With 18 years of experience in Brazilian land development, Traterra Terraplanagem e Reflorestamento Ltda is a well credited name in the industry. The company, which specializes in land clearing, research, mining and florestation initiatives, reports record growth figures for 2008 and business is better than ever. Reuben Ford discovers how Traterra struck gold.
Traterra was founded in 1989 by its current Director, Nilson Gusmão, and his wife Gilda Gusmão, who is the company’s legal, financial and accounts director. Located in Paragominas in Pará state in the north of Brazil, the company had just three pieces of machinery, two tractors and a truck and concentrated on the extraction of wood from the region’s forests. At the time, Traterra cut the trees into 20-meter lengths and dragged each one, weighing approximately 7.5 tons to a clearing in the forest where it could be loaded onto the truck and taken to the saw mills in Paragominas.
Today, the company’s projects have taken on a different scale, and family-run Traterra has diversified its portfolio of services. Now, the extraction of trees is for land-clearing, mining and excavation purposes, as requested by its client base of mining companies, contractors and industrial installation specialists. Traterra performs a variety of other engineering services, which have arisen from the company’s extensive experience in land development, including looking for minerals, and in particular locating reserves of bauxite and china clay.
Individual services are also offered, such as transport of supplies, equipment and machinery; clearing and maintenance of access routes; topographical projects and logistic support for mineral research. On a larger scale, the company closes land spaces, with reflorestation projects that use species of flora and fauna native to the Amazon, and excavates trenches, for mineral and soil extraction.
On a typical project Traterra’s work begins only after the surveying company has carried out detailed tests, usually with probes, to indicate the presence of minerals or chemicals. If the results of these initial tests are consistent with Traterra’s clients’ requirements, the project can begin. The trees are cleared, and residues cleaned. “The top soil is removed, and transported to a specified area, usually between six and 20 kilometers away. Once the deposit has been used the process is reversed, replacing the earth and vegetation,” explains Nilson Gusmão.
In recent years, considerable reserves of iron, bauxite, gold, magnesium, nickel, copper and china clay in Pará have made it an important state for mining in Brazil. According to figures by the National Department of Mineral Production (Brazilian Ministry of Mining and Energy), the state produced $4 billion of metallic minerals in 2007 alone, and in 2008, 30 percent of the $376 million spent on mineral research in Brazil was invested in Pará. This is good news for Traterra, and according to Gusmão the company grew by a record 50 percent in 2008.
However, the boom in the mining industry is not the only reason for the surge in Traterra’s success. “We have experienced a general increase in demand for our services, and have fulfilled the expectations and requirements of our clients, thanks to our highly qualified staff,” says Gusmão. He also cites the company’s excellent credibility in the industry as a reason for year-on-year growth.
“Another cause of the record figures is the technology and equipment that Traterra employs,” continues Gusmão. The company has a standing contract with Caterpillar that allows the purchase of the latest industrial machinery on favorable terms. In this way, Traterra achieves maximum efficiency on all its projects through constant technological updates to its fleet. The trucks from the early years have been “sold long ago” says Gusmão, and today Traterra invests in leading names like Volvo and Mitsubishi.
Traterra’s fleet of machinery includes belted-wheel tractors (that protect the ground from excessive erosion), log traction equipment, diggers, and transporter trucks, levelers and reverse diggers.
LEADING THE WAY
“We are one of the leaders in Pará. No other company in the state has our range of equipment,” adds Gusmão. In 2008 alone, 20 new Caterpillar machines were purchased, some of which were imported to Brazil for the first time ever.
The range of applications of the equipment is extensive. Although mineral research does represent a sizable portion of business, it is land-clearing in general that is the most important business for Traterra, accountable for more than 50 percent of its annual turnover.
The company specializes in the opening and maintenance of passageways for electricity lines, and transport routes between mines, as well as the effective land-fill projects when such routes are no longer needed.
Traterra’s experience in working with the construction industry has led to participation in the building of commercial premises and bridges and the construction of roads. With a natural foundation, rudimentary first layer and asphalt surface, these roads could well lead to an even brighter future for the company. “Following our technological breakthroughs in road engineering, we are currently analyzing the introduction of a new type of economical and durable road surface to Brazil, which has been approved abroad,” says Gusmão.
Traterra has also been a pioneer in the application of new remote technology, which, from one location, monitors fuel consumption, has a system of failure codes that register technical faults and uses GPS for greater control of vehicles and machinery on sites around the state.
Innovation sets Traterra apart from competitors in the industry, as it constantly explores new applications for its extensive machinery and new ways to develop the land. It has also secured clients such as Vale do Rio Doce and CBA.
Traterra organizes its operations from two industrial units in Pará. The main facility in Paragominas stands in a 600,000-square-meter site, allowing ample space for future growth, and the 25,000-square-meter subsidiary in Parauapebas was opened to cater for the increase in services offered by the company.
Riding high on its wave of success, Traterra has great plans for the future, including expansion into other states and a number of new projects in the pipelines. It also intends to invest more in land clearance for pastures and agricultural purposes. “Of course, we are aware of current worldwide economic difficulties, and are conscious that some industries will be affected, but Brazil is a developing economy – and we still have a lot to develop,” concludes Gusmão.