Sitting amidst the hardest rock in Southern Africa, Vedanta Zinc International’s Black Mountain base metals mine in the Northern Cape is reaping the rewards from optimising its mining fleet with record production levels and ever-improving profitability.

With 65% of production from cut & fill mining and 35% from open-stoping, the mine operates around the clock. Black Mountain Mining (BMM) is heavily dependent on its load-haul-dump (LHD) fleet to haul ore in continuous round-the-clock tramming cycles. The mine requires extreme reliability from the equipment to meet production requirements.

Machinery breakdowns can restrict operations in the decline or access to production levels and have severe consequences for production and profitability.

For several years, this had been the case with several of the machines in the mine’s 18-strong LHD fleet. Their comparatively low availability had hamstrung the operation and given rise to considerable frustration and lower than expected production rates on the mine. However, the tipping point came when management reviewed statistics of machines in the fleet and approached Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, the OEM with the best performing LHDs on the mine, to replenish and optimise the rest of its fleet in line with the mine’s expectations.

Fleet replenishment

According to Praveen Pinisetti, Sandvik Mining Key Account Manager, the mine has subsequently begun a programme to standardise its fleet on the ever reliable and durable Sandvik LH517 (17 tonne LHD) machines and has begun systematically replacing other non-performing utility LHDs. New equipment usage strategies have also been implemented in partnership with Sandvik and are rapidly improving production.

Since the inception of the programme the mine has changed the composition of its fleet from just seven Sandvik LHDs to 13 out of the 18 machines on site. Others will be replaced in due course.

“This is an exceptionally tough mine with hard rock and long tramming distances that can reach up to 5.5km (round trip). The remote location of the mine and long tramming distances to surface through an old small decline make ‘swop-outs’ of faulty machines difficult and time consuming. But those are the challenges of the mine and the only solution is to have machines that are more reliable,” says Praveen.

Reliable partner

He points out that the relationship between Sandvik and the mine has developed into a close partnership. “Beginning with the company’s CEO, Deshnee Naidoo, and General Manager, Andre Trytsman, and extending to the men on the ground, the relationship is sterling. This is because they realise that for us it’s not just sales talk. We actually do deliver on our promises regarding machines, management services and around-the-clock support.

“Wherever possible we have also assisted the mine with focused training of operators as well as undertaken other initiatives to improve overall fleet availability and help boost production. We have also improved the skills of workshop staff to better analyse and service machines. These interventions have contributed to improved fleet utilisation and availability with significantly reduced mean time to repair (MTTR) and improved mean time before failure (MTBF).”

Building on the success of the LHD fleet upgrade, the mine has recently chosen to further expand its fleet with the acquisition of 16 Sandvik units. These are working at strategic points where the production units continue to produce above average tonnages at a fast, steady and reliable pace.

Time saver

“We are particularly encouraged by the General Manager, who recently stated that based on the introduction of the longhole drill rigs, BMM’s future has been secured,” Praveen concludes.

Sandvik Mining, Alice Ward

Tel: (011) 929-5300, Email