PLCs, DCSs & Controllers

Assmang Khumani mine

January 2009 PLCs, DCSs & Controllers

Completed in just two years, ­Khumani is well on the way to becoming a principal player in the primary metal ­markets.

Assmang’s new Khumani iron ore mine is situated in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa and close to Sishen. The Khumani deposits are among the best iron ore resources in the country in terms of quality and quantity. Based on current reserves, a new mine producing 8,4 million tons annually would have a life in excess of 40 years and at double that capacity, a life in excess of about 25 years.

The iron ore is mined from a series of open pits by conventional drilling and blasting before being loaded onto trucks for hauling to the primary and secondary crushers. From there, the ore is transferred by conveyor to stockpiles ahead of the beneficiation plant. The run-of-mine ore is stockpiled on blending beds in two categories, ‘on-grade’ and ‘off-grade’.

The on-grade ore is crushed, washed and graded according to four size categories. The off-grade ore goes through an identical crushing, washing and screening process, followed by a jig beneficiation plant to match its chemical composition with client specifications.

There are eight Geoscan on-line analysers installed at critical locations in the plant to monitor the chemical composition of the ore in realtime, so that immediate remedial action can be taken if the ore deviates from the chemical grade requirements.

Products are stockpiled ahead of a rapid load-out station, which has the capability to load 342 x 100-ton wagons in eight hours – that is one 100-ton wagon every 90 seconds. From there, the product is railed 860 km to the port of Saldanha Bay for export.

System integrator selection

DRA Mineral Projects were appointed as the managing contractor for this project and EPCM contractor for the plant and infrastructure. DRA appointed system integrator IRITRON for the Wonderware ArchestrA System Platform 3.0 implementation portion of the project. IRITRON was actively involved in the systems engineering, instrumentation design and PLC control systems aspects of the scheme.

“To effectively monitor this huge complex, we implemented Wonderware”s System Platform which is based on ArchestrA technology and includes Wonderware’s realtime Historian, the Information Server web portal, ActiveFactory realtime production performance analysis and reporting software and InTouch for the Scada/HMI applications serving some 44 000 I/O tags,” says IRITRON director, Johann Pienaar. “In addition, we used the Topserver I/O Servers from Software Toolbox to communicate between the PLCs and the System Platform as well as MDT Software’s AutoSave for the change control management of all 63 Allen-Bradley ControlLogix PLCs.”

Part of the system topology at the Khumani mine
Part of the system topology at the Khumani mine

System implementation

Allowing for the expansion of systems at minimal cost is a cornerstone of ArchestrA technology and one of the ways this happens is through the development of standards.

“Khumani’s plant model is based on the ISA-95 standard, which was facilitated by Wonderware’s System Platform Application Server and its best practices guide supplied by Wonderware Southern Africa,” adds Pienaar. “This standard was implemented and adhered to throughout the project and will greatly facilitate integrating the system’s information with Assmang’s planning and ERP systems.”

Another important ArchestrA attribute that safeguards expansion at minimal cost is that of scalability. At Khumani, they know they will have to double their capacity in two years and, in ordinary conditions, this could mean some expensive system rework.

“When the time comes to expand the system, the initial work done on standards means that defining new capability will be a matter of hours rather than weeks or months,” says Pienaar. “In addition, ArchestrA has been proved to handle more than a million I/O tags and we are currently looking at (only) about 44 000. This, together with a self-configuring historian, makes system expansion painless.”

The mine cannot afford unplanned production delays during its lengthy and productive life, and has to produce quality products that will be accepted worldwide in an extremely competitive market. To do this, it needs industrial information and automation equipment equal to the task.

Apart from standards, scalability and system availability, Assmang needs a few more key attributes from the system in charge of its primary wealth-creating facility – security and architectural freedom.

“In a situation such as ours, it is important that only authorised personnel have access to various levels of the system to make changes to set points and other parameters,” says Marius Malan, control systems supervisor, Assmang. “With the System Platform, security and alarming are uniform across the entire system and we do not have to make provision for discrete wsub-systems. Of equal importance is our ability to change our mind with respect to the structure of our system and its interaction with others. ArchestrA technology gives us that choice. For example, we had to integrate with a number of third party standalone InTouch applications incorporated into the Metso crushers, the Bateman load-out station, a QMastor stockpile management system and a CCLAS LIMS system - it all just ‘happened.”


“For us, the most significant aspect of this project was that ArchestrA technology gave us a multi-user development environment that allowed us to design, develop, implement and maintain a large project in one year,” says Pienaar. “ArchestrA’s integrated development environment gave us the tools to develop complex applications without bothering unnecessarily about the details of interfacing with PLCs at one end of the spectrum and ERP systems at the other while providing the functionality to do both.”

From the start, Assmang’s Khumani mine is a winner, not only in terms of its rich deposits but also in terms of how it will process them. Today, no enterprise can survive without efficiency and a major contributor is how well processes can be measured and controlled. Wonderware’s System Platform will be providing Khumani mine’s managers and operators with the plant intelligence they need for efficient operation far into the future.

For more information contact Johann Pienaar, IRITRON, +27 (0)12 349 2919,, or Deon van Aardt, Wonderware Southern Africa, 0861 WONDER,,


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