As mineral sands miners in KwaZulu-Natal move into the next phase of their project life cycles, mining solutions provider Multotec is taking steps to evolve its products and service offering to meet changing customer needs.
The Johannesburg-headquartered company established its KwaZulu-Natal branch, in Richards Bay, in 2005, as a satellite project office catering to new businesses in the mineral sands mining industry. Ilmenite, rutile and zircon are mined in the area from deposits in coastal sand dunes, with dredgers also used to extract sand from pools that contain the mineral ores, which are then separated using centrifugal and magnetic processes. Minerals are then trucked to smelters, where they are processed into raw materials such as titanium dioxide and iron for export.
Multotec services GM Garth Jones highlights that the company’s initial aim was to advise customers on the selection, implementation and commissioning of equipment for their new operations. However, as these operations have matured to steady production status, customers’ focus has changed to optimising operations by fine-tuning processes and ensuring the cost effectiveness, operational efficiency and maximum economic life of existing equipment through maintenance activities and the introduction of newly developed technologies.
“We, thus, needed to reconsider how we structured our KwaZulu-Natal branch to provide a customised service to our customers in the region. This meant a transformation from a project office to a service and support branch, and bringing in employees with different expertise and skills.”
Jones explains that this has also resulted in a stronger focus on new mining technology at the branch, which is, consequently, involved in a number of ongoing equipment upgrade projects in the region.
He points out that equipment corrosion, as a result of the environmental conditions in coastal mining operations, also needs to be taken into account. Equipment selection, moreover, needs to be tailored to the type of mining operations in the region, which are heavy-sands operations that differ from the hard-rock operations typically found inland.
“Through the Richards Bay branch, we provide customers in the area with a direct line to a well-established company with the benefit of exposing them to the latest advancements in the international market. Developments on our cyclones, spirals and screening solutions have proven particularly pertinent in the area.”
Moreover, in 2014, Multotec partnered with Australian company Clean TeQ to introduce continuous ionic filtration technology to the African market for process water treatment and metals recovery. The technology was added to the KwaZulu-Natal branch’s offering last year, and has been well received by customers.
Multotec’s range of mineral processing equipment is further supported by field service and maintenance teams, who conduct regular site visits to ensure that the company’s mineral processing solutions are functioning to their full potential. The company also offers on-site, application-specific plant and process audits to assess customer needs and advise on solutions.
“The developments at our Richards Bay branch are aligned with Multotec’s ongoing aim to create and maintain long-term partnerships with customers,” concludes Jones.