Rock engineering consultancy expanding service offering

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Outsourced rock engineering and seismic monitoring services provider Open House Management Solutions (OHMS) is continuously considering opportunities to expand its service offering to the minerals industry and develop in new, but related services, says OHMS MD Koos Bosman.

OHMS has been in operation since January 2000 and will celebrate its twentieth year of existence in 2020. The company’s local offices are located in Potchefstroom, Klerksdorp, Lydenburg, and in Kitwe, in Zambia. Plans are afoot to establish an office in Botswana this year.

“New innovations in mining technology are driven with a passion from the company,” Bosman enthuses. He tells Mining Weekly that OHMS is promoting its new innovations as service offerings and expects to bring them to market by the end of the year. The company is working on several projects and is patenting new solutions, mining methods and support products.

“We progressively look for alternative solutions to assist mines in becoming safer, more productive, and more profitable,” Bosman highlights.

OHMS consulting seismologist Vlok Visser notes that the company plays an important role in the introduction of new geotechnical monitoring technologies to mines. He explains that, historically, the infrastructure of local mines did not allow for real-time monitoring. However, modern monitoring has been made possible with the installation of fibre- optic infrastructure and WiFi in mines.

“Now we are able to monitor the rock mass response to mining in real time and this provides rock engineers, as well as mine management, with an active tool to respond with and manage alternative mining strategies,” he explains.

He adds that many such technologies are quite new to the South African and African mining environments and OHMS is investing in introducing those technologies to mines in Africa and, ultimately, selling them as part of a service offering.

He explains that the majority of geotechnical instrumentation suppliers are based in Europe and North America. Further, in the past, mines have used analogue systems, which require labour-intensive methods of retrieving and analysing data, he adds. It was often required to send people into a mine regularly to record and retrieve data.

“As a result, geotechnical monitoring never got under way properly. Now, with the development of digital and wireless communication systems over the past few years, there is a revived interest in geotechnical monitoring, as it is now possible to install instrumentation in areas close to active working places. “These instruments can now be monitored 24/7 and could serve as an excellent tool in managing the hazards associated with mining,” Visser highlights.

Challenges
Visser notes that OHMS employs highly skilled professionals who have scarce skills and that finding individuals with the right skills sets, who are also prepared to travel to remote locations, is challenging.

Bosman further explains that rock engineering and seismology knowledge is gained through postgraduate specialisation, as there are no bachelor’s degrees in these disciplines.

OHMS mitigates this challenge by subjecting applicants to a meticulous selection process, after which successful candidates are mentored and gradually exposed to various operations to develop their experience.

“We have learned that in-house development of our skills base is key and we, therefore, spend significant energy and capital in doing so,” Bosman points out. He adds that the company is sometimes approached by clients to provide lectures and courses on specific topics. “In the past seven years, the demand for on-site courses in geotechnical modelling software has increased. OHMS is well-positioned to service the international market by providing training courses in the numerical modelling software code Map3D.”

Projects
OHMS is active in several countries, including South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Rwanda, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire. The company has also done work in Australia, Sweden, Russia, the US, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Mongolia, India, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Peru and Iran.

Visser notes that the company designed, installed and commissioned three seismic networks at a large copper mine in Zambia – the seismic networks were commissioned in January, July and December last year. Another system was commissioned at a deep-level gold mine in South Africa and the system is in the process of being expanded with final commissioning expected to be completed in May.

Further, the company has devised and advised on the implementation of an alternative mining method at gold mining company Gold One’s Modder East gold mine, in Springs.

The alternative mining method involved a complete re-evaluation of the mine’s regional support strategy, which substantially improved the ore reserve, increased the life-of-mine and played a significant role in ensuring the financial sustainability of the mine, he points out. The method was trialled last year and is being implemented on a much broader scale on the mine.

OHMS was awarded a contract to provide full-time, on-site rock engineering and seismological services for gold producer Village Main Reef’s Kopanang gold mine, in the Free State, towards the end of last year.

This is an extension of the services that the company has been providing for the company’s Tau Lekoa operations, in the North West, and Bosman points out that the combination of services at the two adjacent operations has yielded synergies that have benefited the client.

Moreover, OHMS completed a detailed rock engineering study in January this year for mining company Cupric Canyon’s Khoemacau copper/silver project, in the Kalahari Copper Belt, in Botswana. “OHMS is looking forward to continue advising Cupric Canyon on the creation of a safe, profitable, mechanised mine,” Bosman concludes.



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