SIZE COUNTS IN OPENCAST MINING CONTRACTING – SPH

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With decades of opencast mining experience – both for clients and for its mining operations – SPH Kundalila has extensive insight into how to maximise efficiency on site.

According to Graeme Campbell, SPH Kundalila’s group commercial operations manager, efficiency starts with a focus on the high-cost components of mining projects. Campbell highlights the key objective of reducing the rate per tonne moved while ensuring high uptime levels and preventing unexpected stoppages.

“Contractors influence their rates considerably by having access to the optimal size of load and haul equipment,” he says. “While there are more companies in the market with fleets of smaller haul trucks, for example, the limited capacity of these units may raise the rate per tonne for the client.”

Illustrating the case with a 200,000 tonne-per-month mining operation – working 18 hours per day for 26 days per month – he points out that a contractor could use six 18-tonne trucks or just four 40-tonne units.

“Using fewer trucks of higher load capacity impacts a range of costs,” Campbell says. “There would be 16 operators required instead of 24, and the size of the maintenance facilities that must be made available are also a function of the number of trucks in operation.”

The lifespan of the equipment is also a factor, with the smaller trucks expected to complete about 20,000 hours – around five years – in their productive lives. By contrast, the larger mining trucks can generate returns for anything between 30,000 hours and 50,000 hours – commonly reaching 10 year lifecycles.

“Of course, the larger equipment comes at a much higher capital cost, so are really only within the reach of established and successful companies like SPH Kundalila,” Campbell says. “In this way, the large contractors are able to assume a significant portion of the capital burden for mining clients.”

He highlights that these larger contractors can often achieve even more economical rates per tonne than the mine itself, as the equipment used can be carried over to new projects – extending the period over which the value of the asset is amortised. After closure, a limited-duration mining project, on the other hand, may be left with equipment that still has value but which it is not possible to realise.

“Compared to the smaller truck market which services the broader earthmoving industry, there is much less of a market for the larger mining trucks, so they are often not easy to sell at the end of a contract,” he concludes.

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