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Mines require a wide range of equipment, and long-term rental can often provide cost-effective solutions. According to Henry Fourie, Rand-Air's Business Development Manager for Long Term Rental, long-term rentals come with the benefit of a lower rate to the mine.

“With long term rentals, Rand-Air offers very favourable service level agreements which it takes pride in honouring. Our rapid response times, which we take pride in meeting, form a key part of these agreements. A further factor in favour of long-term rentals is that the mine does not have to employ skilled people specifically to service and maintain compressors or generators,” he says.

RAND AIROct2018UndergroundMineElec Compressor

Precisely what equipment is needed depends on the type of mine, Fourie explains. For instance, on an open-pit mine, generators and lighting plant are most frequently hired. Some of the mining contractors also use Ran-Air’s high-pressure diesel compressors for exploration as well as blast-hole drilling.

On surface during shaft sinking, the mines use electric 1,500 cfm machines. Once the mine is established, Rand-Air is also capable of supplying air from surface for the underground mining operations to power rock drills of various types. “For this, a popular choice is the 1070cfm electric machines which we have supplied in various quantities, from as few as two units up to 10 units on a compressor bank,” Fourie explains.

Rand-Air also has specially modified electric units for use underground. A major deep-level gold mine, for example, will have a two kilometre deep shaft down to a certain mine level. And then from the shaft, it can be as far as a kilometre or more to the rock face where drilling is actually happening.

Many older South African mines have been in existence for decades. Over time, the compressed air pipe systems have deteriorated, allowing air to escape and pressure to dissipate from numerous leaks before air actually reaches the driller. In these cases, it pays the mine to place a rental compressor at a location close to the working stopes. The miners then benefit from air at the correct pressure, which invariably gives a very substantial boost to productivity, Fourie says.

Some older mines also have fairly elderly surface compressors feeding air underground. With these compressors, there is a much greater chance of periodic failures which can take some time to repair. During these periods, hire compressors can play a vital role in keeping the mine operational.

Fourie adds that electric motors used to power large installed mine compressors and generators consume a substantial amount of diesel. Being able to switch these large machines off and source air or power from smaller hire units - particularly in winter when electricity rates are high - can be highly beneficial from a cost point of view.

“There are many benefits to mines hiring equipment on a long-term basis. Ultimately, by looking to a third party to provide ancillary services, mining operations can conserve operational cash flow as well as capital. In the longer term, this promises the mining company a viable sustainable future with increased profitability horizons,” he says.

“Anyone who works in the mining environment will know what a challenging environment it is in which to meet demanding production targets. So having someone to provide trouble-free compressed air, power or lighting benefits the mine in every way. Should the mine expand, and it needs more equipment, this is a phone call away without having to find additional capital first. When this happens, we will give the mine a solution that is custom-made exactly to their requirements.”

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