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Volvo help light the way in Bulgaria

Volvo A40F hauler

A40F and A40G haulers remove 3 million cubic meters of overburden a year at largest lignite mine in SE Europe

ON the outskirts of the Stara Zagora Province, a convoy of construction equipment traverses around the huge 240 square km Maritsa Iztok coal mine day and night – and for good reason. The millions of tonnes of coal extracted from the site each year account for approximately 30% of Bulgaria’s electricity output.

Since the mid-20th century, the State-owned mine has extracted lignite (brown coal) from this coal-rich region of the country. Maritsa Iztok is the largest energy complex in south-eastern Europe, producing in excess of 23 million tonnes of coal annually, the majority of which supplies three local thermal power plants that, quite literally, keep the country’s lights on.


To keep the coal supply flowing – and Bulgaria running – much of the groundwork at the mine is carried out by local contracting company Globus. This includes shifting 3 million cubic meters of overburden every year to reveal the lignite below.

Thanks to its relatively shallow depth beneath the surface, the lignite is easily accessible and particularly abundant in the Maritsa Iztok mine. Nevertheless, reaching it is not without its challenges. For example, the 24h operation puts enormous strain on Globus’ 60-strong fleet of excavators and wheel loaders.

‘Until recently, we used on-highway trucks to ferry the lignite away from the mining site to the processing plant,’ said Stoyan Rusev, general manager of Globus. ‘However, the grueling nature of the work required the trucks to operate long hours and in harsh conditions, resulting in excessive maintenance and repair costs, as well as operational issues due to downtime.’

Faced with an ever-mounting total cost of ownership, Globus decided they needed suitably high-performing and durable machines to meet the demands of the site. After testing a variety of models from different manufacturers, the company opted for articulated haulers from Volvo Construction Equipment.

Since 2015, Globus have purchased four used Volvo A40F articulated haulers, five new A40G models and an L35G compact loader, all from independent dealers Sigma Bulgaria.

‘When it comes to articulated haulers, Volvo are the best brand; the competition doesn’t even come close in terms of productivity, durability and fuel efficiency,’ said Mr Rusev.

To help keep the machines in peak condition, Sigma developed an innovative approach to providing the best service possible. The dealership constructed a €30,000 on-site service warehouse and hired a full-time maintenance engineer to ensure downtime is kept to an absolute minimum.

‘The haulers need to be serviced after every 500h of operation, and when they’re working virtually all day, every day, each machine needs to be serviced every 21 days,’ explained Haris Bailas, general manager at Sigma Bulgaria.

‘When you’ve got nine haulers, that means each machine needs to be serviced roughly every two days. To arrange for an engineer to travel to and from the site every few days just wasn’t practical, so we had to find another solution.

‘The service solution has proven a success. The warehouse contains all required spare parts and the engineer is based close to the Globus site, meaning he can be on site quickly when needed.’

The Maritsa Iztok pit operation is already garnering positive attention for Volvo. Nicolas Broisin, business manager for Volvo CE in Bulgaria, said: ‘The reliability and productivity of our machines is being noticed, as is our willingness to go to great lengths for our customers. Working on this project is going to be a really good step forward for all involved.’


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