HomeCentral AfricaModular process plants a growing trend in Africa

Modular process plants a growing trend in Africa

Gavin Dyer
Gavin Dyer, Regional MD, Weir Minerals Middle East and Africa

The latest trend in the mining and minerals industry is a move towards the design and construction of modular process plants, says Gavin Dyer, Regional Managing Director, Weir Minerals Middle East and Africa.

In support of a strengthened comminution offering, The Weir Group has acquired Trio Engineered Products of the US. This further improves Weir Group’s position to capitalise on the modular process plants trend and to increase its market presence in the sand and aggregate sector.

Trio’s range of products is currently distributed in South Africa by Pilot Crushtec International, a relationship that will remain intact after the acquisition. Trio designs and manufactures a range of crushers, screens, feeders, washers and material handling solutions for the aggregate and minerals sector.

Weir Minerals Africa delivers innovative engineering solutions to customers in the minerals, oil and gas and power sectors.

The agreement to acquire Trio will leverage significant opportunities for both Weir Minerals and Pilot Crushtec International in accessing new market opportunities and utilising their specific engineering excellence and expertise.

Sandro Scherf, CEO of Pilot Crushtec International
Sandro Scherf, CEO of Pilot Crushtec International

“Modular systems comprise quick and easily available modules that can be on site and operational within a day or two. This methodology is being adopted by the entire market, certainly in the crushing and screening sector,” says Sandro Scherf, MD of Pilot Crushtec International.

Another advantage of modular process plants is that, in terms of any potential process changes, these can be slotted in easily. “Sometimes the requirements change, as with the aggregate sector when another product fraction is called for. Tracked mobile plants are the easiest in terms of mobility, but due to high capital and operational costs, these are not always the best option. Semi-mobile modular plants have a lower capital cost, as they usually do not rely on diesel power. They are far cheaper to operate and can still be relocated quite easily.” Scherf says that modular plants offer benefits of easy relocation without the high costs of operation of tracked fully mobile machines.

Scherf says that the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) market in Africa is still quite depressed, which has meant a renewed focus on customer service and aftermarket support. Dyer comments: “We have always been close to our customers, from a technical service and aftermarket point of view, and that is unlikely to change with our agreement to acquire Trio.”

Pilot Crushtec International will still source products from Trio Engineered Products of the US. “Trio has a longstanding relationship with Pilot Crushtec who has successfully taken the Trio products to market in Southern Africa,” says Mike Burke, former owner of Trio Engineered Products.

“I have no doubt that this acquisition will position Weir Minerals to offer comprehensive solutions to comminution clients, whether aggregate or ultimately mining.”

Dyer concurs that the OEM market remains depressed in Africa, which is why the Trio acquisition is such a strategic move as it broadens Weir Minerals’ market focus. “This is an ideal opportunity for companies to optimise their plant and to increase efficiencies and throughput. It will also allow them to become ‘leaner and meaner’ in preparation for the upturn.

“Yes, it is a tough market at the moment. However, I think we are more fortunate than most in that Weir Minerals Africa has a large installed base in Africa and that our aftermarket segment is doing really well. We find that as mining companies scale back on projects and operations, the service trend actually goes up,” Dyer says.

“Even in the downturn of any business cycle, as tough as it is, I think there are valuable lessons that an organisation takes out of that, together with valuable structural changes it has to go through in order to survive the lean times. It is about how you approach those structural changes and how you adapt so that, at the same time, you do not lose sight of your long term strategy, which in our case has been constant growth,” Dyer says.

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