Tag Archives: IPCC

Miners need flexible solutions to meet decarbonisation goals, Worley’s Russell says

The unique challenges the mining industry will face over its 30-year journey to decarbonisation are still being unpacked as it decides how to use enabling technologies and solutions, according to Nicholas Russell, Senior Mechanical & Mining Engineer at Worley.

“The journey to net-zero requires flexibility,” he said. “And we need to incorporate that flexibility from the very beginning.”

This, according to Russell, has seen an increased focus on collaborative solutions across the mining value chain, including the re-emergence of 70-year-old technology.

In-pit crushing and conveying (IPCC) works by crushing ore and waste material in an open-pit and using conveyors to transport the material to the process plant and waste dumps respectively.

While IPCC is not new, miners often associate it with rigid, inflexible mine plans that struggle to meet changing market demands, he said. “However, an IPCC system is no longer just a fixed asset. Flexibility and sustainability in operations is possible through design innovation, tailored equipment specification and automation.”

One of the new ways that IPCC can be implemented is by using a combination of relocatable and mobile conveyors in tandem with a mobile, truckless system. This sees a shovel dumps material into a moveable sizing rig that loads the automated conveyor fleet.

“Much like irrigation sprinkler machines, the system operates in parallel, or pivot, and a combination of different length hoses and pipes connect it back to a fixed point, which in this case is the process plant,” Russell said. “By increasing the reach of the system, multiple combinations of bench level, mine direction and pass widths can be considered and optimised.”

In one study, an overburden truck fleet that moved material from the mine face to the top of the in-pit dump was replaced with an IPCC system. The haulage energy was reduced by 63% and 3.5 Olympic swimming pools of diesel each year could be replaced with renewables for each shovel swapped over, according to Russell.

Providing flexibility for minimum viable projects

Alternatively, as the mine face moves, a relocatable IPCC system can move with it.

“Trucks powered by renewables complete small distances to a crusher which is moved periodically, with conveyors used for the rest of the journey to the plant,” Russell explained. “While both options give the flexibility to change mining locations, this option provides the energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness of conveyors while benefiting from the flexibility of a truck system.”

Flexibility is especially useful for miners establishing sites with “minimum viable capital”, according to Russell.

“Miners can start with a small truck fleet and minimum fixed plant, relocating the crusher and conveyor as and when required,” he explained. “This is a key advantage because it helps achieve project specific goals through different mine sequences to enhance an operation’s sustainability.”

Powering mines with renewable energy

Powered by electricity ‘from the grid’, IPCC can be an energy efficient option for miners. It gives miners the flexibility to choose renewables to power their site, including the energy used for the mass material movement from the mine face to the process plant and waste dump.

Worley and its consulting business, Advisian, has helped a number of mining companies assess and develop green energy supply partnerships, Russell explained.

This has included the analysis, assessment and guided procurement of Gold Fields’ Agnew Hybrid Renewable Energy Microgrid, which included 18 MW wind, 4 MW solar, 13 MW/4 MWh battery and 21 MW gas/diesel. As the largest hybrid renewable energy microgrid in Australia, it has the capacity to provide the mine with up to 85% renewable energy, with reliability in excess of 99.99%, Worley said.

Enhancing an IPCC system with bulk ore sorting technology

Nicholas Russell, Senior Mechanical & Mining Engineer at Worley

“As miners seek to get more from less, IPCC can be enhanced with ore sorting mineral sensing technology supplied by NextOre,” Russell said.

NextOre, a joint venture between the CSIRO, RFC Ambrian and Worley, is a bulk ore sorting technology that allows miners to sort and evaluate ore at high capacity, maximising recovery and delivering higher grade and lower tonnage mill feed, he explained.

“It can be easily retrofitted to IPCC conveyors, and measure everything on the belt,” he added. “The option also exists to increase grade while maintaining throughput on existing systems, maximising metal recovery through the entire system assuming upstream and downstream facilities can be de-bottlenecked.”

