SOUTH KOREA: Volvo CE digs deep to keep operations safe in hazardous conditions
by Emilee Jennings
In a chilly November morning in Jecheon, in the heart of South Korea, machine operators at the Jangchimi limestone quarry are hard at work. Located in peaceful countryside a two-hour drive from the capital Seoul, the quarry comes as somewhat of a surprise, nestled amongst trees in beautiful natural surroundings. White dust swirls in the air and the sound of thunder can be heard in the distance. The sound of limestone rubble being loaded up is reminiscent of hailstones.
Heavy rainfall the night before has made working conditions more hazardous but that will not be allowed to slow the work rate – Daesung Mining Development Incoporated (MDI) Jeocheon has a business to run and daily quotas to meet.
With 28 employees and six Volvo machines on site – wheel loaders and articulated haulers – there is plenty of activity. Most of the action at the site happens underground in the limestone quarry, and heavy rain from the overdue monsoon season caused flooding of the underground tunnel. It is a potentially dangerous job, which is why Volvo CE has an important role to play here.
It takes about 15 minutes to travel the 3,000m along a bumpy track with its many tight corners to the head of the tunnel. Trundling down to more than 170m below ground level, a large cloud of dust and smoke fills the flooded chamber, creating treacherous conditions for the workers.
Song Suk-jae, managing director of Daesung MDI, says they can never be sure what will happen inside the quarry. “That is why working with reliable equipment such as the L180G and the A30E is essential to get the job done safely.”
Daesung MDI uses explosives to break up the limestone. After extraction, L180F and L180G wheel loaders pile the rocks on to A30E haulers to transport them to the on-site stone grinder before delivering the finished product.
In an environment where so many things can go wrong, Song insists it is important to use the best equipment, to have regular safety checks, and professional personnel training. “Volvo is a high-profile international company, the machines operate very well, and we selected them for our operations precisely because they are safe,” he says.
Song has worked in the mining industry for more than 30 years and has been quarrying with Daesung MDI since it opened back in 1996. He says it took 18 years to dig three kilometers into the tunnel and the deeper they dig, the better the quality of limestone they extract.
Limestone has a diverse range of uses including as white pigment or filler in products such as toothpaste or paints. However, at Daesung MDI, the high-quality limestone mined is used to remove the impurities from steel whilst the lower quality limestone powder is used in manufacturing cement. “We produce 500,000 tonnes of high-quality limestone a year, of which around 95% is supplied to the Pohang Iron and Steel Company,” explains Song.
The mine’s daily routine starts with a 7.30 meeting followed by a work plan and safety training. Operator Lee Ki-taek begins his shift by inspecting his equipment. Having spent the last ten years maneuvering an L150, Lee welcomed the move from other brands to Volvo CE. “It’s smooth and easy to operate and very comfortable,” he says – and he should know, since he spends 10 hours each day behind the controls of his machine.
Working in such hazardous conditions means that all the staff must be well trained to be responsible on the job – Volvo CE’s commitment to health and safety for all workers is invaluable in the challenging limestone quarry environment.