ENGINEERING project house TWP, part of the Basil Read group of companies, yesterday officially handed over a R232m "bucket and bowl" workshop it built at Kumba's Sishen iron-ore mine.

The new facility is the first stage of a further R1,4bn life-of-mine workshop that will help Kumba ramp-up heavy earth-moving capacity at Sishen, as it starts to dig deeper for ore.

Kumba, which is a 65%-held subsidiary of Anglo American, will initially use the facility to service a fleet of giant ore trucks, up until September next year, before turning it into a dedicated refurbisher of digging machine blades (bowls) and ore-truck compartments (buckets) carrying loads of up to 350 tons. "In the long term it will be a welding workshop for buckets and bowls," Lourens Mostert, Kumba project manager for mine workshops, said.

Some of Sishen's fleet of about 25 Komatsu ore vehicles have wheels of up to more than twice the height of an adult, and each truck is worth between R35m and R42m. The workshop, which took 14 months to build, includes two 80-ton overhead cranes, a 450-ton tyre press, and nitrogen storage and compressor facilities.

Further projects at Sishen involving TWP include mine water works and worker housing projects, as Kumba expands its mining capacities over the 30-year life of the mine. The development of the new workshop follows last week's opening by Kumba of the 9-million-ton-a-year Kolomela iron-ore mine, about 80km away.

"There's a lot of activity in the area - not just at Sishen," Digby Glover, CEO of TWP, said.

Nigel Townshend, TWP chairman and executive director at Basil Read, said that commodities including iron ore, gold, copper and coal were booming, despite the fall-off in platinum markets.