By improving sorting efficiency, and processing a better material grade, water and electricity consumption per tonne of ore mined is reduced, while the data from the sorting process can be used to learn more about what is coming out of the ground as it’s mined, with assumptions verified in real time.

IPCC in action

One of the world’s largest iron ore mines in Brazil, S11D (pictured, photo courtesy of Vale), is a notable example of how new IPCC technology is enhancing sustainability and protecting people and the environment.

For this project, Worley proposed a truckless mine – “the first of its kind”, Russell said.

The system uses mobile crushers and conveyor belts to replace traditional trucks, consequently reducing diesel consumption by approximately 70%, according to mine owner Vale. The system also allows the miner to process waste in existing industrial areas, moving it away from environmentally sensitive ones to further reduce the project’s environmental impact.

“In designing the project, the team’s biggest challenge was not only rethinking the mine plan and how the technology could be used on the site, but also re-evaluating the role people play in executing the concept,” Russell said. “It’s critical to re-educate technicians and engineers to equip them with the skills needed to work with these technologies safely.”

Russell believes technologies like IPCC will help miners meet their decarbonisation commitments, however no individual technology can solve the challenge.

“To focus solely on the benefits of the equipment and disregard the mine demands is a short-term solution to a long-term challenge,” he said. “If miners are to meet sustainability goals, they need flexibility, collaboration and a holistic approach to implementing new technology that starts at the mine plan.”

Nick Russell is due to speak at IM Event’s IPCC 2022 event in Mexico, on April 28-29, 2022, presenting a paper titled: ‘Fully mobile IPCC/truckless mining: lessons learnt’. Click here for more information on the event.

Metso Outotec wins major IPCC order from Codelco’s Radomiro Tomic mine

Metso Outotec says it has signed an agreement with Codelco in Chile to design and supply a Foresight™ semi-mobile primary gyratory (SMPG) crushing plant for Codelco’s Radomiro Tomic operation.

Equipped with a Superior™ MKIII 60-110 primary gyratory crusher, apron feeder discharge and dust collection, the Foresight™ SMPG meets the highest demands in productivity and sustainability, the company says. It is part of Metso Outotec’s in-pit crush and convey solutions (IPCC) portfolio.

Metso Outotec launched the SMPG in June alongside this IPCC offering and the announcement of a plan to cooperate with FAM on end-to-end solutions for IPCC and tailings management plants to the mining industry.

Back in March, Codelco was granted permission to prolong the life of the existing Phase I hydrometallurgical plant and sulphide mining operations at Radomiro Tomic until 2030. The original project considered the end of the operations associated with this stage of the project in 2022, however, thanks to the incorporation of new mining resources, it will be possible to extend it for another seven years from 2023.

Codelco said at this point that the exploitation of these resources requires the relocation of the current primary crushing of oxides and sulphides, which will require additional investments.

Metso Outotec said the value of the recent order is not disclosed, but it has been booked in the Minerals business September quarter orders received.

Markku Teräsvasara, President, Minerals, said: “We have extended our Planet Positive offering in June of this year, launching our IPCC solutions, combining the right team, technology and services to redefine productivity in this space. We highly appreciate Codelco’s continued trust in us to deliver significant crush and convey infrastructure to meet Codelco’s demanding operational and sustainability goals.”

Eduardo Nilo, President, South America Market Area, added: “We are honoured Codelco has chosen us to deliver this significant project in Radomiro Tomic and extend the fleet of Superior primary gyratory crushers at that site. With more than 1,300 employees and integrated fabrication of wear materials in Chile, we service our fleet of crushers holistically
and look forward to supporting this plant as well.”

Metso Outotec’s integrated modular in-pit crush and convey solutions consist of crushing, conveying and stacking equipment combined with IPCC planning and life cycle services. The offering is designed to ensure the highest productivity, energy efficiency, and maintainability, it says.

Metso Outotec IPCC solutions, with their improved energy efficiency, are part of the company’s Planet Positive portfolio. IPCC operations also reduce haulage related energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

FLSmidth looks for sustainable gains with thyssenkrupp mining buy

The subtleties behind FLSmidth’s acquisition of thyssenkrupp’s mining business appear to have got lost within the financial community.

