Overcoming market challenges through technology

Paul Boughton

Phil Burge looks at how dedicated component technologies can reduce mining costs

With mining plants operating in some of the harshest conditions, it is difficult to maintain equipment, with unplanned downtime and worker injuries posing a constant risk. Consequently many mines often operate below optimum efficiency. For example, it is common to run larger vehicle fleets than necessary in the expectation that at least one vehicle will always be out of service. Maintenance itself severely impacts on cost and recent research indicates that this could be between 20-50% of total costs in the mining sector.

At a time when mining companies are seeking to reduce costs whilst improving productivity greater attention is being placed on machine performance, reliability and efficiency. In particular focus is being placed on the smaller components such as bearings and seals; for if they fail there will be an overall system failure and downtime is inevitable.[Page Break]

Component manufacturers have been working to develop a new generation of parts for the mining industry that are virtually maintenance free and offer a longer operating life in demanding environments. As these latest technologies cut the overall maintenance and repair demands they also eliminate the hazards that accompany them. This is especially pertinent in light of the recent findings which show that 32% of all mineworker injuries occur during machine maintenance and repair operations

This new generation of components has been designed with environmental pressures in mind, helping mines overcome the rising energy and waste disposal costs, while complying with government standards.[Page Break]

Such products include a new bearing system from SKF that results in considerably less friction and lower operating temperatures. It operates with reduced vibration and noise levels and this leads to extended re-lubrication intervals and a longer service life.

The latest high performance seals are more effective at providing protection against the harsh mining environments so preventing system contamination resulting from the ingress of particulate matter and moisture.

The large diameter seals, such as the HDSF2 seals from SKF feature a PTFE excluder lip to protect bearings in a wide range of mining applications.

This combination of the latest generation of high performance components and a preventative approach to maintenance will help mining companies maximise output at reduced cost. Reliability and uptime can be optimised, health and safety improved and environmental impact minimised.

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