VENTURES: Gold In Those Scrap Heaps
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DIAMOND mining along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast has meant that a large stockpile of redundant equipment has steadily gathered at Namdeb’s various mining sites. Recently, both for environmental and practical reasons, Namdeb took the decision to clear these waste dumps, with Cape Town based company SA Metal, securing the contract to systematically recycle and process the materials on site prior to their release from these secured areas.
The task of cutting up these redundant machines and other materials is being tackled by two Caterpillar 330DL hydraulic excavators fitted with boom mounted S340 shears, sold and supported by Barloworld Equipment Namibia. A Caterpillar Work Tools team flew out from the factory in Holland to help install the shears, as well as to provide training for SA Metal’s operators.
Cat shears are designed to cut and reduce the size of metal items commonly found in scrap yards and demolition sites. During routine operations, the hardened, welded-on tip penetrates material and maximizes productivity when piercing is required; whilst the gap between the upper and lower jaw can be easily adjusted, keeping cutting capability high – even as the blades wear. And as an added durability benefit, the piercing tip in the upper jaw is in turn made of hardened steel and can be repeatedly hard-faced – helping increase the interval between the tip replacements.
According to SA Metal’s Xavier Fazakerley the contract, which commenced in July 2008, is open-ended and expected to be ongoing for around three years. During this period, SA Metal expects to commercially process around 250 000 tons of saleable material.
“This is one of the world’s most corrosive regions and metal items don’t last long in this environment,” explains Fazakerley. “This means that any scrapped metal items prior to the mid-1960s will have in most instances turned to dust long ago.”
The largest sizeable scrap metal source is located at Namdeb’s Uubvlei operation, situated some 10km north of the Orange River and stretching approximately 1km inland. “This represents one of the world’s largest scrap metal stockpiles,” says Fazakerley. “In fact the scale of the operation is so big that the footprint of the site is clearly visible from space - the final resting place for worked out earthmoving machines, commercial vehicles and just about anything else no longer usable. During dumping operations, everything was mixed in together. This means we have to separate metal and non-metal materials in sourcing items such as copper, steel, lead and zinc. Currently we are processing around 5 000 tons per month.”
At Uubvlei, SA Metal expects to process around 100 000 tons of steel, with the balance sourced from an estimated 15 satellite mines spread over a distance of some 110km up and down the coastline.
As work on the Uubvlei project scales up, Fazakerley says that SA Metal teams will then be sent out to these smaller mining sites to start the scrap metal recycling process there as well.
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