The company’s Denmark-listed shares, since announcing the transaction in late July, lost 16% of their value to August 20.

This downward move is hardly surprising when focusing on pure financials: FLSmidth is looking to acquire a company for an enterprise value of $325 million that is only expected to return to profitability two years after financial close.

Yet, this narrow train of thought discounts the well-timed strategy behind the move.

A combination of the two companies will undoubtedly create a leading global mining technology provider with operations from pit to plant. It will also see FLSmidth re-geared towards a mining sector on the up at a time when the cement business it serves is exhibiting flattish demand.

While this won’t be lost on analysts, most of them will only be able to factor in short-term profitability projections into their financial models, meaning, as far as they’re concerned, FLSmidth will be weighed down by the transaction until 2024.

Yet, for FLSmidth and mining, 2024 is practically ‘just around the corner’.

In FLSmidth’s recently released June quarter results it registered an order backlog of DKK16.7 billion ($2.6 billion), the majority of which was associated with mining orders. Of the backlog amount attributable to the mining sector, 16% would not be realised until 2023 and beyond.

This could mean many of the orders FLSmidth registered in the most recent June quarter will only be realised (read: delivered) in 2024, the year thyssenkrupp’s mining business is expected to be back in the black.

This is just one of the subtleties that may have got lost by shareholders fixated on the short term.

The second is how the transaction sets the company up as a mining sustainability leader at a time when the industry is calling out for one.

At the top end of the mining industry, the ability to decarbonise operations is becoming as – if not more – important as returning cash to shareholders. Every tonne of copper extracted and processed, and every ounce of gold mined and refined is likely to come with an associated carbon content/price in future years. The battery materials supply chain tied to the likes of lithium, cobalt and nickel will come under even more scrutiny.

Blockchain-type traceability platforms will mean investors and any interested party can interrogate where the raw materials came from and how they were produced.

These same miners will also be judged on how they use water, with freshwater use being rationalised in many regions where such resources are scarce.

FLSmidth, should the acquisition complete next year, is arming itself to compete in this brave new sustainable world.

The company started this journey all the way back in November 2019 when it announced its MissionZero program at its Capital Markets Day in Copenhagen.

Central to MissionZero is FLSmidth’s focus on enabling its customers in cement and mining to move towards zero emissions operations in 2030.

The OEM planned to do this by leveraging the development of digital and innovative solutions tied to sustainable productivity, offering its customers in the mining sector the technological solutions to manage zero emissions mining processes by 2030 – with a specific focus on water management.

For the latter, dry-stack tailings was the order of the day, with FLSmidth’s EcoTails® solution expected to reduce water costs, tailings dam risks and minimise environmental footprint. The development of the largest filter press plate ever built, the 5 m x 3 m AFP, was a signal of just how confident FLSmidth was on this emerging market trend becoming fully embedded across the globe.

Digital products such as SAGwise™, SmartCyclone™, BulkExpert™ and Advanced Process Control would, in the meantime, allow miners to become that more efficient with every resource (water, energy, etc) they used, again, improving their sustainability credentials.

Close to two years after making the MissionZero declaration, Thomas Schulz, CEO of FLSmidth, says the company has been seeing the program’s effects come through in its order book.

“Actually, this has been translated in orders for a few years already,” he told IM.

“When we look into sustainability, we define it as making productivity improvements. If you don’t adopt these sustainability solutions, you effectively have to pay more to keep operating at the same levels, or you have to stop operating – there is a productivity element to it, and quite a big one.

“For us, as a lifecycle provider, it is important that we offer to our customers at any point in time and any point of our offering, the right solution to make more money. That can be with dry-stacked tailings, tailings management, IPCC (in-pit crushing and conveying) systems, electrification of the pit, reducing emissions or dust, etc.”

Many of these solutions will enable companies to produce the same amount of product, or more, with the same input costs and energy draw, according to Schulz.

