnovation drives South Africa’s underground mining industry

Innovation drives South Africa’s underground mining industry

Local OEM, Rham Equipment, has been responsible for helping the country’s mining industry regain its competitive advantage thanks to the development of mining equipment tailored to address the industry’s changing needs.

CHANTELLE KOTZE speaks to MD KEVIN REYNDERS about the company’s latest innovations.

The proudly South African, level 3 broad-based black economic empowerment compliant OEM was founded 40 years ago to produce specialised roofbolting equipment for the underground coal mining industry in South Africa.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 8, 2020
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In 1994 the company extended its range to include materials handling equipment as well as hard rock mining equipment including load haul dumpers (LHD), face drilling rigs, long hole drill rigs, dump trucks, roofbolters, extra low profile equipment and utility vehicles.

With four factories and a combined under-roof manufacturing area of 10 500 m2, the company manufactures between 10 and 12 machines each month, all of which support local content and limits imported components to the bare minimum, in line with the requirements of Mining Charter 3, says Reynders.

The company owes its success to its ability to design and manufacture tailor-made equipment that addresses the mining industry’s specific needs and challenges.

It is this knack and passion for problem solving that has enabled the company to continue pushing the design envelope past the industry’s current needs – allowing it to tackle some of the industry’s future problems head on.

At the forefront of new innovation

An example of this ingenuity was the successful manufacture of the first South African-manufactured battery-powered LHD, which Rham Equipment launched in 2019.

The battery-powered LHD, which features an on-board charging system, is also fitted with a battery regeneration system, which effectively extends the lifespan of the battery.

Rham Equipment is currently in discussion with a local mining company looking to replace its existing diesel-powered LHD fleet with a battery-powered LHD fleet.

It is the company’s aim to have a fully battery-powered range of underground equipment in future. Following the first phase battery-powered LHD, the company plans to follow this with battery-powered face drilling rig and roofbolter – which together would provide a full mining cycle suite of battery-powered mining equipment.

In a similar vein as its battery-powered equipment, Rham Equipment is also working on the development of a hydrogen fuel cell-powered LHD, which offers an alternative to replace diesel engines with a zero-emission solution that helps improve the environment and worker safety.

As the company continues to expand its equipment offering, it has made a significant inroad into the development of surface mining equipment – namely a blast hole drill rig, which is currently 90% designed and 30% built.

The company signed an agreement in February 2020 with Russia-based industrial machinery manufacturer Chetra with the aim of locally manufacturing a modified version of the bulldozer in South Africa that is suitable for the African mining market.

Rham Equipment will soon take receipt of a bulldozer, which will be subject to rigorous testing and, based on the findings, be designed, modified and manufactured according to the needs and standards required for the African mining market, Reynders explains.

What sets the company apart from off-the-shelf equipment manufacturers is that Rham Equipment’s range of equipment is customisable depending on a customer’s specific needs or requirements.

As a local manufacturer with a turnkey in-house manufacturing capability, Reynders explains that the company is able to retrofit customer-specific components to the equipment to help client’s streamline their stockholding.

By way of example, Rham Equipment will be supplying a number of diesel-powered machines to a local mining company with the intention of replacing the diesel engines with batteries in the next three years as the mine prepares to become battery-ready.

The equipment has been designed in such a way as to make the change-over from diesel to battery as seamless as possible, explains Reynders.

As local manufacturing in South Africa increases, on the back of the local content requirements in Mining Charter 3, so too will local mining equipment manufacturers benefit from increased local and regional demand, believes Reynders, noting that this will provide the much needed boost to reindustrialise South Africa’s economy.

Rham Equipment designs and manufactures tailor-made equipment that addresses the mining industry’s specific needs and challenges.

Chantelle Kotze
Chantelle Kotze is a Johannesburg-based media professional. She is a contributor at Mining Review Africa (Clarion Events - Africa) and has created content for the media brand over the past 6 years.