When Sandfire Resources produces the first ore from its new Motheo copper mine in Botswana, southern Africa, later this year, the company will officially be on its way to developing a long-life copper production hub in the central portion of the Kalahari Copper Belt of Botswana and Namibia.
That first ore from Motheo is just the beginning of the company’s long-term growth plans in the region. Before the development of the mine was even completed, Sandfire had already announced plans to enlarge the operation by exploiting an additional deposit and building an expanded processing plant to handle production.
Recognizing the potential of the Kalahari Copper Belt, Sandfire and its chosen operations partner for Motheo — Perenti Group’s African Mining Services (AMS) — made a commitment to the highest standards of productivity, safety, responsibility and sustainability.
A critical contributor to meeting that commitment will be the use of mining technology. And key partners in that effort will be Caterpillar and Cat® dealer Barloworld Equipment, who are working with Perenti/AMS to provide a suite of technology solutions that will deliver innovation to the mining operation.
Crew with mining truck
“We know that Sandfire Resources, our customer Perenti, and the entire team at Motheo is committed to using technology to build the safest, most productive operation possible,” Nathan Wescombe, a Senior Account Manager at Caterpillar, said. “We’re proud that Perenti has chosen Cat technologies to help them become the operator of choice within the region and deliver innovation to their mining practices.”
To ensure the successful deployment of technology in an area of the world where mining technology is not the norm, Caterpillar conducted a three-day information-gathering and change management workshop to consult with key stakeholders to help ensure they are technology-ready.
“Change management is a key to the implementation of technology in any operation,” Leslie Fengu, a Senior Regional representative for Caterpillar’s Mining Technology Solutions division, said. “And it’s even more critical in an area where it’s being introduced for the first time. Fortunately, Caterpillar has a team that has plenty of experience in helping our customers manage this change – understanding the challenges, developing possible solutions to address them, and providing ongoing support through implementation and beyond.”
Held in August 2022, the workshop was very well attended, met with positive feedback, provided critical knowledge of the operation, and identified opportunities moving forward to ensure success for all stakeholders, according to Caterpillar.
Greg Lawson, a General Manager at Perenti/AMS, said: “Incorporating technology into our operations is an important piece of our global strategy. Having the support of Caterpillar and Barloworld as we implement these solutions in a new region is proving to be instrumental in helping us realise our goals. We appreciate the value of their expertise not only in the technology itself but also in addressing the significant change management that goes along with its implementation.”
The Motheo copper mine
Motheo Copper Mine is located in the Kalahari Copper Belt, a major zone of strata-bound copper-silver deposits extending for 1,000 km along the northern margin of the Kalahari Craton in Namibia and Botswana.
The greenfield project is being developed by owner Sandfire Resources, an Australia-based mining and exploration company with a global presence. Open-pit mining services are provided by contractor AMS, the Africa-based surface mining arm of Perenti Group, a global mining services company also based in Australia.
Motheo represents the foundation for Sandfire’s long-term growth plans in Botswana and is expected to generate approximately 1,000 jobs during construction and 600 full-time jobs when fully operational.
After a positive feasibility study in December 2020, Sandfire’s board approved the development of Motheo. The feasibility study identified a robust initial 12.5-year operation with annual production of high-quality copper concentrate estimated at 3.2 Mt. Site construction commenced in 2021, with first production scheduled for mid-2023.
The Motheo Copper Mine will be based on an open-pit operation for the original deposit, identified as T3. The drill-and-blast operation will focus on 10-m benches, using suitable blasting methods to minimise dilution. Trucks will be loaded by 250-t excavators. Direct run-of-mine ore will be delivered directly to the crusher or placed on stockpiles for future rehandling.
AMS selected a fleet of Cat trucks to handle hauling duties, supported by a variety of other Cat machines. Barloworld recently delivered 20 139 t Cat 785 trucks, four D10T dozers, two 777 water trucks and two 18 motor graders to the mine.
Beyond the quality expected from the Cat machines, a major factor in the equipment purchase was related to the Cat MineStar™ technology products that accompany them. AMS, Caterpillar says, selected three separate but integrated solutions that will impact the efficiency and production of the operation, the uptime of machines and the safety of its people:
- MineStar Edge™, a cloud-based equipment management and production recording platform that provides access to highly accurate production data and gives visibility to the entire mining operation;
- Health – Equipment insights, a user-friendly data visualisation and reporting tool that allows sites to easily access, view and analyse machine health information and gain insights to help reduce unplanned downtime and prevent failures; and
- Cat Driver Safety System, an in-cab detection technology that can help sites identify operator fatigue and distraction and address it in real time.
Introducing technology in Botswana
Sandfire and Perenti are no strangers to mining technology. Sandfire’s DeGrussa copper-gold mine in Australia was an early adopter of autonomous mining, using Cat MineStar Command for underground to automate a fleet of underground loaders. The Perenti Group, too, recognises the value of technology in mining, and has added a dedicated services and products business to its portfolio to provide technology and consulting services to the mining industry.
But bringing a technology mindset to this region is not business as usual. For Caterpillar, this is just the third such implementation in southern Africa and the first in Botswana. Cross-departmental interconnectedness is paramount for Perenti and AMS to realise its return on investment as the Motheo team strives to deliver on business demands, Fengu, whose knowledge of the region and its history are extremely valuable to technology implementation in Botswana, said.
