A customised rental solution from Barloworld Power has enabled Australian company Mineral Commodities Limited (MRC) to keep capital costs to a minimum in the provision of on-site power for both the development and operation of its Tormin mineral sands mine project on the South African west coast.

Tormin is one of two major mineral sands mine projects developed in South Africa by MRC, which is listed on the Australian stock exchange.

Following a nine month construction phase, the mine was commissioned in December 2013. Located about 400 km north of Cape Town, Tormin has active beach deposits of heavy minerals including zircon, rutile, ilmenite and garnet. Zircon is used mainly to produce ceramics used in roof tiles, while rutile is used in the production of welding rods and pigments.

"Mining is going very well and has exceeded expectations so far," says MRC CEO Andrew Lashbrooke. “By the middle of December last year, we had a good stockpile of 60 000 t of heavy minerals ready to be processed. The Tormin project is fully funded and has also come in under budget at $14.5-million. It remains on track to pay back its investment by the end of June 2014, a feat few mining projects anywhere in the world can emulate.”

MRC has prospecting rights up to 1 km out to sea and testing has shown that replenishment of the minerals being mined takes place in a 24-hour cycle, keeping operating costs down and allowing for simple mining methods. A five year life span is anticipated for the Tormin project and it is set to inject more than R5 billion into the Western Cape economy over this period.

The nonmagnetic material, comprising about 80% zircon and just below 12% rutile, is being produced in concentrate form and shipped to China for further processing and sale into the local market. The ilmenite, used primarily in pigment, will be beneficiated in South Africa.

Power solution

Tormin needed prime power, both during the development phase of the mine and for various aspects of mining activities, at the lowest possible initial cost.

The Barloworld Power Rental team came up with a solution that met the mine’s requirements for both cost efficiency and reliable power. “While the mine initially sought to purchase two generator sets, we offered a ROP (rental with an option to purchase) agreement that enabled MRC to acquire a comprehensive suite of eight generators within budget,” explains John Stander, fleet health manager at Barloworld Power Rental.

In the ROP option, as opposed to normal rental or outright purchase, the customer rents the equipment, fully backed up by Barloworld Power technicians. After 12 months the customer has the option to purchase the solution at a significantly reduced cost.

“This option was chosen for Tormin as it allowed MRC to avoid the initial capital outlay associated with outright purchase,” says Stander. “This is particularly important during the development phase of a project, where costs are already high, as it enables the customer to install essential equipment while deferring purchase until the operation is generating income.”

Equipment supplied

The units acquired under this agreement included three C15 Cat generator sets, two GEP220 Olympian sets and three GEP165 Olympian sets, all prime rated. The three Cat C15 units and one Olympian GEP220 provide power to the main processing plant. One of the Olympian GEP165 sets was to be used as pilot power as and when needed and the remainder of the units provide power to the mobile processing plants on the beach.

The C15 units incorporate 440 kW standby Cat model C15 engines coupled to 550 kVA brushless, self-exciting alternators wound for a supply of 400/230V @ 50 Hz. 

The 200 kVA GEP220 Olympian sets are powered by 160 kW standby Perkins engines coupled to  220 kVA brushless AREP alternators wound for a supply of 400/230V @ 50 Hz. The units are capable of delivering a 10% overload for one hour in every 12 hours of operation.

The GEP165 sets produce 150 kVA from 120 kW standby Perkins engines coupled to 165 kVA brushless AREP alternators wound for a supply of 400/230V @ 50 Hz. These units also deliver a 10% overload for one hour in every 12 hours’ operation.

The units were assembled and tested at Barloworld Power’s Customised Solution Centre in Boksburg. Each is encased in a weatherproof, sound attenuated enclosure manufactured by Barloworld Power and supplied with the West Coast spec and a low noise residential exhaust silencer. The units were commissioned and synchronised by a team of Barloworld Power engineers on site.

All the generators were supplied with baseload control panels for manual operation and all engine management and sensing. Barloworld Power recommended a full N+1 panel including ABB circuit breakers. The panel is controlled via a Deep Sea controller and one generator is used as a standby for redundancy (N+1). All units are fitted with additional fuel filtration systems.

Lighting masts

In addition to being the southern African dealer for Cat power systems, Barloworld Power is also the regional distributor of Allight mine specification and heavy duty civil lighting and water pump products manufactured by Australian OEM AllightSykes.

It made sense that MRC, as an Australian-based company, had prior experience of Allight products and preferred to use them on the Tormin site.

“In this case we didn’t have to market the product to the customer as Allight has led the mobile lighting field in Australasia for more than two decades and is widely specified and respected in the Australian mining sector,” says Stander. “However the initial requirement for two lighting masts was expanded to five rental units based on the actual requirement of the customer.”

The units, including three NM4000 masts and two MS6K9 masts, are being used mainly to light up the beach operations and haul road from the beach.

The MS6K9 falls into Allight’s popular mid-range MineSpec series, while the NM4000 is a product designed for the construction and entertainment market but proved well suited to lighting up the haul road at Tormin.

These fully mobile lighting towers are powered by Perkins engines.                                       

Product support

One of the significant factors that prompted MRC to rent from Barloworld Power was the comprehensive maintenance programme that accompanies all Barloworld Power Rental agreements.

“All our units are fitted with EMMS (Equipment Monitoring and Management System), a satellite and GSM tracking system with an integrated fleet management system and service module,” Stander explains.  EMMS was developed by Barloworld Equipment specifically to support rental machines and the level of support is customised to individual needs.

“The system monitors our machine hours, books the services automatically according to the customer requirement (standby or prime), and notifies our service coordinator to order the parts. The parts are allocated to the technician on site. Once the work is complete, the service notification is closed on the system, confirming the service on the machine.”

Barloworld Power Rental has a technician based permanently on site at Tormin as part of the ROP agreement with MRC.

EMMS fitted to rental machines in the field provides information on machine position, when it starts and stops operating and daily hours operated, and a geo-fencing capability controls movement and helps to eliminate theft. While many of its features are suited to mobile assets such as earthmoving machines, the EMMS system is also ideal to monitor static equipment such as generators which have to be 100% reliable.

While Barloworld Power has successfully completed many rental projects and electric power sales on the west coast in recent years, the customised ROP agreement with the Tormin mineral sands mine is a first for the Barloworld Power Rental operation in this region. The agreement is proving highly effective for MRC and Barloworld Power, indicating that customised rental power solutions can play a significant role in the success of mining operations.