In northwest Romania, CASE Construction Equipment is forming the backbone of operations all year round at Salina Ocna Dej, where dozens of wheel loaders and crawler excavators are boosting efficiency and improving safety at the salt mine – both underground and at the surface level.
Located in Cluj County, Salina Ocna Dej is one of the most important salt mines in Romania, specialising in the extraction of solid rock salt. The mine is a branch of the National Salt Society (SALROM), which is one of the top 10 salt producers in Europe. The Romanian organisation has seven mining operations and has developed tourist attractions in five of its sites – Salina Praid, Salina Târgu Ocna, Salina Slănic Prahova, Salina Cacica and Salina O.M. Râmnicu Vâlcea.
Nearly 40 CASE machines have been purchased by SALROM over the past decade, which has been the result of a long-term strategic partnership between the salt mining group, Titan Machinery Romania, and CASE.
Salt mining has long been an important trade in the Transylvania region of Romania. Since the late Middle Ages, to be precise. During that period, the extraction of the salt was carried out in the form of conical, parallel-piped or trapezoidal underground chambers and it was done by hand, with a chisel and a hammer.
The process of extracting salt back then was extraordinary – though painstaking – and today the process is equally impressive, just for different reasons. The salt walls are first detonated and then the process is largely mechanised via the support of gauge and extraction equipment, which takes place within the processing facilities of the mine.
Salina Ocna Dej Technical Director, Francisc Torpenyi, explains more about the evolution of salt mining equipment and processes: “I remember from the old mine that we worked using dump trucks with self-loading trailers and that Romanian cars were used for transportation. At the underground level of salt extraction, we even had a patented machine invented by a former director of Salina Ocna Dej – a “Rada Dej” drilling rig. It was anchored by a machine and therefore it was movable. He walked from one position to another and drilled holes for explosive loading. In 1992 and 1993 came the first modern drilling rigs, which was a big evolution. They moved by themselves and they were electric – one of them we still use, and the other has now been offered to the Slănic mine.”
Part of this evolution has been through the use of CASE machines, both underground and on the surface level. The first CASE machines were purchased in 2011 after a general tender was held at company level, where 12 wheel loaders – the 821 and 1221 models – were purchased. Torpenyi continues: “Several CASE machines have been bought since then – I don't even know how many. In 2014 we purchased two CASE 821 wheel loaders, and in 2017 we purchased four other wheel loaders, 921F and 921G, for the underground and a mini wheel loader CASE SR160. In 2016 and 2020, two CASE CX210D tracked excavators were purchased for use underground. Then the fleet of equipment was completed with two more wheel loaders CASE 1121 for the surface level in 2017 and 2019.”
Assessing the performance of the machines, Salina Ocna Dej Head of Technical Service, Gabriel Racz, had this to say: “Compared to the machines we have used before, CASE machines are very efficient, much more productive, more economical and more technologically advanced. If we compare the CASE machines with the others of the same weight, the consumption of the CASE machines is half. In terms of mobility, strength and deployment capacity, we are very satisfied.”
Torpenyi then expands on how the operators are using the construction equipment: “Our people have become specialists in these machines. As the machines are operated from a joystick, it has enabled them to develop their skills and productivity. For example, in the underground levelling operation – the cleaning of ceilings and salt walls that tend to fall – we use a special milling cutter on the new CASE CX210D excavator, and although we have not performed this operation for a long time, the operators have already formed very effective skills.”
Operations at the mine are 80-90% mechanised, with the CASE machines driving an increase in productivity and efficiency. As a result, an increasing number of CASE machines have been bought as the years have passed by. Indeed, in addition to the high quality and performance of the CASE equipment, a key reason why Salina Ocna Dej has purchased so many CASE machines has been the relationship with Titan Machinery Romania. Torpenyi explains: “The collaboration has evolved really well, directly proportional to the development of the partnership. We are satisfied because everything is going very well. When a problem arises, the answer is prompt, and the solution is done in time. Communication is excellent, and that gives us confidence.”
Titan Machinery Romania Construction Equipment Sales Manager, Adrian Călina, agrees: “For us SALROM is one of our most important partners. As with all clients in our portfolio, we always want to present the best possible offer so that we can continue the collaboration.”
Titan Machinery Romania Construction Equipment Area Manager, Bogdan Marian, expands on the services Titan is providing: “Communication is one of the most important features in our partnership. Responses to requests are always fast and solutions to problems that arise are never late. I am confident that by keeping the machines in constant working order, in conjunction with the best offers, the collaboration will continue well into the future.”
What could this future look like? Torpenyi explains: “Like any mine – whether it is salt or coal – it has a term of life. From the point of view of investment prospects, we are looking for and trying to propose state-of-the-art technologies to reduce costs and increase reliability. There are no machines that are strictly made for salt. They are adapted from other activities such as construction, coal mining, digging land and so on. And finding an optimal machine is a problem, even with salt grinders or salt transporters.” Fortunately, it seems that Salina Ocna Dej has found the right partner in CASE to achieve these profitability and reliability objectives.
He concludes: “Of course, our long-term strategy is bound by demand, which is relatively constant. At least the demand for food salt is constant, each person consumes between three and seven grams of salt per day. But we try to keep up with technology, and depending on the needs and operations, we do.”
We encourage you to watch this video of a CX210D excavator – equipped with a miller cutter head – working underground at Salina Ocna Dej: https://www.facebook.com/titanmachinery.ro/videos/266109068275339