• Prime Positioning

    Pieter Jordaan, Weir Minerals Africa sales director: rest of Africa and Middle East, on how the company is perfectly placed to supply pumping equipment for the continent’s mining sector

    Prime Positioning

    The international mining industry is showing a remarkable recovery after the downturn between 2014 and 2016, according to Pieter Jordaan, sales director: rest of Africa and Middle East for Weir Minerals Africa. However, he notes that the continent’s bounce-back has not been as energetic.

    ‘It’s been a double-edged sword for African nations that have been hindered by their own political, social and economic instabilities, low commodity prices and – given the continent’s vastness – the difficulty of accessibility to mining resources.’ This, he says, has resulted in tighter budgets, which has in turn increased the demand for quality manufactured products – among them the Warman slurry pump.
    ‘What we are witnessing is the development of many brownfield optimisation and debottlenecking projects, as well as the resurrection of feasibility studies.’

    As a result there is a high demand for heavy duty, cost-effective slurry pumps and, more specifically, the horizontal and vertical centrifugal versions that the full Warman range offers. The range is underpinned by Weir Minerals’ reputation for product performance and reliability.

    Jordaan says that what makes Warman particularly appealing from an African mining perspective is the inherent features engineered into the pumps that ensure the lowest total ownership cost. It’s backed by decades of experience too. In fact, the Warman pump celebrated its 80th anniversary this year, acknowledging Charles Harold Warman, a draughtsman on a Kalgoorlie (Australia) gold mine, who in 1938 devised the revolutionary new slurry pump design featuring replaceable rubber liners. The design was followed by the scale-up into manufacturing eight years later. By the end of the 1950s, Warman’s pumps accounted for 80% of the pumps in the Australian mining market.
    ‘Thereafter, it expanded internationally into the UK and the US, and by the 1970s it had acquired its international branding of Warman International Limited,’ according to Jordaan. ‘In 1987, Warman Africa was established and the CH Warman Pump Group evolved a decade later with the manufacturing and assembly plants moving to their current location in Alberton, South Africa.’

    The acquisition by the Weir Group of Warman International Limited in 1999, followed by the purchase of CH Warman Pump Group in Africa and Middle East in 2008, resulted in today’s global organisation, which has one of the largest footholds in the international slurry pumps market. ‘This significantly increased the reach of Weir Minerals into clients’ operations,’ says Jordaan. ‘The already established and extensive branch network of the CH Warman Pump Group ensured a very fast route to market and accessible customer support in the African region.’

    Charles Warman would be impressed with the diversity of applications – including mill discharge, process plant and tailings, and pipelines – that the pumps to which he gave his name are used for today.

    Users also benefit from Weir Minerals’ commitment to class-leading product development, with the Warman range at the forefront in this regard. According to Jordaan, the latest developments include adjustable sideliners, improved hydraulic profiles to enhance efficiency and wear life, as well as optimised wear material distribution within the wear components of the pumps.
    ‘We’ve also improved on the sealing side of the units with updated dynamic seals and shaft sleeve materials. Weir Minerals has also introduced a multitude of metal alloys for abrasion and corrosion duties,’ he says, adding that these are complemented by natural and synthetic elastomer and polyurethane ranges.

    Without divulging the specifics, Jordaan confirms that Weir Minerals is continuing to invest a significant amount in research and development ‘to ensure that all products and materials of construction are directed at lowering customers’ total ownership costs’.

    At the same time, Weir will still invest heavily in technical training for employees and contractors on its vast world-class range of products, including pumps, valves, crushers, screen equipment, hydrocyclones and rubber-lining materials.

    Jordaan points out that before employees are allowed to sell, install or commission a Weir Minerals product, they are exposed to an intensive and customised training programme. ‘This is one of our core competencies – the ability to successfully apply and advise our clients on the application of our equipment into their operations,’ he says. Training is not considered an event per se, but rather as a continual education process.
    ‘Depending on the position of the individual, training may include extensive pump building, assembly and trouble-shooting, and is undertaken at our in- house “Minerals Process University”.’ Jordaan explains that this ensures all Weir Minerals personnel are thoroughly trained to competently support customers in the value chain, from supply through to product commissioning.
    ‘Our commissioning and installation capability is something we pride ourselves on, as this is where we are able to fully execute on supplying an integrated solution to our clients.’

    In addition to a dedicated integrated solutions team that responds to solving a client’s challenges – anything from tailings thickening to mill circuit applications – Weir Minerals’ original equipment manufacturing experts offer services encompassing diagnostic, design, manufacture and installation solutions. ‘These are teams that comprise some of the best minds in the business, inclusive of application specialists, engineers, metallurgists and technicians. Together they have the ability to troubleshoot any operational problem, and introduce new ideas that can translate into plant improvements for green- and brownfield operations.

    ‘We take an all-encompassing approach by delivering end-to-end solutions backed by ongoing support,’ says Jordaan. That approach covers equipment and system audits, consulting and application engineering, equipment and process design, redesign, reconfiguration, upgrades and replacement.

    Overall, and the point Jordaan is making, Weir Minerals’ success in Africa is not just a function of access to industry-leading products and technologies. It is, he stresses, fundamentally linked to the company’s relationship with its customers.

    ‘People buy from people. Hence a key interest in your customer’s success is critical to achieving your own. This may sound very basic but fully understanding your customers’ success factors and drivers ensures that your organisation can add value to clients’ operations.
    ‘In this light, Weir Minerals has invested in carrying significant stockholding commensurate with its product footprint to ensure fast and reliable availability of spare and wear parts. This is one of the factors helping our clients improve up-time or plant availability.’

    It helps too that Weir Minerals Africa has a wide presence, including Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso, the DRC, Zambia, Tanzania, Madagascar, Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, Dubai and South Africa. Zimbabwe and Mozambique are serviced out of the South African operations.

    The organisation also ensures that Africa’s mining community is kept informed of its product range and services by undertaking continental roadshows and attending exhibitions, such as the upcoming Electra Mining Africa, where it will showcase its full complement of process-optimisation capabilities.

    He explains that Weir Minerals uses these events to present case studies and success stories, distribute information brochures, and share new product and business developments with the market.

    By Kerry Dimmer
    Images: Marc Shoul