Heavy logistics specialist ALE was recently chosen to transport four large vanadium ore leaching tanks from their point of manufacture at Turnmill Proquip Equipment’s facilities in Vanderbijlpark near Johannesburg to a mine site in North West province, understood to be the Glencore Rhovan operation. The leach vats were installed by ELB Construction and replace ageing vats which have been decommissioned.

ALE advised on delivery strategy from an early stage, allowing the client to avoid an onsite stick build approach that would have posed many challenges, such as requiring workers to be fitted with gas masks and causing the potential to produce a non-watertight vessel.

Instead, the tanks were delivered as a complete module from their location of manufacture in Vanderbijlpark, a distance of 252.3 km to site. One after the other over a course of seven months, the tanks were received, transported across one of the country’s most metropolitan provinces, and installed. The tanks were received at the workshop, where they were jacked-up to a height of approximately 2 m by four 150 t jacks. Following this, a prime mover fitted with a Cometto 18-axle 2 file trailer was reversed underneath the tank, ultimately taking the load.

The transportation route had been planned optimally around the nearby cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Nevertheless, ALE had obtained a wealth of transport permits, de-energising and lifting services for overhead power cables along the route, and escorts from local law enforcement, where required. Upon reaching the mine site, a significant challenge was still presented by its compactness, and the many buildings in place nearby. To combat this, the tanks were staged onto stools and reloaded onto two SPMTs in a 2 x 6-axle configuration.

During installation, the tanks were jacked-up using the same equipment as before, then lowered onto a jacking and skidding system consisting of four skidding tracks, eight skidding beams and four push-pull cylinders. The base of the tank is designed to lie at an angle, allowing vanadium deposits to be scraped up and harvested, and so ALE designed a swivel and interfacing point that manoeuvred to the required 2° tilt.

At 41.4 m x 7.57 m x 6.91 m and at 263 t, the leach tanks were some of the largest items ever to be transported through Gauteng province. Each transportation and installation procedure combined took approximately two weeks to complete.

The mine is expected to output over 3,400 t of vanadium during 2020, rising to 5,000 t in the near future as part of this expansion programme – providing southern Africa with a vital building block of industry and technology.

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