Coping with further restrictions on the industry’s access to freshwater will require more than step-change initiatives, and that is why the company is working on how its equipment can use “different types of water” and technologies that use less freshwater to ensure operations can abide by incoming legislation.

The company has been working on providing these zero-emission and resource-efficient solutions since 2019 to enable its customers to become sustainable operators by 2030.

“For many people, that sounds very long,” Schulz said. “In the mining industry, it’s not.”

Factor in the two-to-three years to build a pilot plant to prove such technology, two-to-three years to get a full-scale plant approved and the associated construction time, and a decade has passed.
Sustainability represents the ‘long game’ for mining OEMs, and technology is the key to achieving that sustainability, Schulz said.

Which brings us back to the thyssenkrupp mining business acquisition.

One of the big pillars

FLSmidth, in adding thyssenkrupp mining to its portfolio, is providing a whole host of decarbonised options for its mining customers to consider in their own sustainability drive.

It is adding mine planning expertise to its portfolio, ensuring that the IPCC and continuous surface mining technologies it puts forward are optimised for the operation at hand. These technologies are further complemented by semi-continuous and mobile crushing options from thyssenkrupp mining, adapted to the pit profile at hand.

Heavy-duty overland conveyors from thyssenkrupp mining complement other bulk handling solutions FLSmidth might be providing at stockyards or ports to reduce truck haulage and shift the transport dynamic to ‘green’ grid power.

“The culture in project service companies is you are the hero if you come to the table with the next big project,” Thomas Schulz says. “In product service companies, you are the hero if you come with the next big profit”

Then, when it comes to comminution, a crushing (including primary jaw crushers) and screening portfolio, plus smaller milling options and expertise in high pressure grinding rolls (HPGRs) through the globally renowned Polysius business, is bolted onto FLSmidth’s own crushing and grinding (including vertical roll milling technology) portfolio. This puts the combined offering up there with any global OEM around, while also providing the potential ‘dry grinding’ technologies the industry has been on the lookout for.

All these solutions come with sustainability benefits that can be felt throughout the mining value chain.

They also provide options and flexibility to an industry that cannot just suddenly retire a fleet of ultra-class haul trucks at a deep open-pit operation in favour of a fixed IPCC solution, or build a new process plant fitted with HPGRs to replace a typical SAG and ball mill grinding circuit.

Schulz said as much to IM.

“One of the big pillars of the whole acquisition lies in sustainability,” he said. “Normally, the process plants where we play big are all electrified, so if the energy resource coming into these plants is a green one, the process is already sustainable.

“When we look into the pit, in-pit crushing and transporting of material is where we can focus a lot.

“I’m not saying you can replace every truck, but some of the surface mines and the ones underground can be made significantly more continuous and sustainable from a transport perspective.

“thyssenkrupp is leading in that. They are quite big in the pit; we are quite big in the processing plant. Both, together, are complementary.

“If we can integrate the offering – and we will do – and make it more sustainable, that is a big step towards the 2030 MissionZero target.”

This increased spread of solutions will also provide FLSmidth with more opportunities to refine the entire flowsheet, providing further sustainability benefits to its customers.

“When we design solutions, or offer replacement equipment or a new process, we can now rely on expanded competences to look at what the best overall system for the entire flowsheet is,” Schulz said. “For instance, if we change the gyratory on a mine site and then look into the pit, we know how to size the equipment in the pit and the concentrator upstream.”

This increasing flowsheet focus must be complemented by an aftermarket approach that ensures the process remains efficient and sustainable throughout a product’s, solution’s or mine’s lifetime.

This was one of the obvious disparities between the two companies when the announcement was made in late July. It is also one of the biggest opportunities that comes with the planned transaction, according to FLSmidth.

Whereas capital business represented 37% of mining revenue in 2020 for FLSmidth, it was 66% of revenue for thyssenkrupp’s mining business. Services represented 63% and 34% of the two businesses’ 2020 revenue total, respectively.

Schulz has seen such a contrast – and opportunity – before, referencing his arrival at FLSmidth in 2013.

