Leading the way with Duratray

Duratray CAT 797 with SDB at BHP's Escondida mine in Chile. (Image: Duratray)

Duratray has been around since the 1970s and is one of the premier suppliers of trays for trucks in the mining industry. Since being bought from previous owners Pacific Dunlop by Chilean holding Conymet in 2001, Duratray has grown its international presence in that time from eight countries to 37.

Duratray has gained attention in recent years for its suspended dump body (SDB) solution, a patented tray originally designed primarily to reduce haul carryback, reduce loading impact and dampen noise. Instead of a typical steel base, the SDB uses lightweight rubber mats suspended on heavy duty, fibrous suspension ropes that increase shock absorption and increased abrasion resistance when compared with rival companies’ counterparts.

While the SDBs have proven successful in all intended areas, it is the noise reduction that has won the company the most plaudits, culminating in a recent Community Interaction award nomination from the 2017 Australian Mining Prospect Awards in October for the company’s efforts in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. In addition, Duratray has also received recognition from such diverse bodies as the Governor of Victoria Export awards and the Minerals Council.

“The SDB has multiple solutions; the noise reduction is a very successful part of it and that has been seen in the Hunter region,” said Duratray marketing manager Sarah Jenkins. “We were thrilled to be nominated for the Prospect Awards; I think innovation and technology are really driving the industry so it’s nice to be recognised as the forefront of that.”

Locals living in the mining-heavy Hunter Valley had been making noise complaints due to the mines’ proximity to urban areas. Initially it was Chinese miner Yancoal which approached Duratray seeking the company’s help; the SDB system, which promises noise reductions of up to 10 decibels, was trialled at Yancoal’s Moolarben mine in NSW’s Western Coalfields in cooperation with Komatsu, achieving great success. Since then, Duratray has been in touch with everyone from major mining companies such as Glencore and BHP to vehicle giants like Caterpillar to keep assisting the mines with surrounding communities.

“The reaction from the community was awesome,” explains Marcelo Medel, Duratray managing director. “I think in these cases you don’t have to be an expert in order to see the results. You have only to hear the people outside the mine’s gate that are comfortable with the noise reduction, specifically at night time.”

The Multicultural Touch

Top businessman Manuel Medel Lepe was the founder of the company Conymet in 1973 and father to the fraternal trio Manuel, Matias and Marcelo Medel. Now, under the watchful eyes of the brothers, Conymet Duratray is making huge headway in Australia, Russia, Canada, USA, South Africa and Europe, with further international growth a key focus.

Marcelo moved to Melbourne in 2016 to take over from his older brother Matias as managing director and is overseeing operations as the company expands into these new regions; each bringing their own cultural quirks to proceedings as might be expected. The company’s biggest operating countries at present include Chile, Canada and Australia. While Medel’s Australian dealings are relatively straightforward, Russia and South Africa (more specifically, St Petersburg and Johannesburg, where Duratray has set up international offices) have their own style of business.

“Every single time we are in a new country we do a cultural analysis,” Medel explained. “It’s about being respectful of cultural differences and understanding their business processes.”

Even though Medel refers to these countries’ technology as “not as up to date” relative to more established Australian or Chilean operations, orders can be massive. Whereas industry standard Australian tray orders usually run from 5 to 12 units, overseas orders can dwarf this.

“Upon exposing our technology to the Russian market, we received a first order for 26 units. Similarly in Zambia, we are looking at an initial order of 6 trays with 20 to follow in 2018. These trays will be manufactured in South Africa”.

And speaking of technology, Medel is excited for an upcoming development; the company is collaborating with German group Kuhn for delivery of a fully lithium-ion powered truck, which is due to begin trials (at time of writing) in December, with a potential launch for the first quarter of 2018.

“If everything goes well, in one or two years we can extrapolate these results for an ultra-class truck,” says Medel, with palpable enthusiasm. “We are working with Kuhn because the industry needs to approach sustainability vision with trucks not only through the engines but also with the body. We have been working on this for more than 18 months, and really think this is going to be a game-changer for the industry.”

The technology and innovation found in the Duratray SDB will provide an excellent complementary edge for the project’s ambitions to become a carbon-footprint reducing, low-noise, economically friendly industrial EV, or, as Medel calls it, “a whole green truck”.

In terms of Australian investment overall, aside from its enviable technology push over the last few years, Medel feels that the industry has done a lot of maturing, especially since the mining downturn at the start of the decade. Even major companies like BHP, Barrick Gold and Anglo American, he said, were not spared from the struggle.

Restructuring programs, such as those by Anglo American, which has divested several mining sites to increase the quality of its portfolio and South32, spun out from BHP in 2015 as a way for the company to concentrate on its most profitable assets, have become increasingly common. Such focus on cost reduction will result in a more sustainable industry overall, according to Medel.

“Despite previous strain on many companies, the industry finds itself in a really positive position.” says Medel when speaking about the future for both mining companies and suppliers alike.

“In terms of profit; in terms of investment; in terms of margins; I don’t believe there will be a new mining boom anytime soon, this is due to the industries growth and maturity. With this development, focus will be given to each investment progressively”.

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