Supporting Madagascar’s nickel mining plant amid global pandemics

ABB’s automation solutions optimize productivity, increase opera-tor effectiveness including training, commissioning, testing

  • Yulanda was presented with an Award Plaque as a special recognition for the effort what she has put in during this pandamic

When the global pandemic wrapped us with uncertainty, it changed our professional and personal lives. Businesses across the world had to come up with new strategies and make complex decisions instantly while adhering to the customers’ requirements. ABB’s teams rallied together to brave the health hazard and kept our projects going. Among ABB South Africa Process Automation employees Yolanda Khoza, whose determination while being on a project away from home has inspired us all.

In April 2021, ABB was selected by APP Ltd to upgrade the excitation system at the Ambatovy plant in Madagascar. Yolanda was sent there as the commissioning engineer for the project in Dynatec Madagascar-Ambatovy Nickel Project.

Ranked among the largest lateritic nickel mining entities in the world, the Ambatovy facility, has a yearly production capacity of 60,000 tons of nickel and 5,600 tons of cobalt. ABB was engaged with the refurbishment of the steam plant with an output capacity of 45 megawatt (MW).

Optimizing productivity

As a part of the project, ABB successfully installed the ABB UNITROL® 6080 excitation system in the first unit steam turbine generator at the plant. The UNITROL®’s series of excitation systems have been a key component in many steam-generating units used by plant owners and operators to optimize productivity. It has been deemed as a benchmark in flexibility, reliability and connectivity for brushless and critical steam generating units.

Being the commissioning engineer, Yolanda was responsible for the cold commissioning, hot commissioning, and function testing of the system while training the plant operators to increase plant availability. Her initial posting was for three weeks.

But things started to change with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic which saw Madagascar going into lockdown and closing borders. Unfortunately, Yolanda, a mother of two, had to extend her stay for thirteen weeks and continued staying at a camp for the entire duration of the project.

“With the sudden change of plans, I had to buy clothes, luggage, medication, food, and toiletries but the toughest was to stay away from my children even though they enjoyed staying with their grandmother in Gauten.”

Amidst all the uncertainty, Yolanda’s health was compromised due to the changes in the environment.

“I was not carrying enough medication for my low blood pressure from South Africa,”

With help from her co-workers, Yolanda managed to get her medication from a pharmacy in Madagascar and remained healthy throughout her stay.

ABB ZA also provided support to Yolanda’s family by purchasing groceries, assisting financially including paying for electricity. Monobe Manaka (HRBP) and Zakki Saib, her manager, visited Yolanda’s family to check up on their wellbeing and deliver the groceries. At the same time, Zakki kept close contact with Yolanda throughout her prolonged stay, extending support while helping her navigate the challenges of the project. But challenges were not only limited to the project. During Yolanda’s absence, her son was injured at school and ABB arranged transportation for him to the doctor for consultation and helped him recover fast.

Extending her gratitude, Yolanda says “There was an immense support from everyone at ABB to be there, and they supported my family not only financially but emotionally and constantly checking up on them and me. This has taught me that I am at home with the ABB family.”

Her achievement in Madagascar, her determination, her positivity, her tenacity, her teamwork, and her courage has made us proud and we continue to learn from her.

ABB’s Process Automation Global leader in automation, electrification and digitalization for the process and hybrid industries. We serve our customers with a broad portfolio of products, systems, and end-to-end solutions, including our #1 distributed control system, software, and lifecycle services, industry-specific products as well as measurement and analytics, marine and turbocharging offerings. As the global leader in the market, we build on our deep domain expertise, diverse team and global footprint, and are dedicated to helping our customers increase competitiveness, improve their return on investment and run safe, smart, and sustainable operations.

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a leading global technology company that energizes the transformation of society and industry to achieve a more productive, sustainable future. By connecting software to its electrification, robotics, automation and motion portfolio, ABB pushes the boundaries of technology to drive performance to new levels. With a history of excellence stretching back more than 130 years, ABB’s success is driven by about 105,000 talented employees in over 100 countries. www.abb.com

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