Mines Respond to Pressure

Mines Respond to Pressure

Model: Hydrotek Series

By Hamish Lorenz, Australian Pump Industries.

Miners are under pressure to cut costs as commodity prices plummet. Even the giants of the industry are preparing for an oversupply of iron ore worldwide with subsequent strategies to reduce cost.

Equipment maintenance, or lack of, is a massive cost driver for operations, big or small. Maintenance is expensive but failure to follow service programmes can result in extraordinarily high penalties associated with loss of productivity.

Big plant fleets require disciplined preventative maintenance to minimise downtime. Carrying out those service programmes demands a high level of equipment wash-down capabilities. Smart operators know that keeping equipment clean is a vital first step in maintenance.

The Ok Tedi Mine in New Guinea operates a fleet of Caterpillar 250,000 tonne dump trucks, supported by crawler tractors and associated plant. Portable high pressure steam cleaners that carry their own water supply and can be used both infield and at the workshop depot have proved indispensable.

The Mine carries out its own maintenance but relies on Hastings Deering, the Caterpillar Distributor, for much of the support programme. A 5,000 psi trailer mounted steam cleaner with its own onboard water supply enables plant to be cleaned efficiently for both breakdown and routine maintenance.

The big machine is powered by a Kubota water cooled diesel engine with the “whack” coming from a ‘Big Berty’ heavy duty industrial pump using 21 lpm at 350 Bar (5,000 psi). The trailer system is equipped with stainless steel hose reels to provide the operators and technicians with the ability to move around big equipment without moving the blaster. Up to 50 metres of high pressure hose provides operator convenience, facilitates faster cleaning and improves safety.

The steam function allows the operator to adjust temperature from ambient all the way through up to 130 degrees C. Operating in cold water mode the unique Aussie Hydrotek uses the full 5,000 psi to blast the caked mud off track-gear or undercarriage fast. Service technicians can maximise efficiency as maintenance checks or even simple tasks like lubrication are easier.

Encrusted layers of oil and dust can be easily removed with the steam function. Maintenance teams can melt away the grease to identify and then repair leaks in transmissions, hydraulics or engines.

Fast identification of early stage issues facilitates repairs and can result in huge costs savings and the can avoid catastrophic breakdowns. 4,000 and 5,000 psi steam cleaners are becoming common on mine and quarry sites throughout Australia and the South Pacific.

Australian Pump industries pioneered super heavy duty, powerful hot water machines for mining applications.

Mine sites report excellent results in improved serviceability and dramatically increased efficiency. The mobile steam cleaner is particularly useful for infield breakdowns. Having the plant properly cleaned facilitates any service, even the routine replacement of filters and other essential maintenance functions.

With the increase in pressures used for cleaning, operator safety becomes a big issue. Maintenance teams, operating in poor conditions, can take shortcuts that can be killers!

Injuries from water jets can prove fatal with chemicals and bacteria forced deep into body tissue. Resulting infections are difficult to treat and can lead to limb amputation and even death.

Australian Pump have produced a Safety Manual for operators and backed it up with operator safety training programmes under the company’s “Safe Operator” banner.

The programme also includes a range of personal protection equipment (PPE) which is lightweight, comfortable and affordable. The collection includes protective clothing, gloves, and boots that are proof against hose bursts or direct jets up to 7,300 psi (500 Bar).

The new protective clothing moves away from the expensive, cumbersome Kevlar suits and uses a revolutionary new material called Dyneema. Because Dyneema is fifteen times stronger than steel on a weight for weight basis, it’s possible to make fabric that is lightweight whilst at the same time offering levels of protection not previously available.

The huge benefit is the cost of this new range is dramatically less than the traditional ultra-high pressure PPE. 500 Bar proof boots are also included in the Safe Operator package.

It is generally understood that iron ore prices may continue to fall as big mines like Roy Hill come on stream. That means huge pressure on operators to reduce costs to stay competitive. Carrying out maintenance functions with reduced staff levels cannot be allowed to compromise preventative maintenance.

Using state of the art equipment and safety gear gives modern miners an inbuilt advantage. Australian Pump’s Safe Operator Programme and further information about efficient cleaning of plant maintenance is available from our Steam Cleaners page.

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