Underground Mechanical Foreman Sandile Masuku has been with Kangra since 2008, starting off as an Underground Fitter, and has since worked his way up to a Mechanical Foreman.
He has seen Kangra go through the various change of owners which has come with its own ups and downs. Sandile was also part of the group that was responsible for the care and maintenance of Kangra during its temporary closure.
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“It has been a journey for sure,” says Sandile. Regarding the care and maintenance period, he remarks that “there was a lot of work that needed to be done to ensure the mine was maintained and in a position that allowed it to be restarted quickly.”
Block-H and Maquasa West Upkeep
“We are working on Block-H and are in the process of closing and rehabilitating Maquasa West Shaft. The shaft has been rehabilitated and the team is currently walling up the shaft in order to complete the final closure.”
He explains that West Shaft comprises three portals: the main entrance, Adit 2, and Adit 4. The team has already completed Adit 2 and is currently busy on West Main Shaft then from there they will be closing Adit 4 and then the shaft will be completely closed.
He notes the team also worked on Block-H during the care and maintenance period. “There was an issue with excess water in the shaft which needed to be pumped out. Therefore, we had to do a lot of water pumping. We also had to do our regular fire patrols which included making sure there was enough ventilation and everything else was in order,” says Sandile.
It was crucial to make sure that Block-H was well maintained because it is an active mining area and it needed to be fully operational. Therefore, a lot of work had to be done on the shaft to ensure it remained functional.
On the 16th of December 2020, two Roof Bolt Operators joined the team to begin supporting the area. Shaft H consists of two sections however, he points out that most of the work was done in section one because the roof needed some structural reinforcement by installing welded mesh to support the roof. Additionally, Sandile notes that with the shaft not operating for some time, there were some loose rocks on the walls and backs of the shaft that required scaling. This meant the team had to carry out the cleaning of the shaft because there was a risk that coal would fall on the walkways. Other maintenance work included road maintenance and starting the machines from time to time to ensure they were ready for when production restarted.
Fan Installation Project
Sandile points out that one project that he recently worked on involved installing additional fans in Block-H. The aim of the project was to improve ventilation in the shaft. “Previously by using just one fan we got about one cubic meter per second, which is sufficient but now with the additional fan this will be increased to 1.6 cubic meters per second, and the installation of a third fan will increase ventilation further by providing fresh, cool air reliably.”
Team Work a Formula for Success
“When the mine was on care and maintenance it did not matter if you were a Mechanical Foreman or the Mine Manager, as we all had to assist wherever we were required. The small team actually was a positive because it emphasised the importance of teamwork. If we never worked as a team, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Everybody that was here played their part, which was absolutely crucial,” he says.
“It’s exciting to be back and actually mining again. We all need to continue working hard to make sure the mine runs optimally.” Sandile has a very philosophical take on the past year: “For every ship that sails there will always be waves, but it needs to navigate the turbulence to reach its final destination. The same is true with life, there is always going to be some turbulence but we don’t want to give up and walk away, we have to make it through to the end.”