Howden Africa : Pioneering Engineering in Underground Environments

Rachel CarrJoshua Mann
Rachel Carr - Junior Editor Joshua Mann - Regional Director
James Howden Main

As Howden offers high-end ventilation solutions to the mining sector, we discover more about the company’s evolutionary leap forward in engineering equipment with Managing Director Kudzai Nyangoni.


Revolutionary engineering in the 19th century paved the way for various technologies that everyone is familiar with today. In 1854, James Howden founded a marine engineering company, and it was his early inventions which enabled the steamships of the era to reduce their energy consumption by nearly 50 percent. 

As industrial innovations increased, and the engineering industry expanded into homes with efficient appliances such as refrigeration and air conditioning, the company began to grow. Almost 100 years after the initial steps into marine  engineering, James Howden & Company Africa Pty was formed in 1952. After its recent acquisition by Chart Industries, the company has since rebranded as Howden. 

The progressive and energy efficient solutions continue to this day, in fact, with the company and the team deeply rooted in sustainability. Its environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) efforts are a fundamental characteristic of the Howden brand.  

For more than a century, Howden has supplied ventilation systems and equipment to global mining companies from the Arctic to Africa. Whatever the type of mine, whether it is coal, mineral, or base metal, Howden’s technology offers a superior ventilation performance.  

“In the last 14 years that I have been with Howden, I have overseen the design, manufacture, installation commissioning and maintenance of mine ventilation and mine cooling plants for some of the world’s deepest mines located in South Africa,” opens Kudzai Nyangoni, Managing Director of Howden.  

As a supplier of diverse gas handling equipment such as air heaters, mine ventilation fans, industrial process compressors, and a wide range of air pollution control equipment such as bag filters, scrubbers, industrial and medical waste incinerators, heating, cooling systems and more, Howden offers a fully integrated suite of expertise.  

“For the mining sector, Howden offers products and services under the Total Mine Ventilations Solutions (TMVS) strategy, ranging from pre-feasibility engineering studies, ventilation and cooling solutions and aftermarket services for installed equipment. The products and services are flexible, efficient and safe, and consequently, TMVS is a one-stop-shop,” Nyangoni informs us. 

Howden has a solution for most gas handling processes with high-end engineered solutions often supplied into industrial processes as packaged solutions or installed on a turnkey basis. The company also supplies ventilation systems and equipment to major mining companies in global settings.  

“In recent years, we have added to our suite of air handling technologies. Ventsim™ software optimises underground mine ventilation and Ventilation on Demand (VoD) software to help mines save energy and reduce operating costs.”


The future of mining lies in the Ventsim™ initiative, a suite of solutions which comprises two software packages – Ventsim™ DESIGN and Ventsim™ CONTROL. Introduced in 1993, it is now licensed to over 1,500 mining sites, consulting and research agencies, universities, and governments worldwide. Ventsim™ DESIGN is the ultimate 3-D mine ventilation design system.  

“It allows users to create a 3-D model of their tunnels, shafts and underground workings. This enables our customers to simulate, and animate, air flow and fan behaviour in real time and analyse mine ventilation within a rich and dynamic visual environment,” details Nyangoni.  

“Ventsim™ CONTROL enables the remote, and autonomous, control of ventilation devices as doors, fans and regulators. The technology combines ventilation modelling with a flexible control system and advanced control strategies. It is tailored for monitoring, control and optimisation in ventilation of underground mines,” he continues. 

Fundamentally resting on the four pillars of Ventsim™ Engineering Services Turnkey Engineering Solutions: Mine Ventilation, Turnkey Engineered Solutions: Mine Cooling, and the Aftermarket Services, the TMVS is a single point of contact solution, focused on providing a fully integrated approach to mine ventilation, cooling and conditioning monitoring.  

“It is aimed at creating work environments which are safe and risk free to the health of the employees, whilst protecting the environment. Through our products and services, we support our customers along the value chain, to achieve zero harm and ESG commitments.”   

Engineering studies in the pre-feasibility and feasibility stages of the project undertaken using Howden’s proprietary Ventsim™ software is the first part of the TMVS strategy, taking leading mine ventilation modelling software and applying it extensively across most mines globally.  

“Mine ventilation and cooling studies offered under our consulting arm, Ventsim™ Engineering Services, lead to optimisation of mine ventilation and cooling systems that help our mining customers to comply with strict ESG requirements in most jurisdictions,” Nyangoni assures. 

“The second part of the TMVS strategy is mine ventilation equipment ranging from the small 37 kilowatts (kW) auxiliary fan to the mighty 4 megawatts (MW) fans mixed flow primary ventilation fans. Howden has supplied the largest proportion of fans on Africa’s mines in the past eight decades,” he explains.

H+S Kudzai

“By employing our optimisation solutions, we have supported numerous mines to achieve their desired objectives”

Kudzai Nyangoni, Managing Director, Howden
James Howden2


After securing a contract for a Ventsim™ CONTROL system at Gold Fields South Deep gold mine (South Deep), the collaboration with Howden is to implement the state of the art ventilation optimisation system.  

“The solution will support a safe working environment as well as reduce the mine’s energy consumption, which will contribute towards South Deep’s environmental and operational goals. Our ventilation optimisation solution offers varying levels of control to suit the needs of the mine,” Nyangoni notes. 

Level one and two allows for manual remote control and scheduling of ventilation devices. Meanwhile, the level four VoD, the solution employed by South Deep, allows ventilation devices to react based on feedback from environmental and operational goals.  

Furthermore, it will adjust mine airflow in real time based on vehicle and personnel position, the solution also offers a 3-D modelling capability within the software, which helps users to better predict, and control air flows based on what is evidenced in the simulation.  

“The installation of Ventsim™ CONTROL will improve the operability and flexibility of the mine’s ventilation system to ensure a safe, healthy and efficient ventilation solution. Ventsim™ CONTROL will further reduce energy consumption and associated tonnes of carbon emissions,” he says.  

As the system allows the mine to optimise its ventilation based on fully remote vehicle and personnel monitoring, it directly contributes to achieving the emissions reduction targets, “something which the Howden team is very proud of.” 

The mine is a world-class bulk mechanised mining operation reaching depths between 2,800 metres (m) and 3,300m below surface, located in the Witwatersrand Basin, near Westonaria 50 kilometres (km) southwest of Johannesburg, South Africa.  

Sustainability and carbon footprint reduction have come under the spotlight in recent years, especially regarding mining practices, however, the savings and carbon reduction depends on the maturity of the solution.  

“Ventsim™ CONTROL is a product we are extremely excited about. Power consumption for ventilating the works of underground mines forms a substantial percentage of the operational expenditure for running the mine,” states Nyangoni. 

The percentages typically range between 30 and 50 but can be more in extreme cases. These high costs, and the associated impact on the environment, drive demand for solutions that offer operational efficiencies for ventilation systems.  

“By employing our optimisation solutions, we have supported numerous mines to achieve their desired objectives.” 

Priorities for the year ahead include remaining focused on helping customers across highly diversified end-markets and geographies, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of their air and gas handling processes, and enabling sustainable improvements with regards to health, safety and environmental impact. 

The mining industry’s value chain is very extensive. Engineering services are required throughout the life of a mine from feasibility studies to mine development, mining operations, mineral extraction and processing as well as the reliable maintenance of equipment. 

Therefore, it is difficult to find an industry that does not, one way or another, intersect with the mining value chain both upstream and downstream, therefore ensuring Howden’s success for centuries to come.

James Howden3


PUBLISHED BY:Outlook Publishing
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