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WITS Mining - Facilities

The School now has well equipped teaching laboratories in the following areas:

Laboratory Facilities

  • Rock Mechanics
  • Excavation Engineering
  • Mine Ventilation and Climate Control
  • noise and lighting
  • Digital Photogrammetry
  • Mine Design and Computing

To complement these laboratories, our workshop is capable of meeting all the School's requirements for the design, manufacture and maintenance of teaching and research equipment.

The Rock Testing Laboratory is probably the best equipped in the Southern Hemisphere and comparable with those at any university world wide. Facilities include sample preparation, equipment for uniaxial compressive and shear testing and a 3000 kN, triaxial servo-controlled test machine with temperature control. This last item, which was purchased in 1985 at the cost of R1 million, was upgraded in 1994 at a further cost of R1,5 million. Undergraduates are now able to familiarise themselves with all aspects of rock testing and to understand the properties and mechanisms involved in rock fracture (a most important consideration for deep-level mining).

Research and postgraduate teaching also makes use of high speed photography in studying the detonation of explosives, while the recent acquisition of a set of White Industrial Seismology seismographs now allows students to study the effect of blasting on the environment and the potential of damage to structures.

Laboratory classes are conducted to investigate the fan laws, the use of fans in series and parallel and the principles of air cooling. Equipment includes a Newtech Mine Ventilation Educator, a purpose built variable speed centrifugal fan (built to our design by Howden Fans) and a Hilton Air Conditioning Teaching Unit.

A modified Butler shaping machine is used to demonstrate to students the basic concepts of rock and coal cutting. Groups of three or four students participate in laboratory exercises throughout the 3rd year under the supervision of post graduate or 4th year students. The shaping machine is used to demonstrate such aspects as the depth of cut and the cut spacing on cutting forces. In addition the students determine the efficiency of cutting by calculating specific energy requirements of various changes to cutting characteristics.

The main modification to the shaping machine is the incorporation of a tri-axial dynamometer that resolves the pick force into three component forces. The dynamometer sends signals via an amplifier to a computer from which graphical plots and average forces experienced during a cut are obtained.

The photo (left) shows a coal block, encased in concrete to prevent disintegration and weathering of the coal, positioned on the shaping machine platten prior to a test. A point attack pick is mounted on the dynamometer.

Since all surveying within the University is service taught by the School of Mining Engineering, equipment for practical classes is held and maintained in the Survey Store. This contains a large collection of standard instruments (levels, theodolites, etc) transferred from the Department of Surveying in 1990, together with specialised mine surveying equipment purchased since then. 

Computer Facilities

In the mid-1980's the School of Mining Engineering was the largest academic user of the University's mainframe computer. Since then the move to localised computing has been completed and the School of Mining Engineering now operates a LAN with about 200 machines attached.

The major expense over the past year (2010) has been the new Mine Design Laboratory (MDL) and the upgrade of staff computers. In addition, more than ninety percent of the staff were provided with laptops. Gemcom Africa (GA) donated 6 million rands worth of Mine Design software to our School. The donation included 50 Whittle, 100 Surpac and 53 GEMS software licenses and a training programme for the students of the School. The laboratory is now equipped with 100 Dell Precision workstations, each running the Windows 7 operating system. Four screen projectors make teaching involving computer-based courses very effective. Specially designed computer desks enable the monitors to be placed inside the desks with a glass cover on top as well as built-in 99 microphones to enable full-interaction between students and the lecturer. The laboratory also has a stereo sound system which includes 32 ceiling speakers which enables not only the lecturer's voice to be projected clearly and concisely, but also creating the possibility of gaining sound effects from the speakers via the computer.

The School’s network has been upgraded to 1000 Base-T by purchasing 3x96 and  4x48 ports Nortel Gigabit switches to increase the network performance. The upgrade also included the replacement of network cables and cabinets within the school. Peripherals on the network include 6 laser printers, 2 colour laser printers, 8 data projectors and a Ricoh Pro 907EX copier/printer which enables staff members to send their large volume printing jobs directly to that machine from their workstations.

Software is also provided on the network and includes Microsoft Office 2010 suite for administrative and academic tasks, Gemcom, Surpac, Wittle, MicroStation for mine design, Surfer and Geostokos for geostatistics. The usual range of Internet services are available, as is direct access to the library catalogue system.

Computer Facilities are also available for full-time postgraduate students. The School supplies computers to its postgraduate students. Each postgraduate student has his/her own PC with full internet access as well as e-mail. For undergraduates there is limited access to the Mine Design Laboratory machines. Access to an additional computer laboratory (CADROOM) with 15  PCs and printing facilities as well as full internet access and e-mail is provided to third and fourth year students during working hours. First and second year students have access (24 hours/7 days a week) to the Faculty's computer laboratory.