Construction of a new crossover, designed for a client by ELB-Elwatini Rail Solutions

The conclusion of a new joint venture in the latter half of 2018 has seen materials handling specialist ELB Engineering elevate its status from a pit-and-port solutions provider to a pit-to-port solutions expert, writes LAURA CORNISH. 

While ELB Engineering (ELB) is widely recognised for its bulk materials handling capabilities – handling ore or product from the ROM tip through to ship loading, the company elected to close the gap in its service offering by adding a full suite of rail design system capabilities to its portfolio through the establishment of a new joint venture agreement with niche rail design company, Elwatini Rail Consultants.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 3, 2019

“The new 50:50 joint venture company, ELB-Elwatini Rail Solutions, became official in September 2018. It has added total rail design capabilities to the company’s portfolio suite and will secure our position as a true pit-to-port specialist,” says ELB CEO Stephen Meijers.

“Elwatini was formed in 2014 by a group of rail experts who had experience working for multi-national companies and state-owned rail entities. We saw a gap in the market, particularly in South Africa, to establish ourselves as a supplier development partner to larger companies doing business with state owned entities, which have a massive development drive with big capital spend allocation but not enough skills and partners to execute its growth strategy,” says Kuhle Shongwe, general manager of the joint venture company.

ELB-Elwatini Rail Solutions offers a broad spectrum of rail-focused solutions, ranging from feasibility and pre-feasibility studies to rail system design, construction and maintenance management. It also assists clients comply with rail safety regulations.

“Our success over the last four years, which has included supporting major engineering houses on Transnet and PRASA projects, has seen us grow but we needed to align with a well-established, large-scale company to expand our reach and capabilities in the market.

“Through our partnership with ELB, we now have access to offer our services beyond small-scale rail operations and private sidings work to large-scale, heavy-duty industries such as mining,” Shongwe highlights.

While ELB-Elwatini Rail Solutions’ focus includes acquiring new rail contracts with state-owned rail service providers such as Transnet, from freight to passenger rail opportunities, the general manager is excited about the new scope of work it has access to in the mining sector.

“On the back of ELB’s stacker and reclaimer expertise, we have access to a new market for rail solutions associated with this materials handling equipment which are all operated on rail systems.

“The majority of these rails have deteriorated over time and we will now look to assist the industry in upgrading this infrastructure – starting with inspection,” Meijers explains.

In fact, the company is already delivering this service to one of the diamond mines in South Africa where it is repairing 200 m of rail for its stockpile reclaimer.

The company also recently completed a rail design for an industrial minerals and lime producing company in the Northern Cape. Construction on this project is expected to start shortly.

“We also have a number of bids out in the private and public sector,” Shongwe adds.

So the future looks bright for ELB and its new rail solutions offering thanks to its partnership with a credible rail design company.

Together, they will build on the integrity and trust they have both already established in the market to move forward with a full materials handling, pit-to-port solution.

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