Stretching 210km southwest across the Kivu and Maniema provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, from verdant mountains into the rainforest, the Twangiza-Namoya gold belt is a world class mining region. At its southernmost tip lies the Namoya gold mine, one of four wholly-owned gold projects of Banro Corporation Ltd (Banro) in the DRC.
“First gold was poured here at Namoya in December 2013, and commercial production began in 2016,” explains Frans Gonsalves, Co-Head of Operations and Capital Projects at Banro. The company’s Twangiza mine, which started commercial production in 2012, was the first gold mine to be established in the DRC in over 50 years. Like Twangiza, Banro’s Namoya mine is an open-pit, oxide operation that is designed to produce 120,000 ounces of gold ore per year.
In an industry where improving efficiency and productivity drives profitability, the mine’s well-maintained machines need to be available round the clock. Banro’s fleet of nine 40 tonne Volvo A40F articulated haulers (ADTs) are worked hard transporting ore from the mining pit back to the production plant. Operating in harsh, unforgiving conditions for 22 hours a day, 365 days a year, a meticulous maintenance schedule is necessary to maximise utilisation. With local Volvo dealer SMT DRC based several hundred kilometres away in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, SMT’s solution was to bring a fully-equipped workshop to Namoya to provide full service maintenance on the ADTs.
And it’s an investment that is paying off, according to Frans. “As part of our partnership with SMT we have three dedicated Volvo technicians on site 24/7, with all the facilities and equipment they need to get every job done. Because they are fully trained on the latest smart Volvo diagnostics tools, they understand the fault codes and we get a faster fix. Their expertise means we fit the right part first time to keep the ADT fleet up and running safely and efficiently. Any vehicle downtime affects productivity – you can’t make that time back up, when it’s gone it’s gone.”
The fully-equipped workshop, complete with pit lane and crane, ensures that the three technicians, Lambert Kabangu, Bernard Kahilu and Cedrick Tshibandela can undertake all sizes of job, from routine maintenance through to full engine rebuild.
“Alongside the workshop, we have our own spare parts store, so whatever part is needed, we’re always ready,” says Danni Jensen – Service Manager at SMT DRC. Banro – Namoya also benefits from the proactive support of Volvo’s intelligent telematics service that monitors each machine’s health remotely to prevent potential breakdowns before they happen.
“Every 1000 hours, we undertake a full inspection of each vehicle and report on operating performance. These insights mean we can catch any small issues before they turn into big ones, so they can be found and fixed, improving uptime and maintaining efficiency,” Danni adds.
The SMT team are also on hand to help train mechanics and assist operators to get the best out of their machines, safely. “We can help operators improve small things on a daily basis – we look after the machines and we look after the operators, because we care.”
Efficiency and utilization is much improved, Frans notes. ‘Once the SMT technician has completed an inspection and service done, it’s always comprehensively checked, so fixes are right first time and returns to the workshop is minimised. This level of expertise and quality control has increased the Mean time between failure (MTBF), as well as reducing the effective downtime of our machines.”
Set up costs could have been an initial barrier, Frans admits, but the long term benefits are clear. “Availability of our ADT fleet is currently between 95-97 percent compared to the mine’s average of 88 percent.”
Every additional percentage point in uptime means extra trips between the mine and the production plant and that means additional revenue to the business.
Having SMT’s experienced people on site who know the Volvo product makes all the difference.