Sumitomo excavators are the backbone of one of the most challenging mining operations in South Africa where they are used to reclaim product from large slimes dams near to Pretoria.

Here the muddy and slippery underfoot conditions make moving around on site tricky and the ultra-fine particles of deposited materials have a clay-like consistency that makes it as difficult to excavate as soft toffee with a spoon.

Yet despite these challenges the main contractor on the site, Technological Systems, is surpassing expectations and has surpassed its peers on site to be awarded the entire contract for the project due to the speed and efficiency of its excavate-load-haul operation.

And, says Keon Kardolus of ELB Equipment, Sumitomo’s official distributor in Southern Africa, the swiftness of the operation is driven by the company’s use of Sumitomo-6 machines. These are able to outperform all other machines on site including the previous generation Sumitomo-5 machines.

Precious metals

He explains, “The slime dams in the north eastern region of the country were deposited over decades of mining for Chrome and subsequently found to contain viable amounts of PGM metals. The meters-deep deposits however comprise the finest of particles which, when wet, provide little traction for traditional dump trucks.

“Due to water supply problems in the region the use of hydraulic mine methods could not be used meaning that Technological Systems owner, Jannie Kruger, needed to find an alternative solution. This he found with small 7-8 tonne dumpers combined in a cycle with his reliable “old” Sumitomo SH 200-3 excavator to be the only practical way of shifting materials and proved far faster than more traditional methods employed by the other contractor on site.

“Due to the speed and success of this method Jannie was soon in a position to purchase a further three new Sumitomo machines to be employed on site including a Sumitomo SH300-6 and two Sumitomo SH22OLC-6 machines. And, that is where production really took off and pushed production up to over 120 000 tons per month – triple the tonnage of the similarly sized operation of the other contractor,” says Keon.

Production driven

He explains that with the excavators at the heart of the operation it is pivotal to have the highest possible reliability and that this was one of the main reasons behind Technological Systems’ decision to purchase Sumitomo machines. Jannie was already well aware of the previous generation excavators’ high production rates and was astonished that the Sumitomo-6 machines were able to surpass the Sumitomo-5 productivity and fuel economy by such a wide margin.

“Since work began on the mine two years ago there has not been a major breakdown of any of the Sumitomo machines and Jannie, who is a long-standing customer of ELB Equipment, remains an ardent fan of Sumitomo excavators,” Keon concludes.