The Volvo articulated haulers working on the El Mhir quarry in Algeria are proving invaluable in helping this rapidly developing nation to improve its infrastructure.
Algeria is a vast, yet largely deserted, North African country, with much of its 2.4 million km2 lying within the arid zone of the Sahara Desert. Algeria was once an integral part of France, until it secured its independence in 1962. Now, fuelled by its mineral riches, especially oil, Algeria has embarked on an ambitious infrastructure development plan that will improve living conditions and the transport network for its 35 million countrymen.
The key material in improving infrastructure on a national scale is concrete – and a key component of that is aggregate. So the government is authorizing new licences to quarry at carefully selected sites around the country. The El Mhir Quarry, 230 km east of the capital Algiers, is one of these sites. The quarry is owned and operated by Bensebaa, a family firm that waited four years for permission to start working the site, which eventually came with a 50 year concession in 2007. At 320,000 m2 the site needed extensive preparatory works – geological testing, construction of haul roads and establishing a modern crushing plant onsite. This process took two years and the quarry finally went into production in December last year.
White, hot and dusty
There is much work for the company’s 50 employees to be done at El Mhir. The quarry has proven reserves down to 70 meters, giving the site an expected economic lifespan of around 60 years.
“One advantage of the site is that there is almost no overburden, so we can get right down to blasting,” says chief mine engineer Abdelrachid Kirtache. “We have very quickly ramped-up production to our current output of 3,000 tonnes per day.”
Blasting happens twice a month, a limitation set by the local police authorities to prevent explosives falling into the hands of a small band of terrorists that Algeria still endures. Each blast requires an enormous 3.5 tonnes of dynamite and puts over 50,000 tonnes of rock on the ground. As the exact timing of the delivery of the explosives is kept secret, Mr. Kirtache has to be ready with his 120 bore holes well in advance of the blast.
Currently, a large proportion of the quarry’s output is sent to the company’s own concrete plant, some 60km away from the site, which makes kerbs and other products for use on highway developments. The biggest by far of these road projects is the East-West Highway, which stretches 1,200 km from Algeria’s border with Tunisia on the East to Morocco on the West.
The right tools for the job
Among the seven Volvos used on the site, since June last year, are a pair of A35E articulated haulers, a brace of EC460BLC excavators, a giant EC700B excavator, and two wheel loaders – a L180E and L220E.