“Disruptive technologies, such as those chosen by AMS, require a site-wide approach to achieve successful implementation and sustainable operations,” he said. “Supervisors and their teams are required to effectively manage the implementation and functional changes that will be required with technology, adapting staffed conventional mining techniques to get the most value out of the new mining system.”
To ensure the success of these systems in a country where they have not operated previously, Caterpillar identified an opportunity to leverage the knowledge and capability of its Cat Solutions & Services team, as well as other Cat and Barloworld technology experts. The initiative was led by Caterpillar Technology Change Enablement Manager, Brett Haskins, working with Joel Patterson and Jenny Krasny as key consultants.
“We organised a workshop to develop a deeper understanding of how we could assist in this change, walk through opportunities to help them become more comfortable with the technology and better appreciate how it can help support their roles in the operation,” Wescombe said.
Understanding the site and its culture
This workshop included site observations, interviews, education and facilitated discussions designed to understand the current culture – with a lens toward building operational readiness to capitalise upon the benefits that MineStar Solutions can provide.
The visit occurred over three days with a high level of engagement from every area and level of the deployment. The visit was designed to maximise exposure to the day-to-day goings-on in the operation. Pit operations, departmental interactions and daily activities were observed to determine site mining practices, with a view to assess site readiness to apply MineStar and take advantage of the offerings.
“Understanding the history of change in all organisations was an important part of the workshop and visit,” Wescombe said. “We wanted to learn about change that had been managed well and identify areas for improvement. We did that by asking a lot of questions of people from every aspect of the operation. We engaged the site at all levels – from equipment operators to a representative from Perenti’s office in Perth, Australia.”
The discussions invited participants to share concerns or perceived challenges surrounding daily operations. They were encouraged to contribute ideas around how the daily operation and a change to the site’s mining system can be effectively managed from their perspective.
Workplace culture was also explored, gaining insight into how the site is managed and identifying areas of success and opportunities for improvement. Fengu said: “The goal of this effort was to help reduce incidents and unintended operational consequences, and to provide guidance to remedy any shortcomings through application of the technology.”
In addition, the workshop was designed to strengthen the collaborative relationship between the site, corporate office, Barloworld and Caterpillar. Caterpillar says it and its dealer are essential stakeholders who are pivotal to the successful deployment of MineStar Solutions.
“In a nutshell, our goal was to best understand how we could support AMS through the process of change management,” Patterson, Caterpillar Operational Readiness Consultant, said. “We started by encouraging all participants to leave preconceived ideas at the door on the way in to the workshop and asking everyone to be open-minded to change.”
Developing a path forward
All stakeholders agree that the workshop is just the beginning of ongoing engagement into getting the maximum value from technology at Motheo.
“The workshop helped us start the process,” Sam Farhand, Group Asset Manager for Perenti, said. “We learned a lot about the site and about each other. But now the hard work begins – addressing those challenges we’ve identified and ensuring that we never stop paying attention to how the technology is being used and continuing to find new ways to reap the benefits it delivers.”
An important outcome of the workshop is a 30-plus-page report that identifies the areas impacting successful implementation of MineStar technologies at Motheo and provides recommendations and possible solutions that will help address them.
The report is designed to:
- Ensure understanding of the “why” for change management, and the benefits of using the Caterpillar team for this initiative;
- Summarise the vision for the deployment as voiced by Perenti and AMS employees;
- Articulate the landscape in which the project is taking place;
- Highlight activities on which to partner or reinforce;
- Present identified opportunities to adapt, build and embed new processes;
- Identify the unique needs of the people who will be impacted;
- Outline a change management plan to support the deployment; and
- Share immediate action items to facilitate a successful deployment.
Sharing positive feedback
When asked about the success of the workshop, all stakeholders had positive things to say.
“The on-site engagement and participation in the workshop were outstanding,” Pierre Hill, Country Manager for Barloworld Botswana, said. “Attendance was terrific. It was a fantastic example of collaboration and teamwork.”
Wescombe agreed: “We were very pleased with the willingness of the key stakeholders to break traditional silos, open up lines of communication and actively engage in rich discussions between corporate, dealer, OEM, maintenance, planning and operations.”
But the most important feedback comes from Perenti. “We thought the workshop was very beneficial,” Farhand said. “It has helped us build a strong foundation on which to base our focus on innovation and technology.”
As the Caterpillar Manager for Perenti, Wescombe is quick to point out the teamwork and collaboration necessary for the success of the workshop – and the future of the technology in the years ahead.
“Without Greg Lawson and Sam Farhand from Perenti, this event would not have happened,” he said. “They helped us gain the traction we needed from internal stakeholders to get this off the ground. Plus, Sam and the on-site AMS Motheo team were instrumental in coordinating and supporting the workshop to ensure its success.”
“Our Caterpillar and dealer teams also deserve recognition. Leslie Fengu and Joel Patterson were key contributors to this effort, along with Pierre Hill and J.P. Briggs from our Cat dealer Barloworld. These folks worked closely with the Perenti team to build a preliminary understanding of the site challenges in order to optimise discussions during the site visit.”
The collaboration was a great example of the “three-legged stool” Caterpillar talks about when dealing with its customers in partnership with dealers. “When all three entities are working toward the same goal, we’re going to be so much more successful than when we go it alone,” Wescombe said. “We’re looking forward to a lot more opportunities to work together with Perenti/AMS and Barloworld in the years ahead.”
This is an edited version of a blog that first appeared here.