Brazil is the third highest iron ore producing country (behind China and Australia) and home to the largest iron ore producer, Vale. For Motion Metrics, a company with many systems installed in open pit mines throughout Chile and Peru, Brazil has been a largely untapped market.
In 2013, we attended the Exposibram trade show and began developing connections with Komatsu Brazil which, with its shovels, trucks, and loaders, has a presence in all but the smallest Brazilian mines. Although our system has been well proven in many mines around the world, to have our system tested at Vale, we were required to provide a cost free trial. Together with Komatsu, we began working with Vale to define a trial site. The trial was accepted at Vale’s Carajas mine, the world’s largest iron ore mine, located in the Amazon Jungle of Northern Brazil. In January, we began planning the installation date for our system on a new CAT 7495 shovel.
I have been working at Motion Metrics for 4.5 years now. I began as a Sales and Support Specialist to promote, install, and maintain our systems around the world. As I speak Spanish, my main focus has been on our customers in Chile and Peru. I later became more involved with the development team, acting as a voice for our customers within Motion Metrics to guide new developments. I have always enjoyed travelling to new countries, so when given the chance to oversee our first installation in Brazil, I jumped at the opportunity.
I left Vancouver in early January, flying through Toronto to Rio de Janeiro. Toronto was experiencing very cold weather and the plane required deicing before we could fly to Rio. As I watched the deicing I was looking forward to enjoying summertime in Brazil. When I arrived in Rio, the first thing I did after checking into my hotel was to find some fresh tropical fruit juice. I found a suco de graviola which I hadn’t had since I was 10 years old in Venezuela. After leaving Canada, it was a nice contrast to be sitting on the beach in Rio, drinking fruit juice, watching kite-surfers.
The Carajas Mine is located in the state of Para. The flight over the Amazon Jungle was spectacular with large swaths of land covered in lush rainforest. The views of the jungle were amazing, however, it was also very apparent how much of the rainforest has been cut down to make room for farming.
I was greeted at the Carajas airport by our contact, Jean, from Komatsu. We drove into the town of Parauapebas where he invited me to have some ice-cold beer! One of my favourite parts of working in different places around the world is getting to know new people and forming new friendships. In Brazil, I received a very warm welcome from everyone I met and am especially thankful to Jean for introducing me to Brazil. We spent many days driving around the region to visit different customers, teaching each other English and Portuguese, sharing our music and stories.
The installation at Carajas began on a foggy day. However, throughout the day the weather brightened and we enjoyed some nice views of the Jungle from the top of the shovel. When we arrived at the shovel, I got my first taste of the wildlife in the Jungle. The shovel was covered with huge moths that rest on it for its heat at night. Generally, in the mines I have visited in Chile, it is uncommon to see any living creatures. But here there were little insects and birds surrounding the areas we worked in.
The people at the mine were very helpful with the installation. It took two days to fully install the system as this was the first time the technicians had worked with it. Once a team has good experience with the different components, the system can easily be installed within a day.
To complete this trial, I was able to travel to Brazil 3 times over 4 months. On a few occasions I had an opportunity to do some sightseeing. In the Carajas forest, Vale has a zoo which was very nice to visit to see monkeys, jungle cats and tropical birds.
In Rio de Janeiro, I visited the Pao de Acucar and the Cristo. The Pao de Acucar rises out of the ocean and overlooks Copacabana beach and the city center. Riding the two gondolas provides a spectacular view of the surroundings. The photos don’t do it justice. The Cristo is another amazing monument situated at the top of one of the tallest mountains that rises steeply out of the landscape.
One of the last places I visited was the Rocinha Favela. Favelas are slums built on the outskirts of the city in areas that are generally too steep for building as the ground is unstable. Favelas are often very densely populated and have a reputation for violent gangs. The Rocinha Favela is estimated to have as many as 300,000 inhabitants and it borders two very wealthy areas of Rio. It is quite striking to see the towers of Sao Conrado at the bottom of the valley as the Favela’s makeshift buildings rise up the valley walls.
The tours of Rocinha and other favelas are run during the day and are relatively safe. The engineer in me found the architecture quite impressive with the buildings being stacked on top of one another like lego bricks. Walking through the alleys gives you a sense of how this city did not grow according to a structured plan, but rather very organically as people arrived and built where they could.
After several months of careful testing, Carajas was happy with the results and our trial was announced successful! I was very fortunate to travel to Brazil this year and will always look forward to visiting and getting to know another side of this diverse and exciting country.
Written by Nicholas Himmelman, Motion Metrics Technical Sales Manager