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The extensive nature of mining in South Africa means that the mining industry needs to take the utmost precaution when it comes to safety and environmental responsibility. It is necessary for mining transport to take great care to be as little disruptive as possible. Mining, after all, is not a business taking place in isolation. For the sake of smooth co-existence with the rest of the population it is necessary to plan the transport of ore and waste products very carefully.
Road transport and rail transport puts a lot of strain on the national infrastructure. Mining companies need to minimize the impact their vehicles have on the roads and rails need to be regularly maintained. Many are turning to companies specializing in transport solutions. This removes the need for a mine to run a dedicated transport department with functioning workshop, leaving the mining company to focus on its core business. A specialized transport company will balance the need for the effective removal of ore with the responsibility of maintaining the mine’s and the public road system.
An effective mining transport system starts with the planning of the entire operation. Roads should be laid out to effectively bring the necessary equipment to the excavation sites and to smoothly remove the ore. Road surfaces, routes, inclines and corners should all be factored into the planning of the mining site. Schedules must be decided upon and collection sites prepared. Roads are the veins and arteries of a mining operation and need to be kept unclogged so that the vehicles can move freely. A mine cannot function properly if its roads are congested due to poor planning.
The transport company’s choice of vehicles is crucial. In pure terms of efficiency bigger is better. Two big trucks can always be operated cheaper than four smaller trucks transporting the same cargo between them. The bigger trucks are, however, the greater the impact they have on public roads. Transport companies need to continually strike a happy balance. They need to cooperate with local roads authorities and communities. Long trailers, for instance, can work well on long, wide roads, but can be a real hazard on shorter, twisting, narrow roads. It is not only the size of the truck which needs to be taken into account, but also the design. Any type of trailer can, for instance, be used to transport coal. Yet it takes a well-designed, custom-built trailer to haul coal without dribbling chunks of hard material on its route.
The transporting of mining material starts before the arrival of the vehicles. The transport company must plan the preparation and storage of material before it is loaded. Fine ore needs to be pelletized, for instance, to make sure it isn’t scooped off the truck by the wind. If liquids, like slurry, are transported, it must be prepared and the proper tanker selected to carry it. Loading areas should be spacious enough and the material deposited in a way which will make it easy to load and remove the material. Nothing can destroy the public image of a mining company like the errant behaviour of its trucks on the road. Specialized mining transport companies take great care to train their operators to be courteous, efficient road users. It does not matter how rich the deposits are or how efficient the mining company is at processing it, if the stuff is not transported efficiently, the mine will lose money. This makes a dedicated, specialized mining transport company an indispensable partner in any mining venture.