Switchgear contract for DRC mine’s underground substations

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MV Switchgear has executed two large contracts over the past two years, involving the manufacture, supply and installation of numerous air-insulated switchgear (AIS) panels for 11 kV substations at the extensive new Kamoa-Kakula copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The company has subsequently been awarded a further contract for GELPAG solid insulated switchgear (SIS) units for more underground substations at the mine.

A total 233 of MV Switchgear’s well-known and widely used SBV4E brand of AIS switchgear panels were produced to equip surface and underground substations at the new mine. They comprised 140 panels for eight surface substations, and 93 panels for five underground substations.

The latest contract for 149 GELPAG SIS units for eight underground substations came about as a result of having to address changes in underground conditions at the mine as mining operations progressed. “Harsh environmental conditions such as high levels of humidity and dust were found to be present in these underground sections, and we had to introduce more specialised switchgear equipped to cope with these conditions,” said Rhett Kelly, MV Switchgear’s design and development manager. “In such a situation, the choice is typically between fixed pattern gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) and solid dielectric-insulated switchgear (SIS). We were confident in recommending our GELPAG SIS product to DRA Global South Africa, the engineering consultants for the Kamoa project.”

MV Switchgear has experiencing growing demand for GELPAG since introducing it into the local market in late 2020. The company recently arranged to commence local manufacture of some of the product’s ancillary components, in collaboration with its overseas-based OEM partner.

“By taking this step, we’ve substantially shortened the production lead times, as we can now manufacture the agreed locally-produced components in parallel with the OEM’s production of the main product, thereby speeding up both final assembly of the product in our plant and delivery to the end user,” Kelly said. The Kamoa mine will be the first recipient of GELPAG panels in terms of the new arrangement.

Technology development specialist, Johan Jordaan added: “The components being manufactured locally are the LV compartment, internal arc ducting, and the drop-down boxes for the cable terminations. While not normally required for the GELPAG product range, custom drop-down boxes have been designed to accommodate the three-core cable terminations with core balance CTs specified by the customer. To further speed up and simplify production and delivery, we have developed an LV connector system that allows the panel’s circuit-breaker, disconnector and earth switch wiring to interface with the LV control wiring via a standard multi-pin plug-and-socket system.

MV Switchgear has also developed a wiring test rig to enable it to test and verify the wiring of each LV compartment before the GELPAG panels arrive from abroad.

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