BRAZIL: Brazil’s Fagundes mining corporation recently became the world’s leading purchaser of  the Volvo 70-tonne excavator

by Sam Cowie

R eliability, productivity and value for money are the main reasons why Fernando Fagundes, commercial director of Brazil’s Fagundes mining corporation, says he chooses Volvo Construction Equipment. At Butiá farm, a Fagundes property in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, near the border with Argentina and Uruguay, Fagundes explains why the Volvo EC700 excavator is the company’s preferred choice. “It’s simple – if I wasn’t getting the return I needed, I would choose a different machine,” he admits.

 

One of Brazil’s leading mining contractors, the company has bought more than 60 Volvo EC700 excavators since 2008.

 

Mining coal in Rio Grande do Sul

Mining coal in Rio Grande do Sul

CORE VALUES

With a keen eye for sustainability, the firm recently celebrated 30 years in business. Founded in 1985 by José and Nelsi Fagundes, and run by brothers Fernando, Silvio and Diogo, it upholds the family’s core values of respect and determination, while maintaining a commitment to sound environmental practices, such as regenerating former mining sites as well as those currently in operation.

 

Fagundes began using the EC700 excavator in 2008, having been a Volvo client for about five years – today, the firm counts the 70-tonne excavator as the most reliable machine in its unit.

 

Fernando Fagundes says that while there are cheaper machines on the market, the EC700’s high productivity rate provides an excellent cost-to-results ratio. He explains that in the long run it is a lot more expensive to buy machines that are cheaper, but that end up not producing enough.

 

“Price is important, but it’s not the be-all and end-all,” he says. “The purchase price is only one aspect; you have to consider the second aspect – productivity.”

 

A prosperous state, Rio Grande do Sul is Brazil’s largest producer of coal and the fourth highest contributor to the national GDP. Larger in area than the United Kingdom, the state is home to just 11 million citizens, nicknamed ‘gauchos’, who share a rich ancestry from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Eastern Europe and Africa.

 

When it was first founded, Fagundes focussed on industrial earth moving and effluent processing before moving into mining. The firm won its first local mining contract in 1995, and by 2001 had secured its first contract outside its home state, in Minas Gerais.

 

Today, Fagundes is one of the best-known mining contractors in Brazil, currently working in seven of Brazil’s 27 states, in basalt, limestone, phosphate, iron, gold, niobium and vanadium mining and satisfying the thirst for coal – a major source of electricity generation in the country – in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

 

Fagundes also provides services to a local treatment facility handling 60% of the garbage in Rio Grande do Sul state, from which it extracts methane gas. The gas is processed in the nearby city of Minas do Leão before being piped underground to a thermal power plant, which generates power for up to 80,000 people.

 

Fernando Fagundes (third from right) on site

Fernando Fagundes (third from right) on site

FIT FOR PURPOSE

Dressed in safety gear, overlooking the coal quarry site where four Volvo EC700s are hard at work, Fernando Fagundes points to Silvio, saying: “He isn’t a director because he’s family – he has this job in the company because he gets the job done.”

 

The Fagundes business also has separate, independent arms working within livestock farming, agriculture, construction, crushing and transport.

 

According to Fernando, what distinguishes Fagundes from other extraction companies is a commitment to sustainable business practices in a region which, because of its abundance of coal, has witnessed much environmental degradation.

 

Seeing such widespread deterioration in the past is what spurred Fagundes to engage in environmentally sound practices, restoring mined lands to their original state by replacing dug earth and treating the soil.

 

“We know that any mineral, when exploited badly, can destroy and pollute,” says Fernando Fagundes. “So it’s a satisfying feeling to recuperate the land we have worked on.”

 

Brothers Silvio (left) and Fernando Fagundes at Butiá farm

Brothers Silvio (left) and Fernando Fagundes at Butiá farm

GROWING GREENER

Such commitment to sustainable practices is demonstrated by the 2,000+ hectare Butiá farm, 85km from the state capital Porto Alegre, itself a former mining site. For ten years until 2009, Butiá farm was a coal-mining operation, but today it has become a bastion of sustainable business,
raising prize livestock.

 

Strolling around the grounds of the farm with Fernando Fagundes, it is quite hard to believe that six years ago the area was an active mining operation. Now the grass is green, fresh and healthy and the land has been replanted with trees.

 

Situated in the biggest coal-producing region of Brazil, the farm’s pièce de résistance – a lake by the entrance of what was the main quarry – truly demonstrates the plausibility of extraction industries working with sustainability. Today, the water supports river prawns which thrive in the lake.

 

“We like to show through our work that mining and looking after the environment are not mutually exclusive. The two can work perfectly together,” Fernando Fagundes concludes.