Uniting innovation with a wealth of industry experience that spans six decades, the United Mining Services Group is continuing to grow from strength to strength. With projects throughout southern Africa and as far afield as Brazil and the US, the organisation draws on considerable industry expertise to offer turnkey solutions to clients in the global mining and minerals industries.

UMS CEO, Digby Glover. Photo by UMS

UMS CEO, Digby Glover. Photo by UMS

Since its establishment in 2015, United Mining Services (UMS) has brought together specialist resources and a highly experienced management team, headed up by CEO Digby Glover and COO Murray Macnab. A global operation registered in the United Kingdom, UMS’s core technical capabilities reside in South Africa, most notably through its Mining Engineering Technical Services (METS) and Shaft Sinkers divisions. Shaft Sinkers will be celebrating 60 years in business this year, while METS will reach the same milestone in 2024.

Glover explains that Shaft Sinkers is the contracting/construction division specialising in shaft sinking, all mine underground and surface construction and specialist services of shaft optimisation. METS is the EPCM arm of the business and has two divisions: METS Mining and METS Process. METS Mining undertakes the design of underground mining structures including shafts, headgear as well as declines. METS Process services the process and metallurgical industry, focusing on the crushing and screening, material handling, beneficiation projects and tailings reclamation process on all commodities, applying a ‘fit for purpose’ process solution using a modular approach where applicable.

Operating under the UMS Group, Glover says this umbrella offering gives UMS a distinct in-house advantage, backed by six decades of diverse technical expertise. He notes that the organisation is on an upward trajectory and has attracted some of the best and most experienced mining and processing experts found anywhere, making it into a leading industry role player.

“We have projects in the near term that will expand our operations significantly, backed by a top-class management team and key resources,” says Glover.

He adds that as a full suite mining and minerals processing services firm, UMS provides clients with a single source for the design, costing, scheduling and construction execution of all mining and processing projects. He explains that this allows for seamless integration between the project phases, giving greater cost and schedule accuracy and providing reduced risk for the client.

Currently, UMS have three active shaft sinking projects on three different continents, underscoring not only the organisation’s strong track record, but also its wide international reach.

The largest of these projects is in Botswana where UMS has been contracted to sink a twin vertical shaft system for a client. UMS Group Executive Project Services, Dr Pieter Louw, says the scope of work includes a production shaft and ventilation shaft which will enable the mine to meet future underground production demands and remain fully ventilated.

He says the shafts will be developed concurrently and blind sunk from the surface using conventional drill and blast equipment. The production shaft will reach a depth of 769 metres and be equipped with a double drum hoist and two 21-tonne skips for production hoisting. Additionally, there will be a double drum hoist man/material cage and counterweight, as well as a single drum hoist with auxiliary cage for personnel.

The ventilation shaft will be 732 metres deep and be equipped with a facility to hoist persons with a mobile emergency winder in case of an emergency. The surface fan evasé is designed to allow access for the mobile winder capsule.

“UMS will mobilise to start the pre-sink in July 2021, and we expect to begin the main sink in 2022,” says Louw.

The shafts will permit the mine rapid access to underground ore bodies, thereby extending the mine’s life and value, while new methodologies to be employed by UMS will allow for safer, more economical shaft sinking.

“UMS will be using vertical muckers, as opposed to conventional cactus grabs. This will significantly improve operational safety as a single operator control allows for a pared down team at the shaft bottom during mucking. We also plan to repurpose a kibble winder into a production hoist, offering significant time and cost savings for the mine,” explains Louw.

Macnab adds that the use of remote-control equipment, which has already been successfully utilised on other projects, will further increase the safety of workers, and make conditions more ergonomic and comfortable for operators.

“We bring both innovation and experience to a specialised industry by providing clients the full value chain offering of mining services. METS has all the specialist technical and design skills that shaft sinking demands, while Shaft Sinkers deals with capital infrastructure and contract mining,” says Macnab.

In South America, UMS is in the process of preparing feasibility studies and designing a new vertical shaft for a mine in Brazil. It expects to begin pre-sinking the 1 500-metre-deep shaft later this year, as the mine extends its longevity by moving from open cast to underground.

Further north, UMS will soon be commencing the main sink on a deep level access shaft for a client in New Mexico, USA in a joint venture with a local business. Once completed, the final shaft will measure 8 metres in diameter and extend 693 metres below surface.

On all three projects METS is responsible for front-end engineering and design work. “Through METS and Shaft Sinkers, we have a wealth of knowledge at our disposal. This deep expertise is available to the entire organisation which in turn passes on cost and time savings to clients,” says Macnab.

Alongside a diverse geographical footprint, UMS provides diversity in its offerings, and has successfully completed a number of projects in the gold, chrome, and general processing applications. The organisation’s combined experience and expertise incorporates over 170 000 metres vertical shafts sunk across the globe, including shaft rehabilitation, shaft towers and mining and tunnelling design.