Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975. It has since made significant progress in terms of economic development and political stability. Investors are now showing interest in the country’s abundant natural resources via major mining projects. One such project is Vale’s flagship Moatize coal mine in the Tete province. This region holds one of the world’s largest untapped carbon reserves, particularly for coking coal, which is used to make steel.
Vale, the second largest metals and mining company, and world’s largest producer of iron ore, is now seeking to become a major global company in the coal sector. It has announced plans to invest $15-20 billion in Africa between 2010 and 2015. This includes a $6 billion expansion of Moatize to double output to 22 million tonnes per year.
The mining method is an open pit through sequential layers using excavators, wheel loaders and rigid dump trucks, in which the production and rehabilitation process runs simultaneously. Vast quantities of overburden are being removed and dumped in designated piles, and layers of coal are being collected and transported to the primary crusher.
Vale’s line-up includes two EX8000-6s (with 43m3 coal buckets) and three EX5500-6s (34m3) – Hitachi’s two largest excavator models. These machines come with a bespoke after-sales support package, to ensure continuous operation even in one of Africa’s harshest environments, where temperatures exceed 50°C.
Two EX8000-6s have been assembled by a team of specialist sub-contractors overseen by Hitachi Construction Machinery Southern Africa Co., Ltd.’s National Product Specialist, Dave Thomas.
“Each of the disassembled EX8000-6s were transported on 29 trucks from the port at Durban in South Africa to the site on a rigorous two-week journey,” he explains.
“The first one took eight men—one rigger and seven fitters—only 19 days to prepare, due to the urgency required by Vale to get the machine working on the site. When the EX8000-6 is ready for action, it takes us 1.5 days to walk it down to the pit!”
The decision regarding which mining excavator to purchase is one that Vale takes very seriously. It not only compares different machines for productivity, but also for the level of technology that contributes to the safety of the operators and support offered by the manufacturer in remote areas such as Tete.
“We have a dedicated department in Brazil that is responsible for acquiring new machinery,” says Mário Carpegiane, Vale’s Maintenance Supervisor at Moatize. “They know the level of equipment required to start operations at the mine and have knowledge of the availability and support for other equipment that we are using around the world. Hitachi has a good reputation and is renowned for continuously developing its mining equipment.”
After one year of production, Mário had nothing but positive feedback about the first two EX5500-6s. The availability was excellent and the quality of service and support had exceeded expectations. Subsequently, Vale continued to operate Hitachi excavators at Moatize and another EX5500-6 and two EX8000-6s were ordered to assist with the expansion of production.
The EX8000-6 is such a rare piece of equipment that there is even more emphasis placed on the dedicated support availability of Hitachi to help meet production targets than with any other machine.”The high level of on-site support is an extremely important aspect of operating Hitachi excavators,” adds Mário. “The conditions in Mozambique are so tough that the maintenance and service are crucial to our operation.”
“The availability of both models has been excellent as a result of this support. The interface with the Hitachi team is second to none. Also, if you compare Hitachi models with other excavators, the design and layout are good, which is especially useful for replacing parts and general maintenance.”
Mr Sales echoes these comments: “We are also using Hitachi machines in Brazil and therefore know about their high quality. The support service for this mine is also particularly good. We can obtain parts and components within a short time frame, and we are very satisfied. The operating rate exceeds the guaranteed level, and thanks to this, the whole project is going well.”
Training plays a critical role in identifying the most skilled and able personnel to operate the huge Hitachi mining machines. The man responsible for training at Moatize is Leonam Cancela. He’s been an operator with Vale for a decade and has been training new recruits for the past three years. Having operated an EX2500 in Brazil and the EX5500-6 and EX8000-6 since arriving in Mozambique, he is certainly well qualified for the role.
“It takes six months to fully train an operator from novice status, although it depends on his natural ability of course,” Leonam says. “The training includes an induction on Vale, health and safety issues, the importance of the environment and technical procedures. They must understand how everything works, because this can be of invaluable assistance to the support crew.”
Arlindo Sitoe is one of the fortunate few who have made it to the unrivalled status of EX8000-6 operator. The 24-year-old Mozambican completed his training program with distinction and already had one year’s experience operating the EX5500-6 before progressing on to the EX8000-6.
“It gives me a lot of pleasure to work with the EX8000-6 and I am still very excited when I go to work every day,” enthuses Arlindo. “I’ve had invaluable training from Vale and Hitachi, and I was lucky to be selected as one of the best operators to work on these huge machines.
“I find that the EX8000-6 is very fast and of course comfortable, especially with the air conditioning in these conditions. It’s very stable, incredibly powerful and strong. The best feature for me is that it offers a quiet working environment, which is so important when loading dump trucks in the pit.”
Recent investments in mining and infrastructure for huge projects such as Vale’s Moatize coal mine have had a positive effect on Mozambique’s economy. Hitachi is excited to play an active role in contributing to the growth of the country’s economy and the opportunity to secure a better future for the people of Mozambique.