Bridges and buildings collapse, aeroplanes crash and refineries and factories experience explosions due to corrosion. According to an EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute of the US) study more than half of all unplanned power outages are due to corrosion, which generally corresponds with other studies that half of all failures in industry are corrosion related. Studies in different countries indicate that between 25% to 30% of water supply is lost in the supply chain due to corrosion.
The effects of corrosion are well documented, including economical loss, waste of energy and materials, environmental impact and safety.
The economic loss of corrosion worldwide is estimated to be greater than US$1.8-trillion, while in South Africa, the direct cost of corrosion is estimated to be around R130-billion.
Half of every ton of steel that is produced, is produced merely to replace corroded steel. This implies a significant carbon footprint, as 380 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced for every ton of steel produced.
However, several independent studies have also shown that 25% of the abovementioned effects and costs of corrosion can be prevented by applying known technology. This places a significant emphasis on the importance on corrosion education.
The sobering thought, however, is that none of our current higher education institutes (HEIs) are really experts in corrosion technology. A young graduate can qualify as a mechanical, civil or chemical engineer to build structures and design processes without knowing what the effect off corrosion will be on these structures and processes. Perhaps we should therefore not be surprised at the high cost of corrosion.
With the pool of corrosion expertise shrinking, it is clear that the problem is only going to get bigger. It is quite clear that something therefore has to be done on a national level to create a centre or network of expertise to address this issue. Such initiatives are currently being introduced in several countries.
In South Africa, Mintek together with the Corrosion Institute of Southern Africa (CorrISA) have also taken this task upon themselves.
“Mintek helps industry to reduce the adverse impacts of corrosion by performing failure investigations, aiding in material selection, and providing advice,” said Deon Slabbert, co-ordinator of the Mintek Metals Technology Centre (MTC). “We have over the years built up significant resources in equipment, information databases and expertise to provide cost effective services. These resources are used to help specify appropriate materials for construction upfront for processes.
“The MTC also performs failure investigations in order to identify root causes. This is not only important for litigation, but also to prevent costly failures and downtime in future. Being involved in solving materials-related problems in industry for a long time, one of the concerning factors is that people don’t seem to learn from their mistakes.
Mintek rehabilitates old mines
Mintek has successfully completed the construction of a wall to enclose a rehabilitated old asbestos mining site in the Northern Cape as part of the Department of Mineral Resources’ (DMR’s) R30-million programme to rehabilitate derelict and ownerless mines in South Africa.
The construction of the brick and palisade wall was the final step in the rehabilitation of the Old Mill Site at Prieska, an area in the town where asbestos was received for processing, to alleviate its impact on the environment and communities in its vicinity.
“The gates to the asbestos site have been locked and the contractor has handed the keys to the town engineer,” says Herman Cornelissen, project manager of the programme at Mintek. “We had meetings with the municipal engineer and municipal manager in Prieska as well as a site meeting attended by officials of the DMR. All tasks as agreed to in the tender have been finalised to the satisfaction of both Mintek and the Siyathemba Municipality,” explains Cornelissen.
Prieska, which falls under the Siyathemba Municipality, is a historical mining town about 240km south-west of Kimberley, the Northern Cape’s provincial capital. Asbestos has been mined in the area from as early as the 1890s. The Old Mill Site was in operation from the early 1970s until it was closed down in 1986. The completion of this work allows the Siyathemba Municipality to safely develop the site of the Old asbestos Mill in the town as a memorial park to victims of asbestosis.
The enclosed area has now been covered with a layer of soil and strong Polysoil – a commercial soil bonding agent – to ensure a stable, hard cover layer that encapsulates the asbestos underground. The wall was subsequently erected to control access to the site. The project also included the construction of stormwater drainage structures around the perimeter of the site.
Mintek started working on the project in 2010 after having received an initial R30-million in funding from the DMR to rehabilitate the site, as well as four other sites at Penge, Osizweni, Heuningvlei and Lusikisiki.
The DMR has granted a further R30-million for the next phase of the rehabilitation programme, which will bring the total grant to R90-million over a period of three years. According to Cornelissen five further projects have been identified for rehabilitation in the current year.
Mintek fills three key posts
Mintek is pleased to announce the appointment of three Senior Managers to fill vacant positions in the organisation’s management structure.
The appointments follow an extensive search in the public and private sector for highly experienced individuals in research and development (R&D) and corporate governance affairs.
The following senior appointments have been made:
- Dr Makhapa Makhafola has been appointed General Manager: Research and Development;
- Adv Mamokete Ramoshaba has been appointed General Manager: Corporate Services; and,
- Dr Leon Kruger has been appointed Manager: Hydrometallurgy Division.
“On behalf of the Board and the Executive Management team, I warmly welcome these distinguished professionals to Mintek. Their expert skills and wealth of experience will assist Mintek to maintain its position as a leader in mineral and metallurgical innovation,” said Mintek CEO Abiel Mngomezulu.
Dr Makhafola, an analytical chemist who trained at the University of Manchester (UK) and University of Pretoria – previously worked as Director: Quality Promotion and Assurance at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Before that he held a similar position at the University of Venda for Science and Technology, where he also lectured.
As part of his post-doctoral studies Dr Makhafola was responsible for developing a technique called mono-disperse dried macro-particulate injector (MDMI) as a sample introduction for inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) an instrument used for metal analysis from samples originating from various industries, such as mining and food.
Apart from quality management, his strategic management interests include change and people management, policy development and analysis, strategic planning, and survey and evaluation research techniques.
Adv Ramoshaba has a wealth of experience in labour relations, including investigations, litigation, compliance management and human resources.
A lawyer trained at the University of South Africa, University of Johannesburg and University of Fort Hare, Adv Ramoshaba also held various management positions within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)’s Corporate Services Unit as well as at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
Prior to joining Mintek, she was a State Advocate at the NPA in the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit, where she was tasked with developing and implementing the “National 365 Days” programmes and a national action plan to end gender-based violence.
She was also responsible for improving the management and successful prosecution of sexual offences cases and developing and implementing professional empowerment programmes for prosecutors and external stakeholders.
Beginning her position at Mintek, she will lead the corporate services and corporate communication goals and ensure Mintek’s compliance with its legislative requirements.
Until his appointment at Mintek, Dr Kruger, who holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the erstwhile University of Port Elizabeth, was a senior manager at Multotec Process Equipment responsible for R&D. His main functions included the formulation of the R&D strategy to support the business goals of the company as well as the development of a project portfolio to support that strategy. As a senior executive at the company, his wide range of tasks included initiating and managing external research collaborations, software development and commercialisation of new technologies.
Over a period of fifteen years Dr Kruger has been responsible for the attainment of technical goals as well as performance managing staff members at Multotec, De Beers and JCI, where he was research programme manager and senior metallurgist respectively. During the process he mentored a number of junior staff members in their studies towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.