Africa’s burgeoning mines will need a heavy lift
The growing scale of Africa’s mineral and infrastructure projects is demanding expert skills and fit-for-purpose equipment to lift, transport and install heavy plant in remote and often inhospitable sites, according to SA-based heavy-lift specialist Vanguard.
“Recent figures indicate that, despite low commodity prices, a new gold mine is opening in Africa every quarter,” said Vanguard general manager Craig Pace, “indicating that there are many thousands of tonnes of plant and machinery to be moved into and around the continent.”
A further sign that exploration and mine development remained a busy sector, he said, was the estimate that about 30 important mine feasibility studies have been underway – together reflecting a potential investment of almost US$7 billion.
Having provided engineered solutions in countries including Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Namibia, Madagascar, Mozambique and Uganda, Vanguard recently completed the heaviest strand-jacking lift yet seen on the Zambian Copperbelt. At First Quantum Minerals’ Sentinel mine near Mwinilunga in May this year, the company lifted two pre-fabricated conveyor trusses – each weighing 1,200 tonnes – to their working positions 50 metres above ground.
Pace said mining developments in other African countries have tended to shift investor interest away from South Africa: “Of the top ten gold mines in Africa, only two or three are in SA; and while SA dominates in the coal sector, it has only one copper mine in Africa’s top ten.”
Over half of exploration funding in African mining projects tend to be gold-focused, he said, but there is huge potential for large iron ore mines in West Africa to kick-start a new era of mineral-driven growth in that region – a boom that would draw in substantial inputs from service providers globally.
He said that mining growth, especially in bulk commodities, was an important spur for infrastructure development – which was another vital sector relying on quality services in the field of heavy lift and abnormal transport.
“The energy sector in Africa is attracting increasing attention as a fundamental building block for economic growth, and we are regularly involved in lifting, moving and installing heavy components for power generating projects, for instance,” said Pace.
Having recently acquired a specialised GTK1100 crane – the only unit in Africa – Vanguard has also been kept busy erecting wind turbines at wind farm projects in various parts of South Africa. The company has been a leader in heavy lift, relocation, rigging and installation services for 40 years.