The official March 2013 announcement of a 25% +1 share BEE transaction, in relation to its South African operations, signals the emphasis internationally recognised conveyor equipment manufacturer Melco places on transformation, says marketing and sales director, Craig Warmback.

Melco acknowledges the importance of maintaining its competitive edge with customers by ensuring that it can assist them in reaching their procurement compliance targets set out in the Broad-Based Socio-Economic Charter for the South African mining and minerals industry, Warmback outlines.

Melco is a major conveyor equipment manufacturer and, since 2006, has been a member of Rulmeca – a worldwide group of companies that specialises in the production of rollers/idlers, motorised pulleys, fabricated pulleys and components for the bulk handling industry.

“Melco is committed to complying with the ownership requirements of the Department of Trade and Industry, BEE Codes of Good Practice, and has and will continue to participate in opportunities to facilitate significant and sustainable growth for the business, as well as for individuals in the surrounding communities of Melco’s operations,” he says.

As a result, Melco has established a broad-based community trust –the Dukathole Community Trust – that became a 25% + 1 share shareholder in Melco on 4 March 2013. The participation in the equity of Melco is aimed at expanding opportunities in the community, particularly for individuals in the community. Warmback adds: “Melco looks forward to partnering with the Dukathole Community Trust in furthering its objective of development of the community and its business.”

Melco idlers have been successfully utilised in numerous bulk materials handling applications in over 75 countries throughout the world, and are installed on belt widths from 200 to 3 000 mm. The Melco roll product range is comprehensive, ranging from 89 to 215 mm in diameter, with bearing and shaft arrangements from 25 to 60 mm diameter.

Strength in surface mining applications

The company has established a particularly strong reputation for being a preferred supplier of idler sets for overland conveyors, plant conveyors, stackers and reclaimers to surface mining operations in Africa, with a significant portion of the company’s business being generated by high-profile clients in the coal, iron ore, manganese and diamond mining sectors of the market.

Melco supplies complete idler sets to the mining industry, which are all produced locally at the ISO 9001:2008 accredited Melco manufacturing plant in Germiston, Gauteng. Warmback highlights the fact that the frames are manufactured from either structural angle steel or tubular steel, to the customer’s exact specifications. “Melco was the first local manufacturer to make the belt-friendly frame that significantly reduces the risk of damage to the belt.”

According to Warmback, Melco’s range of state-of-the-art retractable V-returns idlers has gained increasing popularity in surface mining applications. “The Melco retractable V-return idler design consists of a permanently installed main frame, sloping at a 10-degree angle to the horizontal belt, with end plates and a cut out. The roller is attached to a retractable frame that slides into the main frame at a 6-degree angle, which ensures that it drops away from the belt as it is retracted. This ensures improved safety due to the fact that the belt does not have to be lifted.”

Warmback points out that this innovative design enables a single workman to pull out a roller frame, which can be more than 1 m long, while standing on a standard 750 mm walkway. “In order to undertake this process, the workman needs to unbolt the sliding frame from the side of the main frame and pull out the sliding frame. After replacing the roller, the frame is returned to its operating position,” he continues.

The Melco retractable V-return idlers are installed on conveyors at Exxaro’s Grootegeluk coal mine, which will supply Eskom’s Medupi power station in the Limpopo province with an average 14.6 Mtpa of thermal coal over the next 40 years. Grootegeluk is expected to be the largest coal operation in the world, producing up to 33 Mtpa of thermal, coking and steam coal.

Melco’s overall scope at the project is divided into two phases, namely:

Phase 1: This includes the supply of six conveyors, including belt feeders, moving heads, garlands and impacts, 1800 BW and 2100 BW, 140 retractable idlers, 7 646 rolls and 2 144 frames.

Phase 2: Includes the supply of 65 conveyors, 600 BW to 2100 BW, 1 322 retractable idlers, 51 000 rolls and 13 125 frames.

Warmback explains that the stringent safety requirements at the mine necessitated the need for return rollers to be safer to replace when damaged or worn.“The return belt runs directly underneath the loaded trough, and Melco was approached in 2010 to design a retractable idler that would make it easier and safer for workers in this challenging working environment.”

To replace a roller, a team of workmen wearing safety harnesses has to climb inside the conveyor gantry, lift the return belt clear of the roller, then uncouple and remove the heavy roller. There are also sometimes other complications to take into account, like underpans, which prevents any material from the loaded belt from falling to the ground.

What’s more, Melco has supplied R2.3 million worth of conveyor components to the US$3billion (R27.88 billion) Cut-8 extension at the Jwaneng opencast diamond mine in Botswana, which is the largest by value in the world. This establishment of the Jwaneng Cut-8 project represents the single largest private investment in the history of Botswana, and will extend the life of the mine to at least 2025, while unearthing diamonds worth an estimated US$15 billion during that timeframe.

The scale of the Cut-8 extension project has catapulted Jwaneng to ‘super-pit’ status, as the depth of the mine will increase from 330 to 624 m by 2017. In total, more than 700 Mt of waste earth is expected to be removed in order to reach the kimberlite deposit. Melco’s involvement in the project began in December 2009, and to date the company has supplied the project with 1 700 frames and 6 250 rolls for 1 200, 1 500 and 1 800 mm belt widths with an approximate mass of 110 t.

Warmback points out that the company was contracted by material handling solutions expert FLSmidth Roymec, which placed the orders for the idlers in April 2010, with the manufacture and supply of the idlers being completed by September 2010. Melco has been supplying products to Debswana since 1995, and the company has worked on at least 12 different projects since then.

Looking to the future, Warmback is optimistic of the general outlook for the African bulk handling industry. “As investment continues to rise in numerous industrial sectors in Africa, so too will the demand for high-quality operational equipment. With this in mind, I believe that Melco can experience measurable growth in the long-term, thanks to the company’s excellent reputation in the industry,” he concludes.