Modern Mining: Featured News

JB Switchgear Solutions (JBSS), based in Brakpan, has recently provided a containerised substation to Resolute Mining’s Syama gold mine in Mali, further cementing its reputation as a supplier of turnkey electrical solutions to Africa’s mining industry.

Located 300 km south-east of Mali’s capital, Bamako, Syama is transforming into an underground operation with full underground mining due to start at the end of this year. The underground project will extend the mine life till at least 2028.

                              A view of part of the JB Switchgear factory.

Howden South Africa, in conjunction with Howden Australia, was awarded a contract to increase the underground ventilation of the mine. Following a tender process, JBSS was appointed by Howden South Africa to provide a complete skid-mounted containerised underground substation to power two new 750 kW fans.

What makes this substation unique, says JBSS, is the requirement for a specially modified 8-metre container to optimise space in the underground location, as well as the fact that the two 750 kW fans are powered by variable speed drives (VSDs) which are fitted inside the container. JBSS integrated the motor control centre and the VSDs in a single panel of uniform depth and height without duplication of equipment.

The variable speed drives produce around 30 kW of heat inside the container and, to overcome this excessive heat load, JBSS designed a ducting system incorporating maintenance-free spin filters with roof exhausts to eject the main VSD heat losses directly out of the container. The remaining heat losses inside the container are kept under control by a 32 000 BTU air conditioner.

JBSS reports that it successfully completed the project on time, within budget, and to the full satisfaction of the customer.

Founded by Johan Basson, JBSS has built up a formidable track record in servicing the mining industry all over Africa and is probably one of the top three companies in its field. While South Africa remains its single biggest market, around 60 % of its workload comes from outside the country’s borders. African countries which it has supplied include Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mali, Botswana, the DRC and Sierra Leone. It has also worked on projects in Australia, Canada and South America.

Interestingly, Basson established JBSS – which now has a total employee complement of about 100 people and manufactures its products in its own factory – after he had retired from a long career in the electrical industry, including serving as MD of RBF Technology.

He is very active in the industry, serving on SABS technical committees, working groups and industry associations, which in turn ensures that JBSS remains up to date with the latest trends and technologies. He believes the industry has an acute skills shortage and has ensured that JBSS operates a robust in-house training programme, as well as an enterprise development programme designed to assist new start-ups (who can then partner with JBSS).

As its name suggests, JBSS specialises in the design, manufacture and supply of switchgear solutions but its product offering is in fact far broader. It includes containerised and pre-fabricated substations (also called E-houses), distribution boards, motor control centres (MCCs), diesel gensets, standard or special enclosures, field isolators, VSDs and marshalling panels, with all products being designed to withstand the arduous conditions encountered in mining. In response to industry demand, the company has positioned itself over the past several years as a supplier of turnkey electrical ‘total solutions’.

A project which was recently completed which exemplifies its skills and broad product range was the supply of a comprehensive range of low voltage switchgear assemblies for the new Liqhobong diamond mine of Firestone Diamonds in the highlands of Lesotho. The contract, awarded by projects company DRA Global, saw JBSS’s containerised MCCs, outdoor kiosks, distribution boards, PLC panels, remote I/O boxes, field isolators and junction boxes installed at the mine. Some of the MCCs were skid-mounted to facilitate mobility on the mine site.

The electrical equipment was provided by Rockwell Automation and the communication protocol was Ethernet. Starter sizes ranged from 0,55 kW up to 200 kW, with an operational voltage of 525 V and a fault level of 50 kA.

JBSS supplied its highly-regarded and popular ‘Eagle Series’ of MCCs. This design carries comprehensive type test certification for compliance with IEC 61439-2 and IEC TR 61641. Basson says that around 31 000 tiers of this robust and user-friendly design have been installed at sites in Africa and overseas.

The company enjoys challenges and another recent contract saw it assisting with the design, manufacturing and supply of a new 525 V pit dewatering MCC for Foskor’s operations in Phalaborwa. The existing motor control centre was damaged during blasting operations and it was critically urgent to get a new MCC manufactured without any delay.

JBSS responded by building the new MCC in a record time of two weeks, with the unit consisting of a 1 000 A incomer and three 350 kW DOL pump starters, two of them for duty pumps and the third as a standby unit. The system is mounted on a skid and can be moved around the pit as required.

Photos courtesy of JB Switchgear Solutions

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Title: Editor
Name: Arthur Tassell
Email: mining@crown.co.za
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

Title: Advertising Manager
Name: Bennie Venter
Email: benniev@crown.co.za
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

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