Using Mining Anchors to Address Safety ConcernsMon, 10/21/2013 - 11:15
The most recent mining boom in Mexico has brought not just foreign investment to the country, but international best practices as well. Foreign mining companies that have operations in the country promote a culture of safety through their processes and procedures, which are starting to spread to domestic companies, too. An example of this is the increasing use of mining anchors. “Thanks to growing safety concerns, mining companies are using more anchors as the mine moves forward,” points out Carlos Sandoval Cardona, General Manager of Anclas Minerales Encinales. “This culture has been largely transmitted by Canadian mining companies that use anchors systematically throughout their work, and make it a requirement. Fortunately, Mexican companies are starting to realize their importance and are promoting their use as well. A few years ago we detected a great business opportunity in this field, as we anticipated the industry trend.”
Anclas Mineras Encinales was born out of a little motor and muffler workshop in Zacatecas. In 2001 the familyowned business identified a mining anchor shortage and decided to use its mechanical expertise to get into the industry. Anchors prevent collapses of the mine walls that may occur due to humidity and high temperatures in underground layers. In the process of creating tunnels and underground mines, the earth’s layers become exposed and release the accumulated heat, thus obstructing the miners’ work. In order to reduce this problem, fresh air from the surface is supplied in order to provide better working conditions. The aim is to control the temperature through the flow of cool air. When changes in temperature occur, the rock layers dehydrate and lose volume, leading to a decrease in the resistance between rocks and creating a risk of landslides. Anchoring consists of introducing a giant dowel that pressures the layers so that they maintain resistance, thus preventing collapses. “The purpose of mining anchors is to protect people’s lives inside the mine, quality is therefore an essential issue for us,” says Sandoval Cardona. He believes that one of the biggest challenges is the lack of regulations and safety standards for anchors: “The US has the international standard ASTM F 432, which regulates these types of products. Anclas Mineras Encinales applies this standard in order to guarantee the quality of its anchors. Mexico would greatly benefit from having official standards that regulate the manufacturing and installation of these systems,” he adds.
Another important part of ensuring quality is installation. The anchoring must be done properly, otherwise it would lose its effectiveness. Training becomes essential to achieving the correct installation. Anclas Mineras Encinales plays an active role in promoting a safety culture, through sharing the practical and technical knowledge it has acquired in mechanical rock studies, as well as through its field experience. These two things combined enable the company to provide quality anchor training. “The goal is to communicate our knowledge in simple language, without technical terms, in a way that allows the worker to perform his tasks efficiently. Workers are reminded of the risks involved in working in a mine, and the importance of following procedures so that we can guarantee that all personnel return home safely each day,” Sandoval Cardona explains. In terms of safety he sees no difference between working with a foreign and a Mexican mining company, as long as the concept is well defined: “Safety in the working area is crucial and goes beyond cultural paradigms. No matter a person’s nationality, the risk is general.”
As the market for anchors grows so does competition. Currently, Anclas Mineras Encinales is in the process of obtaining the ISO 9001:2008 certification. Selecting the best materials and the most qualified personnel in order to guarantee quality and customer satisfaction to clients is a priority; so, too, is innovation. “We innovate and develop new technologies constantly, and we have a special division dedicated to it, with budget autonomy, with the goal of improving our products and procedures,” emphasizes Sandoval Cardona. “The best examples of innovation in Anclas Mineras Encinales are our patented machines for manufacturing, which are an in-house design.”
The efforts and experience of the five generations of Sandovals that have worked in the family business are paying off. Anclas Mineras Encinales’ clients include Peñoles, Fresnillo PLC, Grupo Mexico, AuRico Gold, Pabellón Minera Mexicana, and many other contractors such as Minería Castellana and MGA. The company’s success is also reflected in its growth and ability to continue attracting new customers: “Three years ago, during a period of low global production, the company experienced an average sustained growth of 49%. During 2012 our growth was close to 100%, which confirms the fact that our work and products have contributed to the company’s market position,” Sandoval Cardona says. Last year was also a turning point for Anclas Mineras Encinales, since in June it made its first export to Peru. “In this aspect, we have moved in a slow but sure way. We believe that this has been the most convenient strategy for the company,” he adds.