technology

In a mining industry actively working towards establishing high-tech underground mining operations that are safer to operate, more energy efficient, more productive and with a lower impact on the environment, South African black-owned trackless mobile mining machinery designer and manufacturer AARD Mining Equipment understands the need to correctly leverage technology if it is to have the desired outcome.

While AARD Mining Equipment recognises that mining technologies are constantly improving, with various technologies being used to mine more efficiently and effectively with less risk underground, the company also understands that for these technologies to be sustainable, they need to be relevant, practical and address the myriad of challenges currently faced in the African mining industry.

This article first appeared in Mining Elites in Africa 2019

AARD Mining Equipment’s strategy revolves around its key objective, which is to provide mechanised underground mining solutions to the mining industry.

The company fulfils this objection and in doing so also improves its customer’s productivity with due consideration to the environment, as well as health and safety aspects within its customer’s operations.

According to AARD Mining Solutions commercial manager Gerard Pienaar, while technology may generate substantial benefits, it can also be disruptive, because its benefits are not necessarily evenly distributed.

Pienaar explains that while the introduction of new technologies may theoretical mean new benefits for an operation, like safety and productivity, it may however result in significant complications in operating and maintaining the technologies, since the prerequisite skills are not necessary available.

For this reason and in support of the ‘AARD strategy’, any product improvements or innovations carried out on any piece of AARD equipment must maintain or improve on the following key parameters:

  • Safety
  • Low cost of ownership
  • Be practical and relevant to the type of mining method
  • Be easy to maintain and operate
  • Acceptability (legislation, operators, artisans)
  • After-sales services

Despite having improved on and upgraded its equipment design and applications since the company’s inception 30 years ago, AARD has maintained its high design and manufacturing standards throughout – a feature still recognisable in its products today.

The company’s utility vehicles, loaders and other vehicles have become slightly larger; hydraulically-only operated machines have been replaced by a combination of hydraulic and electric operated machines; fabrication materials are stronger and more durable; and equipment may now contain diagnostic computers to anticipate failures.

“These improvements have resulted in equipment that yields higher productivity, is more durability, has increased margins of safety for workers, has greater comfort for the specific operators and ensures service convenience to customers, says Pienaar.

In a bid to ensure that its underground mining machinery remains relevant in a digitally-driven future mining industry, AARD Mining Services has integrated intelligent mining technologies comprising communication, sensors, information technologies and computer technologies into its equipment.

These technologies provide the end-user with precise, reliable, and accurate decision-making and production process management opportunities through real-time monitoring; they allow mine production to be maintained at the optimum level, and lead to improved mining efficiency and economic benefits.

“In this way, green, safe, and efficient mining can be achieved,” says Pienaar.

Another innovation currently being considered by AARD Mining Services is the move from diesel-powered to battery electric vehicles and equipment. AARD is currently reviewing the feasibility of introducing this technology as an optional extra across its range of equipment.

As a starting point, AARD has recently launched its own battery electric light utility vehicle and will now focus on converting some of the larger equipment within the AARD range.

“We anticipate the transition to battery electric vehicles in South Africa to be relatively slow. The biggest problem in transitioning from diesel-driven equipment to an electric fleet is the significant capital investment required. This is compounded by an economy stifled by lower commodity prices which places pressure on new equipment purchases,” says Pienaar.

Despite this, Pienaar believes that the most recent iteration of the Mining Charter in South Africa will bode well in that it has provided local manufacturing companies within South Africa with opportunities to demonstrate that all the prerequisite skills and capabilities are available locally.

With this renewed focus, AARD Mining Services aims to take advantage of these business opportunities to expand its design and manufacturing capabilities for both local and export markets.

Going forward, the company also plans to continue developing new markets throughout Africa and improve and grow its distribution network.

AARD Mining Services at a glance

Established 30 years ago, AARD Mining Services (previously part of the Boart Longyear Group of Companies) was established as an independent propriety limited company in 2008.

As of 6 April 2018, all equity in the company is owned by Matasis Mining Equipment, a South African black-owned entrepreneurial company.

AARD Mining Services manufactures and markets specialist low-profile and normal-profile drilling, grading and hauling machinery for the mining industry in Southern Africa and abroad.

The company’s highly-qualified engineering and technical teams can custom design and build bespoke machines to suit customer’s needs.

Modifications and changes to existing equipment, as well as complete or partial rebuilds, are undertaken at the company’s factory in Chamdor, West of Johannesburg in Gauteng.

AARD continuously undertakes research and development into design and manufacture equipment that meets customer requirements for improving safety and productivity, which is supported by a team of strategically placed field service staff field to offer support to clients, service products and provide spare parts.

As a significant local player within the South African mining industry, AARD’s strength has developed from its ability to understand and serve its customer base and to provide a hands-on and responsive maintenance service.

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