Clean up at Highland Valley

Teck Cominco’s Highland Valley copper mine is cleaning up to improve equipment reliability, increase profitability and better safeguard the environment. The mine has developed a contamination control programme in conjunction with Finning (Canada) and Caterpillar. Highland Valley, Canada’s largest open pit, located about 60 km southwest of Kamloops, British Columbia, moves close to 225,000 t/d of ore and waste every day using shovels and a fleet of Cat 789 and Cat 793C haul trucks.

Back in 2001, Highland Valley switched to premium quality lubricating oils and installed new filters, some as fine as 6 micron, on trucks and storage tanks. To further reduce dirt ingress,
the company also equipped the tanks with finer breathers. A kidney-loop filtration system for cleaning axle housing oil was added to the wash bay. Warm fluid circulates through the system for a period of six hours. Both the axle housing oil and hydraulic lubricants are then flushed through a series of 3-micron filters for an additional eight hours. Workers test samples before and after the cleaning process to ensure high quality.

The results of the programme show some dramatic improvements. Oil life increased from 2,400 to 7,000 hours in the axle housings and from 2,400 to 10,000 hours in the hydraulic systems. Fleet availability increased from 86% to 90%. Despite higher initial lubricant costs, Highland Valley estimates it saved $300,000 in 2004 alone by adopting the new procedures.

But Finning reports the best news of all was for Teck Cominco’s environmental record. Oil filters had to be changed less frequently, cutting consumption by more than 50%, and furthermore, waste oil set aside for disposal decreased by 137,701 litres.