Winning - Perfect positioning, strategic flexibility

Winning - Perfect positioning, strategic flexibility

By Robyn Grimsley

B&E International has been operating amid the Mpumalanga coalfields since opening its Kusile Quarry in 2011. One year after B&E started operations at its Howards Quarry outside of eMalahleni, quarry manager André Kamfer explains what makes this site unique.

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Howards Quarry, located outside of eMalahleni, is the largest source of high-quality dolerite in the region.
Image credit: Robyn Grimsley

B&E International opened its Kusile Quarry in 2011 to cater for the aggregate requirements of the construction of Kusile Power Station and ancillary works. In October last year, B&E started operations at its Howards Quarry, located south of the N4 between the Balmoral and Highveld Steel offramps. The quarry is a source of high-quality dolerite — the largest in the region — making it ideally suited to supply not only the ongoing works at Kusile, but also the numerous road and rail projects in the area. While dolerite is highly sought after by the construction industry, particularly for infrastructure projects in both civils and mining, good dolerite sources are being systematically depleted, resulting in a shortage of quality aggregates.

Quarry manager AndréKamfer explains that the Howards Quarry was established on the footprint of an existing quarry, with the intention of supplying contractors at Kusile as well as project contractors in the surrounding area — particularly those involved in road building and civils infrastructure projects. “The licence holder for the previous quarry actually approached us when they were done here, and knowing that we both had limited space and remaining life at Kusile Quarry, we applied for a mining right here, but for a much bigger area than the original quarry,” Kamfer says.

“One of the main reasons we decided to open this quarry is because we knew there were going to be a lot of projects in the area: the mine has to open to supply Kusile, there’s a number of big road projects in the area, including a planned road running right through from Ogies, and there’s a new railway coming in as well. And there is still a lot of afterwork required for Kusile,” says Kamfer. He explains that large dolerite deposits such as the one being mined at Howards Quarry are uncommon for the region, and the quarry is bordered by sandstone, quartzite, and coal.

Although the quarry officially started operations in October last year, Kamfer explains that they actually started work on site earlier than that. “About 18 months prior, I told the guys that January 2016 would be the final month of operation for Kusile Quarry, and then I would need a plant up here and running. So, we actually started cleaning the site and pouring the concrete works for the plant in around February last year, and then we started up operations in October, so it was very quick.”

B&E has been involved in the quarrying industry for many decades, with a focus on contract-specific quarry operations. “Historically, we have tended to operate on limited-duration contracts for specific products,” explains Kamfer. “So for example, for the N1 contract, we would get a licence and crush in small increments ahead of the contract, about 300 000 tonnes at a single site, and then move onto the next one. Currently, we have three commercial quarries, excluding Kusile: Howards Quarry, Willows, and then one in Bela Bela in Botswana.”

According to Kamfer, the size of the current pit is 150m by 250m (37 500m2), with a maximum depth of 30m to 40m. The pit is 380m by 580m (220 400m2), with a projected depth of 80m to 90m. “This is dolerite all the way down, and based on the size of the new quarry, the projected life of mine is about 20 years,” adds Kamfer. “I’ve even drilled down to 127m on the one side of the quarry for the borehole, and it was dolerite throughout.”

Kamfer and his team do their own drilling and blasting, using around six to eight tonnes of explosives for each blast. Howards Quarry aims to blast about once a month, unless demand dictates otherwise.

The excavators — Volvo machines, like most of the quarry’s fleet — have been operating for around 20 000 hours. 
Image credit: Robyn GrimsleyHowards Quarry uses around 5 000 litres of water per day for dust suppression.
Image credit: Robyn GrimsleyB&E has been involved in the quarrying industry for many decades, with a focus on contract-specific quarry operations.
Image credit: Robyn GrimsleyThe high quality of the dolerite orebody, coupled with the custom design of the crushing and screening plant, allows for an extensive product range. Image credit: Robyn Grimsley

Built-in flexibility

Established in 1972 as a drilling and blasting specialist, B&E International diversified into the mobile crushing sector with its own mobile and static crushing division, and has been designing and manufacturing plants for in-house use since the 1980s. In 1993, it entered the mining services sector and diversified further into bulk mining, processing, and mineral beneficiation. Fifteen years later, in 2008, B&E International was acquired by the Raubex Group. In 2012, the company decided to offer its operational expertise to its broad customer range, designing and engineering custom-built solutions for specific projects and applications.

Howards Quarry uses a custom-designed and custom-built B&E International plant for crushing and screening, and produces a vast range of products, from dump rock and gabion rock all the way down to supersand. “The design of the plant enables us to produce many different products, and there is a lot of built-in flexibility to cater for increased demand. So, for example, if the demand for concrete stone and roadstone at the same time is so high that I cannot keep up, I can add in a mobile chip plant and just feed it through,” says Kamfer.

