De Beers opens South Africa training centre

Diamond miner De Beers has commissioned a new training facility at the Venetia Underground Project, in the Limpopo province, South Africa, to train employees and new recruits for what’s ahead for its underground-to-surface transition.

The R188 million (US$2.2 million) skill centre casually known as VUP can accommodate 84 students at a time and features development of one of the most advanced underground mines in the world, the miner said.  

“Highly mechanised, it will employ the sub-level caving method to mine up to 6 [million tonnes per year] of kimberlite ore to produce between 4.5 and 5.5 million carats a year of diamonds. Once the VUP’s ramp-up is completed, the underground workforce will number around 850 people,” De Beers said.

According to the company, while the well-established caving method is set for deployment at the Venetia mine, very few of its employees have experience with it. To fast-track that learning, De Beers opted to commission the training facility to offer classroom sessions and e-learning capabilities with a capacity of 95 and 65 students, respectively, spread among five training rooms with video walls and servers. Mobile machine simulators are also available for training.

The sub-level caving training material has been split into 10 modules including mine design and sequencing; drill and blast; cave propagation and subsidence; cave management; caving hazards and hazard management; and more. 

An underground simulation area at the facility will have an emergency rescue bay and control room for the replication of underground situations that could require evacuation; a virtual reality blast wall will give trainees the opportunity to mark up and charge a face. 

“Not only will they have to adapt to the very different demands of an underground mining environment as they transition to the VUP but they will also have to learn the very specific skills associated with highly mechanised sub-level cave mining,” the miner said.

Thoroughtec has supplied the simulators for the centre, which will train students on Sandvik equipment including trucks, loaders, bolters and drill rigs. The simulator training is complemented by a TMM (trackless mobile machine) mock-up area on the surface, where trainees will spend 15 hours.

De Beers said that, as a follow-up to the training received at the centre, it has partnered with Redpath to further enhance TMM operator skillsets. 

“A contingent of Redpath personnel – who will be on site for the next four years – will assist with skills transfer on some of the key mechanised equipment and ensure that safety and performance levels of operators are up to the required standards,” the company said.

“While the training centre will focus on imparting core underground mining and TMM skills to trainees, De Beers has also developed a training package which allows both technical and non-technical personnel to familiarise themselves with the sub-level caving method. The content has been converted and incorporated into the electronic learning platform.” 

Source: De Beers

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