U&M Mineração e Construção S.A. is recognized as one of Brazil’s leading mining and heavy construction service companies. Dedicated to every detail of the industry, the company promises record growth and revenue, and even greater concern for the environment in 2008. Reuben Ford reports.
U&M is the result of a merger between Unienge Comercial e Construtora Ltda and Módulo Terraplanagem e Construção Ltda. Although officially founded in 1993, the two merging companies dated back to 1985 and 1977 respectively, bringing with them substantial market experience. At this time, U&M specialized in heavy construction and in the first year of operation, the company was contracted by mining industry giant Vale do Rio Doce to work on the building of a dam.
The application of U&M’s expertise to mining proved to be very successful; in 2000 the company purchased its first heavy duty equipment and concentrated on the sector. This marked the beginning of a new phase, and in 2001 the company changed its name from U&M Construção Pesada Ltda (Heavy Construction Ltd) to U&M Mineração e Construção Ltda (Mining and Construction Ltd).
Company employees were sent to visit the 14 largest mining projects in Australia to study and analyze new processes and equipment. This experience, together with the previously acquired knowledge of heavy construction, led to continued investment in new machinery. By 2003, the company was capable of operating in large mines.
EQUIPPED FOR EXCELLENCE
Today, U&M prides itself on its fleet of specialized heavy duty equipment. According to President Marcelo Ribeiro Machado, “We have brought the latest technology to Brazil, and our work conforms to international standards.” Indeed, U&M has machinery capable of bearing 150-ton loads, where the normal capacity in the industry is 50 tons. “Over the years, we have consolidated practices that value total planning of mining and heavy construction services. This means the best use of the best equipment,” says Machado.
The entire fleet is managed through a strict replacement policy. Support equipment and vehicles are always bought brand new, and are replaced every 8,000 hours or after two years of use, rules that more than satisfy safety and operating comfort requirements.
It is not only in the mining sector that U&M’s equipment excels. “Where other companies are using trucks with a 35-ton capacity for industrial construction, our vehicles carry 100 tons. This means that on a normal site, with conventional equipment, you need around 600 people working. On the same site, operated by U&M, there would be just 200,” notes Machado.
U&M prioritizes efficiency in all of its projects, which includes not only machinery, but the safety and communication between operation and support areas. A smaller amount of higher capacity machinery means less risk of accidents, and a long distance monitoring system allows the company to conduct projects in any part of Brazil and abroad.
U&M is typically responsible for the excavation, loading and transportation of material at any one of its heavy construction or mining sites all over Brazil.
EARTH MOVING EFFICIENCY
Today, although focused on mining, U&M also operates in construction projects. Hydraulic excavators with a capacity of up to 250 tons, together with the 100-ton off-highway trucks and 35-ton articulated 6×6 trucks remove saturated soil, excavate tunnels and large volumes of earth and rock. Such machinery has been used in the construction of multinational supermarket Carrefour in Minas Gerais (the mining state), and also the Wal-Mart distribution center in São Paulo.
A fleet of mobile units have been used in the construction of airports, runways, railways and highways, such as the Juiz de For a airport in Minas Gerais. The flexibility afforded by this equipment means that the excavation and loading sites can be moved to accompany the development of the project.
U&M is the only company active in Brazil with a broad range of equipment specific to the mining sector. The trucks and excavators are capable of moving 15 million tons of material per month. U&M has also built more tailing dams than any other company in the country. Its specialized tractor-scrapers and crawler tractors, together with the hydraulic excavators and trucks are highly productive, constructing in less time than competitors. The company has built dams all over Brazil, including the Amazon.
The capacity to move high quantities of material is also applied to mine implementation and expansion. The company works in even the remotest areas of Brazil. Many earth movement and drainage projects in mines in the north of Brazil rely on U&M for land clearing and grubbing services.
As well as Vale do Rio Doce, other mining companies such as MRN (Mineração do Norte) and Pará Pigementos S.A. contract U&M. Peugeot e Citroen do Brasil, Coca-Cola, Odebrecht and Petrobras (Brazil’s national oil company) are also part of the growing client list.
The bold mission to explore and focus on the mining sector has been well accomplished. Since 2000, U&M has experienced steady growth, averaging 40 percent annually and Machado is confident that current projects will generate revenue of $250 million for 2008, a 60 percent increase on 2007. Although aware that the boom in mining commodities in the last few years and favorable economic conditions in Brazil have certainly helped to propel the company forward, he has a concise explanation for U&M’s impressive figures: “The growth of the company is simply a consequence of doing things well.”
Indeed, thorough consideration of all elements of the business is what distinguishes U&M. “We believe that the reason for the success of our business is our attention to a winning formula; clients, shareholders, staff and society must all be satisfied with our work,” says Machado. U&M’s efforts have been officially recognized; in 2007 the company won the Silver Trophy, Prémio Mineiro de Qualidade (Minas Gerais’ Mining Quality Award). Also in 2007, Brazilian Época Magazine and Great Place to Work elected U&M one of the Best Companies to Work and the publications Exame, Voce S.A. and FIA awarded the same title for the second year running.
“We have experienced great growth and development, but at the same time, we are faced with a world requiring significant action to change the course of global warming and other environmental problems,” says Machado. In 2001 the change in the company’s name included a change in the company colors. Green was chosen to represent U&M’s concern for environmental issues.
U&M actively reduces the impact caused by mining and heavy construction on the environment, investing in modern technology and machinery to reduce pollution and treat effluents. Likewise, U&M has a detailed preventative strategy to avoid environmental accidents. “Our actions go well beyond those outlined by ISO: 14001,” comments Machado. “We know sustainable development depends on a combination of efforts that exceed the scope of our individual power. The required changes result from renewed attitudes in our daily routines, and from dedication and persistence.”
Projects such as the Ibitipoca Reserve in Minas Gerais, which shelters a wide variety of fauna and flora, including some animal species threatened with extinction, are supported by U&M contributions.
Increasing environmental awareness in Brazil is important to U&M. Today the company participates in several ecological education programs, involving initiatives for recycling, seedling plantation and soil, air, water, fauna and flora preservation. Such projects have also given rise to educational programs for children, encouraging underprivileged and disabled youngsters to participate in a variety of courses, including arts and sports.
With its head office in Rio de Janeiro and administrative center in Matias Barbosa, Minas Gerais, U&M also has facilities in the states of, Goiás, Pará and Maranhão, employing a total staff of 1,065. The company has definite plans to expand. A new Brazilian subsidiary is planned, and recent investments in a new plant in Zambia are fuelling the international market. “We intend to expand further into Africa, as well as into the other Latin American countries, but Brazil is our priority,” says Machado. Continued investment in techniques and equipment, which included a recent trip to Europe to observe procedures following the Spanish construction boom, ensure that U&M’s fleet comprises the most efficient machinery possible.
U&M’s excellent professional, social, environmental and economic performance are undeniable. The company powers into the future with care, consideration and confidence. As Machado concludes, its true success is in “being able to meet the needs of today’s society without compromising the capacity to meet the needs of future generations.”