Howards Quarry’s product range comprises dump rock and gabion, railway ballast (-75mm, 37mm), concrete stone (37mm, 26mm, 19mm, 13mm, 9.5mm, 6.7mm, and -6.7mm sand), base course (G1 to G9), and road stone (19mm, 13mm, 9.5mm, 6.7mm). According to Kamfer, it is the high quality of the dolerite orebody, coupled with the custom design of the crushing and screening plant, that allows for such an extensive product range. While they do not make washed riversand or plaster sand, Howards Quarry can also source these supplies from its neighbours, allowing their customers to collect all their products from a sole source.

The plant has a capacity of about 60 000 to 80 000 tonnes per month, with a flexible design that allows for an increase to upwards of 120 000 tonnes per month through the easy addition of modular or mobile units. The plant design also allows particular sections to be taken offline to accommodate fluctuating demand. “The plant was designed to allow us to change quickly between products by opening and closing chutes. So on this side, I can make dump rock and a 26mm ballast, and on the other side, I can pull out a 19mm, a 13mm, and a 9.5mm — seven products in all,” Kamfer explains. “And if I decide that I have enough 19mm, for example, I can just close that chute and send the rock down to the next level.”

“We also have an extra feeder next to the stockpile that allows me to feed through product if we need to put in another piece of plant,” he adds. “However, this isn’t something I foresee us needing to do any time soon, as our secondary plant came in the run at quite a high tonnes per hour rate, and our primary plant is now trying to keep up with supplying two production lines.”

On-site maintenance

Given the cost and logistical challenges of getting power from Eskom, Howards Quarry runs completely off grid, using three synchronised B&E gensets.

The fleet, comprising predominantly Volvo machines, loads up after the blast and transports the rock to the custom-built plant for crushing and screening. All the machines are maintained on site in the workshop, with Babcock only coming out to do the major services for the machines that are still under warranty. “These excavators are already standing on around 20 000 to 21 000 hours, and we are still working,” says Kamfer.

The oil change system has been designed to eliminate used oil being carried or transported through the workshop. “When the truck pulls in to get serviced, we pull the trolley underneath the truck, drain the oil, and then pump it out to the used oil drums, where it is stored until the drums are nearly full. At that point, we call the guys who come to collect the used oil, and they connect their trucks up to the drums and pump the oil back out.”

“We also do all our own plant maintenance, as well as full refurbishing of our buckets on site to help keep the cost per tonne down,” says Kamfer. At the time of the visit, B&E International was also in the process of building an on-site training facility within the workshop to facilitate technical and mechanical training.

Environmental management

The permit, mining rights, water use licence, and environmental authorisation applications for Howards Quarry were handled by Greenmined Environmental. Sonette Smit, director and senior environmental consultant at Greenmined Environmental, started the company in 2012 and has over 12 years’ experience in environmental management. As a former Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) employee, Smit has a good understanding of departmental structures, mechanisms, and procedures, as well as significant experience in water use applications, data collation, and monitoring. She puts this knowledge to good use, helping mines navigate the legislative and regulatory maze governing the industry.

“For Howards Quarry, we handled the applications for the mining permits, environmental authorisation, and mining right. We are also responsible for conducting their monthly environmental audits, their dust monitoring, and their water sampling. Unlike the Kusile Quarry, which was located next to a wetland and thus required monthly water sampling, Howards Quarry doesn’t require regular water sampling, so we do this on an ad hoc basis.”

Greenmined also developed an alien clearing plan for Howards Quarry, which had a huge issue with weeds, and is assisting with the rezoning of the land from agricultural to mining — a requirement that arose from the mining right application.

“We will also take over their mine administration, including their Social and Labour Plan. Basically, we decided to expand our services to cover mine administration so that we can assist the mines with legal compliance reporting requirements and so on, and leave them to their core business of mining and crushing,” she adds.

B&E International does its own plant maintenance as well as full refurbishing of its buckets, on site, to help reduce the cost per tonne. Image credit: Robyn GrimsleyAll the machines are maintained on site in the workshop, with Babcock only coming out to do the major services for the machines that are still under warranty. Image credit: Robyn GrimsleyThe plant design allows particular sections to be taken offline — or mobile plants added — to accommodate fluctuating demand.
Image credit: Robyn GrimsleyHowards Quarry uses a bespoke B&E International plant for crushing and screening, and produces a vast range of products, from dump rock and gabion rock all the way down to supersand. Image credit: Robyn Grimsley

Focus on the future

Safety is a huge concern for quarry operators, and those at Howards Quarry are no different. “We spend a lot of time on safety, because it is such an important area,” says Kamfer. “We have had only one lost-time injury since starting work on this site — when I was bitten by a dog!” In addition to the quarterly safety audits, Howards Quarry offers on-site training for its staff in safety-related matters, only sending them off site when specialised training requires it.

The quarry employs a staff of 46, including two women, with a large complement having worked at Kusile Quarry prior to coming across to Howards. “A lot of our guys came over from the Kusile Quarry when operations finished there, and so we have a lot of experienced staff working here on site,” says Kamfer. “It’s a tough business, and the delays in projects can make it difficult. But we are perfectly positioned to supply contractors in this area as projects get going, and I am confident that our high-quality product, flexible plant design, and large dolerite deposit will ensure our success in this area for many years to come.”



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