Hard, hard rock

June 1, 2015

When the going gets tough, Atlas Copco’s equipment gets going. Reliable, safe machines are essential at the Black Rock manganese mines in South Africa.

The conditions are tough at the Black Rock mine in Johannesburg.

The three mines at Black Rock, situated about 700 kilometers southwest of Johannesburg in South Africa, supply the iron and steel industries with manganese from the richest manganese deposit in the world. The Kalahari Manganese Field contains about 80% of the world’s known high-grade manganese ore reserves.

Manganese is a very hard, silvery-gray metal that is used for producing iron and steel, and it is especially vital in making stainless steel. “The mining conditions are very tough,” explains Don Thompson, senior project manager at Atlas Copco. “Manganese ore is hard, hard rock, which requires strong, heavy-duty equipment. You can drill a meter per minute. Compared with gold mines, the work is done at half the speed.”

Black Rock Mine Operations started to work with Atlas Copco equipment in the mid-1990s. “Atlas Copco proved themselves over the years,” says Jan Nel, operations manager at Black Rock Mine Operations. “The machines are good and reliable with low operating costs. We value Atlas Copco as a partner in our business.”

Having a solid partner is particularly critical when expanding operations. Black Rock’s current expansion program is ambitious: to increase production from the current 3.4 million metric tons of ore per year to 4.7 million tons by 2017. “The biggest challenge is to deliver the project on time and within budget,” says Nel. “Another challenge will be to upgrade the infrastructure and maintain current levels at the same time.”

To meet the program’s objective, Black Rock has decided to make big investments in new equipment. For the past 18 months, Atlas Copco has delivered 37 safe, ergonomic and reliable machines to the project: dump trucks, mine trucks, loaders, Double Boomer drill rigs, Boltec roof bolting rigs, scalers and utility vehicles.

The success of the program relies on excellent machine availability. Thus, Atlas Copco makes sure spare parts and service are available 24/7. “Support from Atlas Copco’s Kimberley branch is outstanding,” Nel says.

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