Lube Services Gain Traction in Africa Mines

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Several trends in Africas mining industry - including a skills shortage, environmental issues and contracting practices - are causing mining companies to procure lubrication services such as taking of lube samples for monitoring, a Shell official said here at the ICIS African Base Oils & Lubricants Conference in November.

Shell Lube Expert Hein Venter said service arrangements make lube marketers more than product suppliers and that they are most prevalent in grease applications. Patrick Swan, managing partner at ASWAN Consulting in South Africa said mines are leaning on lube companies to help monitor equipment.

They monitor equipment, mostly [checking] oil samples and the wear on the gears and equipment on the mine, Swan told Lube Report during a phone interview.

Swan said lubricant suppliers and other types of businesses have long offered such services but that mining companies traditionally have not been interested. But mining has become more competitive, he explained, leading some mines to examine more seriously as they seek a leg up. Not all mines are using these services, but it is gaining momentum in some mining houses.

Lubcon International Managing Director Taiye Williams said the Nigerian company has some experience serving Ghanas mining industry but that it is often challenging for local blenders to provide such offerings.

The [services] you are talking about are most common in mining, but our experience in Ghana showed that it is difficult for local players to get involved because OEMs often specify lubricants of multinational manufacturers, which makes it difficult for local lubricant manufacturers to offer this kind of service, he said.

Local players can sometimes break through, he added, by becoming representatives of multinational lube marketers. In our own case, we had to partner with a German company to be able to supply grease and lubricants to the mines in Ghana. That segment often prescribes high end type of products, so we had to reach out to a German producer and partnered with them to be able to play in that market.