Trust tough solutions for tough going

Paul Boughton

Where do you turn when the wear gets to you? Maurice Jones advises

It may be tempting to literally drive equipment to breaking point but the consequences can be very expensive for mine operations. Not only is there the cost of repair but lost production from downtime (unless you have ‘spare’ plant, which is also expensive) but fate would confirm that the equipment is likely to fail at the most in convenient time and at the worst location, whether on the surface or underground.

The wise answer to this likely problem is preventative maintenance, but even then there is the question of how this is procured at an acceptable cost. If a mine, or integrated group of mines, operates a large fleet, then reliance on its own artisans may be the best options if they have the required skills. As we are considering here wear parts that come in contact with the ground material, an experienced welder per shift is essential.

The amount of work to justify an internal artisan team will also be affected by the type of ground being excavated, particularly if it is abrasive as well as hard. Abrasion usually depends on quartz content such as in sandstones, igneous and metamorphic rock and, perhaps surprisingly, from chalk likely to contain flint.

Major manufacturers are likely to offer a service contract that may, or may not, suit the mine operation. This has to be compared, on a cost-benefit basis, with self-reliance.

In addition to the parts and service available from manufacturers there is a wide-ranging support industry dedicated to supply wear parts and refurbishment services, manly for older units. But, again, where does one turn?  Mining industry directories list up to 150 suppliers with the emphasis on North and South America.

A key element in selecting suppliers must be trust since there is little point in buying parts that are too soft or too brittle to last more than ‘five minutes’. Matching wear parts for excavators, loaders, dozers etc are available from OEMs and other suppliers in North America, Australia, Europe and across Asia. However, it would seem that it would be wiser to obtain supplies from a firm that has regular experience of their use, such as an independent service company, rather than purchasing via the Internet ‘off the shelf’.  That is not to say that true bargains cannot be had this way, especially as Asian manufacturers are now active abroad, but the process is likely to be one of ‘trial and possible error’.

Video: 1: Fitting a rubber liner into a dump-truck pan to reduce wear and noise. By Valley Rubber