OPERATOR CORNER: Volvo excavators have what it takes … and more
by Sam Cowie
On a chilly Thursday afternoon in the Southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, a fleet of construction equipment is working a huge coal quarry. Eight excavators and as many as 20 trucks are currently active on the site operated by Brazil’s Fagundes mining corporation 24 hours a day, six days a week, with Sunday a day of rest.
The yellow Volvo EC700 excavators tear giant lumps out of the terrain, depositing coal into trucks, which then transport their loads up the quarry’s spiraling dirt roads before returning for a refill.
Veteran machine operator Carlos Evaldo Rodrigues stands at the edge of the quarry admiring the work of the Volvo machines. He says the EC700 is his preferred machine because it is a solid apparatus that gets results.
“At the same time as you have strength, you have great levels of productivity,” he adds.
Rodrigues is employed by the Fagundes mining corporation, one of Brazil’s leading mining contractors active in seven of its 27 states. The company is the world’s leading purchaser of the Volvo EC700 excavator, having bought more than 60 of them since 2008.
Rodrigues has been working with the EC700 ever since Fagundes introduced them to the company and cites productivity, comfort, reliability, availability and safety as among the reasons why the machine is his first choice.
Today, Rodrigues is a supervisor at the Fagundes B3 mine where the company’s Volvo excavators are involved in extracting around 2.5 million tonnes of coal each month. This state, near the border with Argentina and Uruguay, is one of Brazil’s most prosperous, being the fourth highest contributor to the country’s GDP. Coal is the most consumed source of non-renewable energy in Brazil, and Rio Grande do Sul accounts for around half of the country’s total coal output, making it Brazil’s largest total supplier.
Rodrigues explains that an operation the size of mine B3 requires strong and reliable machines, with high levels of productivity. Operating an excavator is a tiring and demanding job that requires full concentration in order to work safely and guarantee maximum productivity. Rodrigues says that one of the EC700’s most important features is its high level of comfort that allows operators to work to their maximum potential without distraction.
“As a machine operator, I can tell you that it’s a comfortable machine,” he confirms. “This is essential because comfort affects productivity.”
When working long shifts on mining terrain, danger is always at the forefront of an operator’s mind. Since this is yet another distraction that can affect productivity, the operator must be able to trust his machine, says Rodrigues.
“You feel safe when operating the EC700 and that’s important. If you’re working in mining terrain you need to be able to trust the machine you are using.”
Aside from safety, reliability and comfort issues, one of the EC700s greatest assets, according to Rodrigues, is that it is so popular and widely used that parts are readily available should the machine be in need of repairs.
“If you work with a machine of which there are few on the market then it is hard to replace parts when something goes wrong – this is not the case with Volvo machines,” he explains.
Having been operating machines since 1998, Rodrigues has had the opportunity to work with most of the machines available in Brazil. Standing at the edge of the Fagundes quarry he affirms that Volvo will always be his preferred choice.
“I can say that I’ve worked with pretty much all of the machines in use in Brazil and in my opinion, Volvo is the best. There’s no comparison.”