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Miningconstruction, agricultural, forestry and materials handling equipment supplier Bell Equipment has identified underground mining as an opportunity for growth and has created a dedicated original-equipment manufacturer (OEM) business division to pursue this opportunity by expanding the existing product range, providing specialised customer support and establishing new global markets.

Anton Wheeler has been appointed to head up the new division.

He brings a wealth of expertise from both his long career in the mining industry, where he held executive management positions with several leading platinum mining companies, and in manufacturing, where he was the CEO of an OEM that specialised in underground equipment.

He is also a past chairman of Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa.

“A key part of our strategy is to grow our portfolio of products. Currently, we have two underground mining products, our Bell Underground articulated dump truck (ADT) and a Bell rock scaler. Both products have been well accepted in our existing African markets for their built-in levels of safety, use of latest technology and lowest cost per tonne productivity, and we see the opportunity to develop our range further,” he says.

According to Wheeler, Bell has identified, as an opportunity, a 6 t low-profile load, haul, dump loader to enhance the group’s offering. This machine is in the design phase and will be commercialised by 2024.

“Our strategy is to grow the product portfolio rapidly over the next few years to be able to meet the needs of customers involved in this industry.

Bell Equipment‘s underground mining products have recently been sold and branded through a dealer in South Africa, but we feel that it is better to be closer to our customers by managing the entire value chain from design to onsite support. We will be fully geared up to support both new machines as well as any historical units that are in service.”

Understanding the complexities and requirements of this specific sector, a specialised underground mining division has been established within the group’s own South African dealer network, Bell Equipment Sales South Africa (BESSA), to provide dedicated and focused sales, parts and aftermarket support for the underground product portfolio in South Africa.

“Our underground mining equipment portfolio is all locally designed and manufactured at our factory in Richards Bay. BESSA, through the newly formed division, will take care of support.

“BESSA is a 51% blacked-owned and 30% women-owned sales and support entity, with a Level 1 broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) rating. Purchases from this entity will hugely benefit our customers in terms of their own BBBEE scorecards,” says Wheeler.

As the product portfolio develops and the additional routes to markets are established, Bell also plans to leverage its global network of independent dealers and Bell-owned subsidiaries to grow its underground mining presence worldwide.

“This global growth initiative follows our strategy to invest in and generate more product [intellectual property]. Our new developments will build on the achievements of our existing underground mining products, which are already at the forefront of safety requirements with the stringent Proximity Detection System Level 9 built into the DNA of our 30 t and 35 t underground ADTs.

“We have also leveraged our autonomous learnings from our surface trucks to satisfy future vehicle control requirements as the market is ready for these. We are very excited about the future having embarked on other growth initiatives and new products that we will communicate more about soon,” comments Bell Equipment CEO Leon Goosen