Extreme weather, a remote location and mountainous terrain over 3,100m above sea level: these are the conditions at the Lesotho mine site.
According to Johnson Crane Hire Vanderbijlpark branch manager Dean Wepener: “This contract presents a number of unusual challenges, but none that we can’t meet.
“Our main task is to keep the on-site crane operating in top condition and compliant in terms of our own operational policies, national regulations and customer requirements.”
Working in weather that regularly delivers searing heat, freezing cold, torrential rain and howling winds, the crane operates 12-hour shifts for seven days a week. Its duties are focused on the range of maintenance activities that the mine demands, especially as the harsh climate increases the rate of replacement of many items of equipment on site.
Wepener said: “An operator is permanently on site, and rotates with a standby operator to ensure compliance with Lesotho’s labour regulations and Johnson Crane Hire’s best-practice policies. Secondly, a maintenance mechanic visits the site regularly to service the machine, replacing oil and filters, and attending to any other mechanical issues arising.”
A certified lifting machine inspector also visits the site quarterly to conduct the required compliance check on all aspects of the crane.
“We also have a Johnson Crane Hire foreman who makes on-site inspections, checking on both the machine and the operator,” Wepener added. “I also am at the site regularly as the branch manager, and will do my own assessment of the crane’s condition and general operations.”
The aim of all this attention, he explained, is to help ensure that there is no unnecessary downtime at the mine, which suffers substantial losses for every hour of lost production. He emphasised the role of the operator in keeping the crane working safely, as well as ensuring that all lifts are conducted according to best operating practice and within weight compliance limits. The operator also does a pre-operation check every morning and sends through his report to the branch regularly.
There are also other, larger cranes that Johnson Crane Hire makes available to this mining customer for specific short-term jobs. Here, cross-border administration and logistics adds a host of other demands to the project, and the team must keep a number of bases covered if they are to meet the customer’s deadlines.
A recent contract involved making a 275t mobile crane available on site, which required transport arrangements for the crane and support vehicles in order to mobilise the crane’s extensive components, including counterweights, hook-blocks and outrigger pads – to make the 400km journey to site.