Volvo Construction Equipment is mining for nickel on the idyllic Halmahera Island, Indonesia.
Mountainous, forest-clad Halmahera is one of Indonesia's 17,508 islands that lay scattered across both sides of the equator between Australia and Southeast Asia. Halmahera is the biggest of the Maluku Islands, an archipelago in Indonesia which has been an important trade region since the seventh century.
The islands used to be called the Spice Islands because of the abundant nutmeg, cloves and mace, which attracted foreign traders. But today, international investors are more interested in the islands' oil, copper, nickel, gold and coal and Indonesia is an emerging global market economy.
Halmahera Island has over 100 gold and nickel mines. The company Yudistira Bumi Bhakti (YBB) started nickel mining in 1999 at Tanjung Buli in East Halmahera. YBB is the contractor for PT Antam TBK who owns the mine and exports the silvery-white metal to Japan, Ukraine, Macedonia and China - for use in alloys, coins, magnets and common household utensils.
Help is at hand
YBB is a successful company with 750 employees and a yearly output of five million tonnes. However, things didn't start so easily for YBB according to company director Mr. Juandy Tanumiharja, who admits that at first, they struggled to get any mining equipment from dealers. "Many of them weren't sure if we were a credible and trustworthy company," he says.
But luckily Volvo's Indonesian dealer Intraco Penta stepped in to help. "Intraco Penta gave us financial help and equipment which enabled us to start our business," says Mr. Juandy. "We are very thankful to Volvo and Intraco Penta for this."
The first Volvo equipment YBB bought were articulated haulers, before branching out into excavators and wheel loaders. "After using the articulated haulers we realized Volvo's quality and reliability, so we decided to use more of its machines - we only buy Volvo now," says Mr. Juandy.
At the Tanjung Buli site, YBB uses 10 EC460BLC 46 tonne excavators and four EC460B prime excavators to dig out and load the raw nickel; one L120C and one L120F wheel loader to help load the raw nickel; and five Volvo A40D, four A35D, two A35C and seven A40E articulated haulers to haul and transport the metal.
Battling the elements
The machines work 20 hours per day in two shifts of 10 hours. But conditions are far from ideal. Constant rainy weather creates muddy ground and the island's mountainous terrain means the machines have to work on very steep gradients. But according to Mr. Juandy, the Volvo units are in their element. "The Volvo machines are stable in wet conditions and the A35D haulers are able to carry a load of 37 tonnes over gradients of more than 40 percent. No other manufacturer can match its reliability, performance and value," he adds. "Volvo machines are incredibly fuel efficient. The excavators use 20% less fuel than other competitors and the haulers use 10% less fuel.