As many of you reading this may know, British Steel produces a unique product for the mining industry, namely, the tophat shaft guide. No, this isn’t something you wear on your head! This is a product designed originally by Anglo American mining in South Africa and forms the main guide rail for cages and conveyances in deep mining operations.
It is, for lots of techy reasons, superior in performance to other offerings on the market such as hollow sections and rope guides and it gives the mine operator much better productivity in service, which is what this product is ultimately about.
So where are our tophats used? Firstly, there are the shaft designers working on brand new mine projects. These guys are very specialised in what they do, (think of them as structural engineers who build down and not up!) and because of history and geology, tend to be in areas where mining activity is high such as South Africa, Canada and Australia.
Then there are the existing mines needing maintenance spares for repairs during their lifetime. These tend to be concentrated in Southern Africa and can be half a century old. To support this market, British Steel is working with South African steel company Robor which has a large infrastructure for fabrication and distribution all across Africa.
It is for these reasons I’ve visited Johannesburg on several occasions, the latest being in May this year, to meet our customers and promote our products. Now I have to declare that as a young graduate I worked in the South African mining industry and indeed my daughter was born in Johannesburg (and to this day my brother still lives there), so I’m no stranger to the country! It’s always good to go back and see how the country is changing.
British Steel working with Robor has recently finished supply of 1400 guides to the Venetia diamond mine project and several smaller mine projects including Matla coal mine, Sebanye gold mine and several Zambian copper mine refurbishment projects. In addition we have started discussions around 2 Australian mine projects and with the designers on a large copper project in Arizona.
Recognising recent changes to the mining industry in Africa, and the fact that a lot of the working shafts are ageing, British Steel is working with Robor to formalise our long-standing business relationship to be able to supply small refurbishment projects from local stock in South Africa. Working on a mutual stock/supply agreement we believe we can provide for this growing market, delivering solutions that address customer needs.
Of course, my trip to Africa wasn’t all work as you can see from the photograph below.
I did get chance to visit family at the end of the trip and I also got to stroke cheetah cubs, which has got to be on everyone’s bucket list. That and combining a short trip to Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls, and a day trip into Botswana to Chobe National Park, certainly completed the experience. I got to stand at that point where Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana all meet on the map for a completely unforgettable experience.