Latin America is both the world leader in copper production and home to the largest undiscovered copper resources on the planet, accounting for some 20 percent of the 3.5 billion tonnes of undiscovered copper worldwide, according to a new assessment by the US Geological Survey.

The Cobre Panama copper mine 120 kilometres west of Panama City, Panama, (run by Minera Panama S.A. – a subsidiary of First Quantum Minerals) is scheduled to produce approximately 270,000 tonnes of copper per year once operational. The mine is set to be one of the largest in the world, which is why Minera Panama chose Liebherr as its supplier of excavators, dozers and tractors, along with spare parts, to get to the abundant element.

 But winning such a valuable a contract can also present obstacles. Alain May, General Manager of the Transport Department at Liebherr-Mining Equipment in Colmar, France, admits that his team had only three months to develop a solution for getting the equipment from production facilities in Colmar to Panama before starting work on the Cobre Panama mining project.

“Liebherr had to build up a network in Panama, so we basically started this project with nobody in the right place,” he says. “We needed a solution that would enable us to deliver machines and spare parts to the mine site, as well as storing our stock. In normal conditions, it’d take six months to arrange that kind of set-up; we had three to work with.”

 May goes on to explain that Liebherr prepared an extensive tender document listing all the details of what was required for the project. Proposals from 17 suppliers were considered.

 “We didn’t just want a one-off supplier, we were looking for a long-term partner,” he says. “WWL was chosen for a number of reasons: its financial stability, its global presence, its ability to support us both with inland logistics and ocean transport, its experience with Equipment Processing Centres (EPCs), its ability to handle documentation and customs issues and crucially – at least for this assignment – its local presence in Panama.

 “For all this, we have one single point of contact,” continues May. “Having that contact here in Europe, working in our time zone, is actually a huge advantage. If we want information about our project in Panama, we don’t need to wait for it until the afternoon.”

The scope of the customised solution developed for Liebherr includes multiple facets. In Europe, WWL is responsible for transporting the excavators and spare parts from the Liebherr factory in Colmar, while the bulldozers, manufactured in Austria, are brought to Zeebrugge by another forwarder. The next step is loading to a WWL vessel in Zeebrugge, ocean transport to Panama and unloading in Manzanillo. As the machines are self propelled and able to drive onto the vessel, loading and unloading is fairly straightforward. The spare parts are shipped on WWL roll trailers or stowed loose on board.

Once in Panama, the next phase of the project begins. This includes customs clearance for all the cargo, as well as storage of the spare parts at WWL’s Manzanillo EPC, which is handled by WWL Panama. WWL is also providing a logistics solution to ensure that the parts reach the mine site on short notice, as and when they are needed.

“Liebherr has committed to a very competitive delivery time for its spare parts from the warehouse in Manzanillo through the jungle to the mine site and requires a reliable logistics supplier to live up to this promise,” explains Abu Nasser, who is the WWL Account Manager responsible for the project.

Nasser adds that another challenge in Panama is the customs clearance process, which is notoriously slow and complex.

“We brought in an expert with extensive experience of dealing with customs in Panama,” says Nasser. “Thanks to this external expertise, we could offer Liebherr a solution that would reduce the time required for customs clearance by several days.”

May says that WWL’s ability to offer expertise both in Europe and at the point of delivery is a major advantage.

“Liebherr as a company focuses first and foremost on the quality of the service and solution we provide and WWL has helped us maintain that,” he says adding that Panama, with its unique position, shows promise for the future of Liebherr-Mining.

 “We’re also looking into using WWL’s EPCs as part of a global logistics solution, starting not at our factory but with the supplier. This would see WWL taking on greater responsibility for assembly, storage and distribution of our machines globally,” he adds.


About the project
Liebherr-Mining Equipment Colmar SAS secured a deal with Minera Panama, a subsidiary of First Quantum Minerals, to supply 24 mining excavators and dozers for use at the Cobre Panama site. When operational, Cobre Panama is set to become one of the world’s largest copper mine. WWL is shipping eight HEX R9100 hydraulic excavators, 12 PR744 bulldozers and four PR754 bulldozers, plus spare parts, from Zeebrugge to Manzanillo. WWL ALS handles customs clearance in Zeebrugge and is the main point of contact for the transport of spare parts from the plant to Panama.

About Liebherr

The Liebherr Group, a German company headquartered in Switzerland, is a global equipment manufacturer specialising in cranes, aircraft parts and mining. In 2013, the Liebherr Group had just under 40,000 employees and a turnover of EUR 8.96 million. The mining division of the Liebherr Group, Liebherr Mining Equipment, is based in Colmar, France, employing some 3,500 people worldwide. It delivers high-quality mining equipment, including excavators, trucks and bulldozers, to a global customer base spread across five continents.