The high-pressure nature of the mining game is second nature to Western Australia’s Mineral Crushing Services, who have recently added a Sandvik QE341 scalping screen to help remove metal contaminates and process mill scats.
But it’s not just the increased productivity the machine has given that has impressed, it’s the confidence that essential support is always just a phone call away.
It’s fair to say there’s nothing Joe Fondacaro of Mineral Crushing Services doesn’t know about the Australian mining, especially when it comes to equipment.
He’s been digging, crushing, screening and carting rocks for 34 years. The Perth-based family-run business has operated quarries in far north Queensland, across the Northern Territory and has now settled back into Western Australia to service the state’s all important mining industry.
They specialise in crushing, road base, mill scats processing and contaminated ore. Fondacaro is currently working at a gold processing facility, which processes ore from the Mount Monger region, 68 kilometres south-east of Kalgoorlie.
“There’s a fair bit of life left down here, that’s for sure,” he says. “We specialise in the scat that comes out of the mill.
We remove the steel then we re-crush it, process it and send it back to them. Our customer loves it because it flies through their mill and is dollars in the bank for everyone.”
With their specialist services much in demand, choosing the right equipment for each job is critical.
Contracts are locked down in advance and Fondacaro needs the confidence that he can finish jobs on time and move on to the next without fuss.
The boom and bust nature of the industry means businesses have fluctuating needs for both people and machines.
Fondacaro sold a lot of equipment off when the boom ended and says he’s much more comfortable managing a team of eight, compared to the 50 plus they were up to at their peak.
“The best thing we ever did was to downsize and come back to reality.”
The timing was also right to invest in a new scalper. Fondacaro says he’s always liked the idea of getting a Sandvik, and it was the distribution and reach through the Porter Group that really got the deal over the line.
Working in remote regions carries the risk of being stranded for support should problems occur. While you won’t find anyone more self-sufficient than Fondacaro, even the most skilled and experienced operators need reassurance that specialist back-up will be on hand whenever they need it.
“Porter Group will support me 100 per cent. That was a governing factor. If I ring them up and say, ‘Fellas, I’ve got a problem,’ I know it’s going to get fixed. It’s no use buying a machine from a company that offers little or no support afterwards.”
The Sandvik QE341 appealed because it offered a bigger screen and with it the promise of increased productivity.
But even Fondacaro was surprised by the output of the machine.
“Our existing screen was too small for us to go to the next level.
“With the Sandvik we’ve increased our productivity from 400-500 tonnes a day to nearly 1000 tonnes a day.
“The large screening capacity was a big selling point.”
It’s not just the capacity that has impressed, though, but also the ease of use.
Fondacaro understands the complexities of the mining industry better than anyone, but at the end of the day craves simplicity. “This machine is just so easy to operate.”
With other screens the control panel buttons and lights, together with the one-touch, sequential auto start/stop facility makes the machine almost “idiot-proof,” Fondacaro says.
“Blind Freddie could run it,” he jokes. “You just open it up, push the button and away you go.”
He’s also been impressed with the wear-resistant steel apron feeder and the one-piece wear-resistant hopper, which comes as standard.
At Randall’s the Sandvik QE341 is being used to screen and produce a final product of minus 8mm.
“The scats are already crushed down to less than 50mm,” says Fondacaro.
“We take the steel out, screen then crush the pebbles into a fine dust.” One conveyor takes the steel contaminants and the other takes the fine material: the “money belt.”
With the scats finished at Randall’s the team is moving onto the road-base. After that they’ll head up to another job near Laverton where 150,000 tonnes awaits.
Meeting each phase of every contract on time is a priority.
“We like to hit jobs hard. Put the plants in, do it safely and efficiently and move on to the next job.”
With the Sandvik QE341 running from 6am to 5:30pm any time lost to maintenance or break down has the potential to put subsequent jobs in jeopardy.
The accessibility of the engine and drive line means time spent on maintenance is cut, which equals more production.
The hydraulically folding maintenance platforms contribute to the ease of access.
“You look at things like strength of the chassis, simplicity of the engine and how easy the machine is to service.
“The Sandvik QE341 has really ticked all the boxes there. Plus, you can just tell it’s built to last.
“I’m fully expecting to get a good ten years out of it, by which stage I hope to be retired!”
Porter Group’s Sandvik product specialist Jimmy Murphy says the company has made a big commitment to supplying the needs of their regional customers.
“With an inventory holding branch in Perth we’re always just a phone-call away. Usually we can diagnose any issues over the phone, but if something more serious is needed we have service personal and service trucks right on hand.”
“One thing we hear a lot from our customers is how important the versatility of these machines is. Scalpers are traditionally used in heavy-duty, rugged applications, and Mineral Crushing Services are using theirs for more of a screening use. It can be easily configured into a two-way split on site and it handles all applications really well.
The over-wide conveyors mean it has a good stockpiling capability as well.” Fondacaro is building himself another scats plant to work alongside the Sandvik.
“We’ll have two plants going, with one loader feeding them. We’ll do 180 tonnes an hour and can still only send three men on the job. You learn how to make things work when you’ve been doing this a long as I have.”
But there are still new tricks to be learned, which is why Fondacaro keeps his eyes open to new machines and which ones will work for him and his business. As the sun sets over the red hills of Emu Flats
Fondacaro packs up his Sandvik for another day. “I enjoy my work, I really do. Every day is a challenge and every day is different. No two rocks are the same, no job is the same.
Things are starting to crank up again and I’m looking forward to some good years ahead.”
With the right people and the right machines working for him, you get the feeling Mineral Crushing Services and their customers will continue to strike gold for a long time yet.