Advances In Materials Handling In Mines

Jon Lawson

Transfer points don’t need to be high maintenance areas on a mine any more. This good news comes from Mark Baller, managing director of Weba Chute Systems, who says the solution to reducing maintenance costs on transfer points is simple.

“More often than not this issue is addressed by looking at new materials handling solutions, including the use of sophisticated lining composite materials which can be extremely expensive,” Baller says. “The solution does not have to be as complicated as this, and as soon as engineers realise this, the closer they will be to saving money on their maintenance budget.”

Baller explains that the Weba Chute System is not an alternative to conventional chute systems. “It is, in fact, a completely different engineered approach with a ‘supertube’ or ‘cascade’ scenario with 95% of the material running on material at the same time.

“Some engineers may be familiar with the term ‘boundary layer’, which is used in aero and fluid dynamics. Study of this phenomenon shows that when a boundary layer is in place friction can be reduced by up to 30%,” he says.

When viewed in slow motion it is apparent that the particles close to the surface actually move in a tumbling motion and are, in fact, moving slower than the main flow of material. Baller explains that sliding particles moving at higher velocities cause extensive wear, while those that tumble at a lower velocity cause far less wear.

“Controlling the material’s movement down the transfer point is only the first step. By changing the angle of the transfer point the material can be controlled from its entry into the chute right up until the point of discharge.”

This optimal control of the material during its journey through the transfer point not only reduces wear, but can also eliminate spillage. Spillage can be a major cost issue – both in terms of waste and when it comes to cleaning up the area around the transfer point.

Baller says that on a new transfer point it is actually possible to completely eliminate spillage, and on projects where Weba Chute Systems are retrofitted into existing installations it is possible to significantly reduce the spillage. This also results in substantial savings for the mine.

Weba Chute Systems currently services six different continents, mainly from its South Africa manufacturing facility, with distributors and agents in most regions. The company holds ISO 9001:2008 accreditation, and quality manufacture forms an important part of the process. Today there are over 4,000 successful transfer chute and system installations throughout the world, handling a variety of different materials. The company recently supplied 13 custom chute systems to a diamond mine in Botswana to replace ageing transfer points.

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