Reducing mine maintenance, downtime and ownership costs

Hayley Everett
Welding Alloys' Hardface iron-based cored wire for build up or hardfacing. Image via Welding Alloys.

In the current commodities space, the control of costs is front and centre for all industries. Input costs, especially when it comes to heavy-use equipment, can either erode the bottom line through capital expenditure or enhance profits and add value by extending the life of existing machinery through maintenance. Welding consumables manufacturer Welding Alloys has announced its novel Hardplate wear plate has been proven to extend the service life of equipment by up to 400% by mining, quarries and earthmoving industry expert, Andre Bouwer.

For one large South African iron ore mine, its bucket wheel reclaimers operate daily under extreme wear conditions, subject to moderate impact and intense mineral abrasion. These buckets are vital to keeping downstream operations running through a constant supply of material. Replacement is not a viable option considering pressures on operating and Capex costs and constant refurbishment were proving expensive on the maintenance and downtime fronts.

“When we were called in by the mine it was soon clear a longer-term solution was needed,” said Bouwer. “The issue was to reduce the very high cost of maintaining the bucket wheel reclaimers and to extend the service life of buckets that were simply not meeting expectations due to the inevitable effects of excessive wear.”

Mine records revealed the buckets underwent costly maintenance and significant downtime every few months to repair damage caused by mineral abrasion. 

“Our technical team conducted a detailed investigation of the buckets, the surrounding areas, and the general working environment and spent significant time on-site for purposes of observation and data gathering,” said Pieter du Plessis, Mining, Quarries and Earthmoving Services Expert at Welding Alloys. “In these instances, there is no off-the-shelf one-solution-fits-all. That understanding comes from decades of experience and is why Welding Alloys’ technical wear specialists treat each new project as unique, and work hand-in-glove with customers through every phase to identify and deliver optimal solutions. Once analysis of the data and findings had been completed at this mine, our local Integra wear services team reviewed details of similar successful solutions undertaken elsewhere in the world.”   

This time, the solution was to reinforce the buckets with Hardplate – one of Welding Alloys’ composite wear plates formulated to improve resistance to wear and increase service lifetime. The chromium carbide-based product offers a hardness of between  60 – 64 HRC and is designed to withstand moderate impact, intense abrasion, and fair corrosion resistance. 

“Our Integra Services team took full advantage of the versatility offered by Hardplate by cutting and welding it to fabricate bespoke liners for the buckets,” explained Bouwer.

Welding Alloys has a global network of Integra engineering workshops offering a wide range of services to identify, solve, and improve a multitude of equipment adversely affected by wear. According to du Plessis, flexibility is key and its Integra teams aim to enable hardfacing solutions in situ, on-site, and in well-equipped workshops delivering increased wear life and lowering total ownership costs.

He added: “In a follow-up visit two months later, the mine was extremely satisfied with the liners’ performance. Not only had they already outstripped the lifespan of the previous buckets but in full operation, showed very little evidence of wear.”

“Only after 10 months of daily use did the bucket liners require replacement as opposed to the previous every few months. This was an increase in the lifetime of 400% and, in turn, drastically reduced the maintenance, downtime, and total cost of ownership,” Bouwer continued. “Based on the performance of the initial bespoke liners, and to reduce lead times, the mine decided to order and hold stock of Welding Alloys’ bespoke bucket liners fabricated from Hardplate. This project was tackled with the highest level of expertise ensuring the best outcome possible for the mine owners.”   

Welding Alloys has been active in the global mining industry for more than 30 years. The company's experience ranges from small soft rock mining operations to some of the world’s largest, deepest, and most remote hard rock mines.

“Today, our products and innovative engineering solutions provide wear protection in the most extreme conditions imaginable,” added du Plessis.


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