The long awaited visit to South Africa has begun. After months of planning I've finally landed in South Africa and have spent the last couple of days with the Mine Surveying Inspectorate, gaining an understanding of their Regulations and how they go about their surveying and drafting audits of Mines. Todays visit was to one of the Platinium mines in Rustenburg, in North West Provence.
The Platinium reef (seam) outcrops in the Rustenburg area and dips away to the North at about 15 degrees. Although some mining has occured by open cut methods, the vast majority of Mines in the area are underground. Access to the underground was very different to what I'm used to and is via a chairlift, not unlike a ski lift, down to the production level, then a 500m walk to the production unit. The Mine is very tidy and presents well but what really impressed me was the fact that they employ 8000 people at this mine, eight thousand! I was initially shocked by their safety statistics of 1 fatality, 52 Lost Time Injuries and 32 Serious Injuries, but taking into consideration the size of the workforce and excepting the fatality, thats not too bad and I'm assured that it is on the improve. The method of mining here is by longwall, but not in the same sence as a typical longwall in an Australian coal mine, but rather the face is drilled and blasted then cleared using a scraper. The supports placed are timber props and the "seam" is only 1.0m thick. Bloody hard work on your knees all day I'm sure. All ore haulage takes place using battery powered locos on rails back to the hopper and onto the belt for transport to the surface up the decline.
The survey office at the mine consists of the Mine Surveyor, Assistant Mine Surveyor, 6 surveyors, 21 assistants and one draftsperson. Wow, wouldn't that be nice back home. The methods of surveying are fairly typical and use Leica equipment for control traverses, direction and grade control. Face pickup is fairly conventional using chainage and offset from existing survey stations.
The return trip from the mine took the scenic route back to Pretoria, through an agricultural area and past the weekend retreat areas visited by these from Pretoria and Johannesburg. Roadside stalls are a frequent sight through out South Africa, with most trying to make a living from selling fruit, vegetables, exhaust systems repairs and hubcaps. Tomorrow I'm off to a diamond mine, gold will be next week. Anyone know a good jeweller?