Bell gears up to develop its underground mining business
Published: 04 April 2023
Bell Equipment has identified underground mining as an opportunity for growth. It has created a dedicated OEM business division to pursue this goal, including expanding the existing product range, providing specialised customer support, and establishing new global markets.
Anton Wheeler has been appointed to head up this division. He brings a wealth of expertise from both his long career in the mining industry, where he held executive management positions with several leading platinum mining companies, and in manufacturing, where he was chief executive officer of an OEM that specialised in underground equipment. He is also a past Chairman of Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa.
Bell Equipment’s Underground Division Lead, Anton Wheeler.
“A key part of our strategy is to grow our portfolio of products,” said Wheeler. “Currently, we have two underground mining products, our Bell Underground Articulated Dump Truck (ADT) and a Bell Rock Scaler. Both products have been well accepted in our existing African markets for their built-in levels of safety, use of latest technology, and lowest cost per tonne productivity, and we see the opportunity to develop our range further.”
According to Wheeler, Bell has identified as an opportunity a 6t low profile Load Haul Dump (LHD) loader to enhance the group’s offering. This machine is in the design phase and will be commercialised by 2024. “Our strategy is to grow the product portfolio rapidly over the next few years to be able to meet the needs of customers involved in this industry.
“Bell Equipment's underground mining products have recently been sold and branded through a dealer in South Africa, but we feel that it is better to be closer to our customers by managing the entire value chain from design to onsite support. We will be fully geared up to support both new machines as well as any historical units that are in service.”
Understanding the complexities and requirements of this specific sector, a specialised underground mining division has been established within the group’s own South African dealer network, Bell Equipment Sales South Africa (BESSA), to provide dedicated and focused sales, parts, and aftermarket support for the underground product portfolio in South Africa. Appointments are underway to make sure we can deliver to our customers’ expectations.
Wheeler explains: “Our underground mining equipment portfolio is all locally designed and manufactured at our factory in Richards Bay. BESSA, through the newly formed division, will take care of support. BESSA is a 51% blacked-owned and 30% women-owned sales and support entity, with a Level 1 B-BBEE rating. Purchases from this entity will hugely benefit our customers in terms of their own B-BBEE scorecards.”Bell underground ADTs have levels of safety built-in, making the trucks Level 9 ready with PDS (proximity detection system), remote control, and autonomous systems.
As the product portfolio develops and the additional roots to markets are established, Bell also plans to leverage its global network of independent dealers and Bell-owned subsidiaries to grow its underground mining presence worldwide.
Bell Equipment Group Chief Executive Officer, Leon Goosen, said: “This global growth initiative follows our strategy to invest in and generate more product IP [intellectual property]. Our new developments will build on the achievements of our existing underground mining products, which are already at the forefront of safety requirements with the stringent PDS Level 9 built into the DNA of our 30t and 35t underground ADTs. We have also leveraged our autonomous learnings from our surface trucks to satisfy future vehicle control requirements as the market is ready for these. We are very excited about the future having embarked on other growth initiatives and new products that we will communicate more about soon.”Bell Equipment Group Chief Executive, Leon Goosen.
The Bell E-series Rock Scaler is a highly manoeuvrable machine that delivers exceptionally low fuel burn, operating, and maintenance costs for the lowest cost solution. It features customer-focused improvements, including a slewing boom for improved control and functionality and a sealed air-conditioned cab with improved operator ergonomics.Bell Equipment’s existing underground mining product range, which includes the Bell Rock Scaler (pictured) is well accepted in the group’s existing African markets for their built-in levels of safety, use of latest technology, and lowest cost per tonne productivity.
Bell Equipment’s latest generation underground ADT was introduced in 2021. Available with 30t or 35t capacity, both models are powered by a high-performance Mercedes Benz engine with an Alison transmission to provide a superior power-to-weight ratio and fuel efficiency gains. In addition, levels of safety are built-in, making the trucks Level 9 ready with PDS (proximity detection system), remote control, and autonomous systems.
The trucks offer many of the same standard safety features and productivity advantages of their acclaimed surface counterparts, including keyless start, Hill Assist, speed control, Bin Tip Prevention, Auto Park Application (APA), and Turbo Spin Protection to protect the engine. Regarding productivity, the Bell B30L and B35L are now fitted standard with onboard weighing and Bell Equipment’s proprietary fleet management software, Fleetm@tic®, so that machine owners can access daily production figures.