Crushing the competition: Betterect builds semi-mobile crushing plant for Mozambique mine

Betterect, a South African specialist in steel fabrication and the erection of mining, petrochemical and other industrial structures, has for over four decades undertaken projects throughout Southern and Central Africa; as well as for clients as far afield as Austria, Italy, Germany and Australia.

Recently, the mining business unit of thyssenkrupp commissioned Betterect to undertake the fabrication of a semi-mobile crushing plant (SMCP) for a coal mine in Mozambique. This was required as part of the mine’s goal to increase production.

The project, which has been hailed as a success, was awarded at the end of July 2019, with fabrication completed in February 2020. Project delivery was well within the specified timeline and budget.

While thyssenkrupp designed the SMCP, owing to the company’s significant industry track record, Betterect was awarded the fabrication and pre-assembly of crucial SMCP equipment here in South Africa.

“This was not only because we are recognised for our focus on quality and our extensive experience and expertise; but also because we are ideally located to carry out fabrication and erection projects through Southern and Central Africa,” says Nicolette Skjoldhammer, Managing Director of Betterect.

The SMCP project was accordingly undertaken in Betterect’s workshop in Chamdor, Krugersdorp, as the client required pre-assembly and full fabrication in one off-site location. This also reduced the safety risks associated with so-called ‘hot’ on-site work.

“All fabrication and pre-assembly work was carried out under strict quality assurance and project management protocols, in accordance with SABS 0157 (ISO 9001:2000) standards.

Furthermore, all safety health environment and quality (SHEQ) requirements were met. From an environmental perspective, and with environmental concerns top-of-mind, all steel off-cuts were collected and recycled,” Skjoldhammer points out.

Fabrication facts

Comprising over 1 000 component parts, once completed, the SMCP totalled 950 tons overall – including items such as grating and hand-railing. Some 750 tons comprised Betterect’s structural steel and platework; while VRN (hard-wearing steel plate) linings accounted for approximately 60 tons thereof.

To handle the massive operational loads placed on the semi-mobile crushing plant during the day-to-day operations at the mine, steelwork and platework was selected as the construction material of choice.

“The SMCP needed to be robust enough to cope with this very demanding working environment,” Skjoldhammer explains.

Throughout the project, Betterect ensured that the most stringent quality standards of fabrication. Therefore, the fabricator used their significant expertise in full penetration welding technology.

“Over the last 5 years we have made a significant investment into the latest pulse arc welding technology, which not only provides excellent weld quality but significantly reduces welding time/duration.

This technology is highly effective in ensuring high-quality welds and reducing weld defects such as porosity, cavities or cracks, lack of fusion or lack of penetration,” she advises.

Notwithstanding this process, each weld also underwent the required 100% non-destructive testing (NDT), having to pass either radiographic or ultrasonic testing. Radiographic testing checks for defects inside the weld; while ultrasonic testing allows for a full volumetric examination of the components. 

“This tremendously labour-intensive process ensured that every weld and join would withstand the tough and rigorous environment in which the SMCP would be deployed,” she explains.

In addition, to withstand the exposure to elements and harsh operational requirements, the steelwork was corrosion-protected and several coats of paint applied, to an industrial specification.

”Our successful collaboration with our client thyssenkrupp, and supply to the end-client in Mozambique, demonstrates the ‘Team Africa’ concept in action; whereby companies are able to form a cooperative and synergistic partnership: supplying and processing steel, then fabricating and installing the finished structures,” Skjoldhammer comments.

“This approach is a very effective mechanism and platform for the delivery of high-calibre pan-African infrastructure projects, across a variety of industries, while reducing local economic dependence on Asian products,” she adds.

Skjoldhammer adds that the seamless supply by Betterect’s ‘Team Africa’ partner on this project, Allied Steelrode, also contributed to the overall success of the project.

“This underlines that Betterect and its partners have a competitive advantage in undertaking projects in Africa – for both local and international clients”.

Jens Dombrowsky, Project Manager at thyssenkrupp’s mining business in South Africa, commended Betterect and its ‘Team Africa’ collaboration for their high-quality work on this milestone project and for completing within the allocated timeframe.

“This happens when companies focusing on the supply, processing, fabrication and erection of steel structures join forces to deliver pan-African infrastructure projects,” Dombrowsky states.

“The SMCP project is another pan-African infrastructure project which has highlighted the fact that when we as industrial suppliers truly collaborate, as per the ‘Team Africa’ model, we can collectively drive economic growth with our innovation, experience and expertise.

It is therefore fitting that, as a truly South African steel and engineering success story – which showcases the capabilities of local fabricators to the pan-African mining and international arena – the SMCP project has also been nominated for the SAIC Steel Awards 2020,” Skjoldhammer concludes.