bauma is not only the leading trade fair for construction machinery and building material machines. 2010 showed very clearly that it is also a major attraction for the mining industry: Of the 420,000 trade visitors to bauma in 2010, a good quarter of them were interested in the section on mining. This International Trade Fair for Construction Machinery, Building Material Machines, Mining Machines, Construction Vehicles and Construction Equipment is therefore also the world’s largest event for the mining sector. At the next bauma in 2013 (April 15 to 21, in Munich) companies engaged in the mining sector will again be presenting their products and services to the international trade audience in a dedicated exhibition hall and on the outdoor area.
German safety technology is very much in demand, and particularly so abroad. The mining machinery section of the German Engineering Federation, the VDMA (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau e.V.), has therefore started a South America Initiative aimed at further expanding the trade relations with that part of the world. "Our high-quality technology helps make mines in South America safer," stresses Dr. Paul Rheinländer, VDMA Chairman. Accordingly, German technology and know-how will be contributing to increased safety in the Colombian mining industry, particularly in underground mining, and it will help boost extraction volumes. A strategic cooperation, as well as a partnership on safety, will also encompass technology transfer.
Around the world mining companies are pushing ahead with automation – ever more processes are being automated to counter the lack of skilled labor. In Australian mines this is particularly evident. The example of the Carborough Downs coal mine shows the importance customers place on quality, safety and value in the machinery they buy, and also how international their purchasing activities are: In one longface wall using Polish roof supports (Tagor), Australian chain conveyors (Inbye/Nepean), Australian switchgear and longwall monitoring system (MI-Power/Nepean) and a German control system (Tiefenbach), the SL1000 shearer (Eickhoff) gathers in the 4.5 to 5.7-meter thick seam.
This project and many others are the reason why the companies associated in the mining machinery section of the VDMA will enjoy the best year in their history in 2011, with sales increasing by 32% to around five billion euros. "For us this is an all-time record, and we are tremendously pleased about it," says Rheinländer. "As such we are one of the few sectors in Germany which have managed to continue growing during the whole crisis." The explanation for this growth, he says, lies in the ever increasing demand for raw materials around the world, in particular from the emerging countries which are developing fast.
Increasingly machinery and plant is being ordered for the expansion of existing mines or for opening new ones. Extraction volumes are therefore constantly rising. One example quoted by Rheinländer is India, the partner country of the last bauma, where this year he expects sales to increase by 50%.
For the future, Rheinländer does not exclude the possibility of individual companies relocating their R&D departments abroad. He cited two specialist areas which are driving innovation: electronics and materials research. In the case of the latter – in particular in metallurgy – he sees German companies as very well set up: "The Germans have mechanics in their genes."
All of which is no reason to slacken efforts. On the contrary: Under the motto of "Future Mining," the federation has launched a series of events at the universities which have mining faculties – Freiburg, Aachen and Clausthal – with the aim of supporting the mainly medium-sized companies in the field as they strive to meet the challenges of the future. This involves not only coordinating research activities but also and in particular attracting young engineers. The crisis-resistant mining sector can offer them a secure future.