Brazilian mining experts U&M Mineração e Construção detail its revolutionary approach to sustainability  

For nearly five decades, U&M Mineração e Construção Ltd (U&M), a prominent mining contractor and heavy-construction powerhouse, has been leading the Brazilian market with its unparalleled expertise in earthworks, mine development, and material handling services. The company’s extensive experience in remote areas, combined with a well-trained team of experts and a state-of-the-art fleet, uphold its commitment to efficiency, safety, and quality across every project. Indeed, U&M’s pride and joy is its fleet, which stands as the ultimate solution for operating open-pit mines, regardless of the deposit type or material being mined. To support its operations, U&M relies on its efficient logistics, which guarantee precision and agility while transporting equipment, parts, and other goods, all while strictly adhering to deadlines. Commercial Director, Mauricio Casara, gives an overview of the company’s early days and evolution.   

“The seed of U&M was planted in 1958 by an engineer named Gumercindo Machado and his wife Berenice. That year, the young couple founded their first earthmoving company, Sotepa Ltd, in Juiz de Fora, located in southeastern Brazil’s Minas Gerais region. Gumercindo established Modulo Terraplenagem Ltd (Modulo), which served as the precursor to U&M. Shortly after, Modulo merged with Unienge Ltd, a company founded by Gumercindo’s son Renato. The name U&M originated from the combination of the initials of both companies. The success of our company stems from the dedication, not only of the Machado family, but also from all those that have been involved with the company since its inception. Care for our people, safety, simplicity, boldness, innovation, and reliability are our core values which have been instrumental in driving the company’s success. 

“Today U&M operates across eight different sites in Brazil, focusing on all types of commodities such as bauxite, iron ore, phosphate, copper, gold, and many more. Most of these operations are in highly remote areas within the Amazon Forest, a testament to our proficiency in operating in challenging environments. Additionally, we also run two component and equipment remanufacture centers (CRCs) where we rebuild our machines and components – one located in south eastern Brazil and the other in the northern region of the country,” he discloses. 

Bespoke solutions 

Currently operating in Brazil, in the past U&M has undertaken work in Zambia, and the company is currently preparing to return to the international market. “Not only in our native South America, but also returning to Africa, as our expertise in operating in remote areas enables us to go overseas,” adds Mauricio.  

From its roots in the late 1950s to its expansion throughout Brazil, the company has consistently upheld its commitment to customer satisfaction. U&M’s valued clients receive personalized management tailored to meet their specific needs. With its streamlined and flexible working methods, U&M stands out in the market by effortlessly adapting to the diverse requirements of its customers. Asked what else makes the company different from all others, Mauricio states: “Part of it is our core values. At U&M, we all aspire to be the best company in the earthmoving business in the world. Dreaming big and working hard towards this dream enables us to thrive and make a difference. I would add that the way we focus on our business also sets us apart from the competition. While others may be distracted by peripheral endeavors, we remain dedicated to our field of expertise, which is moving earth above ground with excellence. To do so, we treat our people very well since they are the ones who can make it happen. We also take great care of our tools and machinery by regularly monitoring, operating, maintaining, and rebuilding them.” 

First-class fleet 

The company’s fleet is one of its most sizeable assets, making U&M the only contractor operating in Brazil offering specific solutions for the mining sector. “Currently, our fleet comprises around 800 machines consisting of a wide range of heavy mining equipment and support machinery. Within our heavy mining fleet, we have a notable lineup of equipment, including nine hydraulic excavators weighing 550 tons, 33 of 250 tons and 35 of 120 tons. Additionally, our fleet features 28 trucks of 300 tons payload class, 92 of 200 tons and 133 of 100 tons along with 31 track dozers weighing 100 tons. Furthermore, our fleet also encompasses an array of essential equipment such as drills, support dozers, graders, water carts, and various other machinery required to proficiently execute bulk earthmoving and contract mining services for open pit mines,” he informs. 

To support its operations, U&M continuously invests in this well-developed fleet. “Since the company’s inception, our primary focus has been to enhance the safety, efficiency, and comfort of our equipment. We honor this commitment by replacing engines with more reliable and fuel-efficient options, upgrading cabs for improved operability, and retrofitting existing trucks with advanced safety and health monitoring devices. More recently, we have undertaken two noteworthy projects. The first project involves retrofitting conventional manned trucks to transform them into autonomous-capable vehicles. The second project focuses on retrofitting diesel electric drive mining trucks to convert them into hybrid trucks,” he elaborates. 

Safety and sustainability 

Like all businesses, U&M has encountered a variety of challenges that have significantly impacted the way its business. “A key challenge we face is striking a balance between sustainable growth and maintaining the highest quality standards in our operations. To achieve this, we consistently present new challenges and opportunities to our team members, nurturing their personal and professional growth. This commitment not only fosters individual advancement but also contributes to the overall development of the company. Moreover, within the mining industry, we confront a paramount challenge, which is the imperative to improve the safety and sustainability of our operations. Mining companies have established comprehensive decarbonization plans to reduce their environmental footprint, and we are fully committed to playing our part in meeting these goals. To address this challenge, we are actively investing in the development of autonomous, electric, and hybrid vehicles for our mining operations,” he states. 

The company’s sustainability strategy centers around the repurposing and adaptation of existing vehicles, transforming them into more environmentally friendly options such as electric, hybrid and autonomous models. “This is the most sustainable approach to implement industry-wide if we want to achieve our goals of safety, productivity, and decarbonization. The replacement of diesel engines by batteries is one of the cornerstones of our strategy. Not only does it significantly reduce our CO2 emissions, but this transition also has a positive impact on noise reduction, thus minimizing adverse effects on neighboring communities. Furthermore, our emphasis on vehicle autonomy enhances operational efficiency and safety and allows us to optimize the allocation of human resources. By reducing the risks associated with hazardous and repetitive tasks, we are ensuring a safer working environment for our team,” he describes. 

The company’s proactive approach in addressing industry challenges, and prioritizing sustainability and workforce safety, exemplifies its unwavering values and adaptability. By regularly repurposing its fleet, U&M demonstrates its dedication to the principles of the circular economy.