In the equipment-intensive mining industry, monitoring the health of conveyors is critical to overall productivity, as Emerson’s Douglas Morris highlights in today’s post.
In mining, there are two ways to move material from the pit to the processing plant: trucks or long haul conveyors. As mines are constructed in more remote locations, there is a trend to move away from trucks and rely solely on conveying systems to move ore. These sites, sometimes referred to as “truckless mines”, must be vigilant about keeping their conveyors online as they present a single point of failure in an operation. It is not realistic to install spare conveyor capacity as some of these systems approach 40 kilometers in length.
Mining conveyors operate at low speeds, which is ideal for advanced condition monitoring systems. Components that are typically checked include motors, gearboxes, important roller bearings, and main idlers and pulleys. Only the most critical of these components are monitored, as it’s not cost effective to evaluate all of the idlers on a long conveyor.
Miners know that things are going to break; however, deploying an effective condition-monitoring program can move a site toward zero unplanned downtime. The best practice for conveyors is to deploy a combination of monitoring that uses both an online system (CSI 6500) and wireless transmitters (CSI 9420), both of which utilize PeakVue impact monitoring. The 6500 measures vibration on the critical drive system and pulleys while wireless is used to evaluate the tensioning pulley (since this moves, wireless devices work best).
One copper mine owned by a major producer has a five-mile long belt conveyor that moves ore from the in-pit crusher to the concentration plant. Mechanical breakdowns of their conveyor caused significant disruptions to the mine’s production. Replacing one of the many conveyor drive train components, like a gearbox, could result in an eight-hour outage, costing over two and a half million dollars in lost production.
Manual monthly vibration readings on the conveyor’s major components weren’t able to predict failures that impacted production like tooth damage and bearing failure, so the site switched to an online condition monitoring system, which now generates early warnings of impending mechanical failures. Using this predictive data, the mine has put a program in place where most impending failures are serviced during scheduled conveyor maintenance outages and their production delays are greatly reduced. The mine experienced an improvement in safety as fewer workers needed to be sent out for repairs during normal operations.
The bottom line is that a comprehensive condition monitoring system will move a mine toward uninterrupted operation of a critical conveyor; allowing miners to go the route of a “truckless mine” without sacrificing mine productivity.