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The significance of the coal sector, particularly in South Africa, is growing more important each year as the demand for its use as the primary energy source continues to escalate. The subsequent need for highly specialised coal mining, processing and engineering experts is on the rise as well, writes Laura Cornish.

Most mining engineering houses have carved themselves expert reputations within certain commodity sectors. TWP Projects earned its industry-recognised standing primarily in the platinum field, although diversification across all minerals has ensured its ongoing success over time.

“Having recognised the strategic importance of the coal sector, we embarked on an initiative five years ago to accrue and develop our skills and service offering to this specific industry sector. In two years, our coal human resources team has grown to include highly specialised coal mining, processing and engineering skills, and our coal portfolio has been growing,” says TWP Projects coal portfolio manager, Brad Rip.

Today, the coal project team includes numerous certificated mine managers, engineering managers and a pool of well-qualified and suitably experienced civil, mechanical and electrical engineers, the former having held management positions at various collieries prior to joining TWP. “And our intention is to keep these scarce and unique coal miningand processing skills within this portfolio only.” The portfolio is further supported by project management and project services skills, including project planners and schedulers, cost controllers, capital cost estimators and operating cost modellers from within the TWP Projects’office.

Looking towards the future, the company’s coal business has a multifold growth strategy aimed at increasing its turnover contribution to the group. Following the acquisition of the company by global engineering company WorleyParsons, its platform for such growth could stretch far beyond South African and even African borders.

Rip explains the division’s multifold growth strategy and has categorised it as follows:

  1. Pursue major corporate coal clients, undertake their feasibility studies and meet their subsequent projectroll-out needs. The company is already a Tier 1 service provider to the Anglo American group of companies, which includes Anglo American Thermal Coal.
  2. Approach and do business with the growing mid-tier sector, which already includes Total Coal South Africa and more recently, Continental Coal.
  3. Pursue emerging producers and take their projects from study phase through to implementation.
  4. Pursue on-mine stay-in-business projects with these clients.
  5. Pursue large-scale international projects.
“We are in the right place to take on projects of this nature. WorleyParsons brings global exposure to the company, particularly beyond our current Southern African focus. We will leverage off their global footprint in other coal producing regions of the world, such as Columbia, Indonesia and Australia.” With WorleyParsons’ infrastructure experience, the group can now offer a “Pit to Port” solution to its clients.

An impressive portfolio, already

Continental Coal

TWP Coal most recently completed the EPCM contract for the development of Continental Coal’s new 1 Mtpa run-of-mine (ROM) Penumbra mine near Ermelo, which will supply both the domestic and export markets. The full EPCM contract includedthe management of sinking twin declines and the construction of all surface infrastructure, includinga water reticulation system, an electricity distribution system and all surface buildings.

First production was achieved in December 2012, just over a year since its execution began. TWP Coal’s relationship with Continental Coal and the Penumbra project started in 2009 when it undertook the project feasibility study and then provided assistance in raising finance to develop the mine. “We came in phenomenally close to budget and within acceptable tolerances on the schedule against the original plan,” Rip notes.

Exxaro

Looking ahead, Rip proudly explains that the company recently secured its first project with one of the largest coal players in the country –Exxaro “We landed the feasibility study contract early in 2012, which entails the selection and design of an underground bunker for the replacement of Matla No. 1 mine shaft.”

The bunker has been designed to receive coal from five mechanised mining sections at a rate of up to 5 000 tph, and transfer the coal from the bunker at a steady state of 3 500 tph. “We went through a simulation process and considered alternative bunker designs such as the mechanised horizontal bunker and the more traditional vertical silo bunker. Having chosen the horizontal bunker, which will be 11 m high and 6 m wide, 60 m underground, it is a massive undertaking.” TWP Coal is in the process of delivering the final feasibility study and expects the project to take between 12 to 18 months to complete once construction begins.

Anglo American Thermal Coal

In 2012, TWP Coalcompleted a pre-feasibility study for Anglo American Thermal Coal’s life expansion project at the New Vaal colliery, which supplies coal to the Lethabo power station in Vereeniging. “The project looks specifically at the long-term expansion potential of the mine. In 2012 we completed the pre-feasibility study, which, if approved, will see the supply of coal to Lethabo from a new opencast pit and new underground mine for an additional 20 years,” Rip explains.

The next phase will be a feasibility study (with detailed design), which Rip believes is imminent. “Implementation could start as early as late 2014.”The expanded areas will produce 10 Mtpa of coal. New Vaal currently produces 18 Mtpa of coal.

“Late last year we completed and delivered the definitive feasibility study for a company with prospecting rights in the Tete basin of Mozambique.

Total Coal South Africa

The coal division’s longest relationship is with Total Coal South Africa. “We have been a service provider to this company for many years and have been a pivotal role player in its Forzando project’s various brownfields expansions (Forzando South and Tumelo). More recently,we have been involved with stay-in-business projects at Forzando, including a new co-disposal discard dump and tailings facility and upgrading of its stockpile reclaim and rapid load out arrangement.”

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