“When I came here to FLSmidth, it was actually quite similar,” he said. “I was at Sandvik for 16 years where the aftermarket was actually seen as the most important. They realised the importance of the customer relationship: the capital equipment sales team may meet the customer for a few hours per year, but the service technician has that interaction over weeks and months in terms of aftermarket.”

He also recognises the cultural shift needed to capture many of the profitable aftermarket dollars that the company is forecasting with the planned acquisition.

“The culture in project service companies is you are the hero if you come to the table with the next big project,” he said. “In product service companies, you are the hero if you come with the next big profit.

“You need both – we need profit, and our customers need profit to invest, while you need the projects to spur these aftermarket opportunities.

“We calculated what the aftermarket potential of the thyssenkrupp mining business is and understood it was not covered as they were all looking for the next big project, which we understand.

“But this is not what we will accept in the future. We have to have a strong aftermarket and strong customer link.”

Which all comes back to MissionZero.

“If you focus on MissionZero, then you invest there where you can impact MissionZero. Wherever you have aftermarket, you impact MissionZero. Where you don’t have aftermarket, you don’t impact MissionZero.”

At the same time, Schulz is not losing sight of the company’s end goal with all the business it coordinates in the mining sector.

“Whatever we do with the customer, they have to be more efficient, more productive and make more money.”

It just so happens that in doing this, the mining sector will become that much more sustainable.

Metso Outotec and FAM to collaborate on IPCC, tailings projects

Metso Outotec and FAM GmbH have signed a global non-exclusive co-operation agreement on the delivery of integrated end-to-end solutions for in-pit crush and convey (IPCC) and tailings management plants to the mining industry.

The combination of the companies’ leading expertise in their respective fields will allow the parties to form the market’s strongest offering for IPCC and tailings management plants, they said.

“Mine electrification, reduction in power and water consumption, as well as de-risking tailings disposal, are common goals for the mining industry and Metso Outotec to improve sustainability,” Metso Outotec said. “State-of-the-art IPCC and tailings management plants cater for these requirements.”

Markku Teräsvasara, President of the Minerals business area at Metso Outotec, said sustainability is a top priority for Metso Outotec.

“In addition to our investments to develop our IPCC and tailings management plant offering, we are pleased to be able to announce our cooperation with FAM,” he said. “This will allow us to meet our customers’ growing demand in such plants, where spreaders or conveyor bridges are required.”

Torsten Gerlach, CEO of FAM, added: “FAM’s leading technology in dry tail stacking systems and spreaders ties well in with Metso Outotec’s hard-rock crushing and minerals processing portfolio. Where end-to-end systems are required, we are glad teaming up with a strong partner.”

Piedmont looks at IPCC, Metso Outotec alkaline pressure leach for lithium project

Piedmont Lithium’s plan to build out an integrated lithium hydroxide business from a base in North Carolina, USA, has advanced with the release of a scoping study that, it says, confirms that Carolina Lithium will be one of the world’s largest and lowest-cost producers of lithium hydroxide with a “superior” sustainability footprint.

Piedmont Carolina Lithium contemplates a single, integrated site, comprising quarrying, spodumene concentration, by-products processing, and spodumene conversion to lithium hydroxide at its site in Gaston County. There are currently no such integrated sites operating anywhere in the world, with the company saying the economic and environmental advantages of this strategy are compelling.

The latest study outlined a production target of around 4.96 Mt of 6% Li2O spodumene concentrate (SC6), averaging approximately 248,000 t/y of SC6 over the 20-year mine life. This equates to an average of 1.95 Mt/y of ore processed, totalling some 37.4 Mt of run-of-mine ore at an average grade of 1.09% Li2O (undiluted) over the 20-year mine life.

Of the total production target of 4.96 Mt of SC6, some 1.19 Mt will be sold to third parties during the operational life and approximately 3.77 Mt will be supplied to Piedmont’s chemical plant operations for conversion into lithium hydroxide. This results in a total production target of about 582,000 t of lithium hydroxide, averaging approximately 29,095 t/y of lithium hydroxide over 20 years, the company said. The study also assumes production targets of 4.83 Mt of quartz concentrate, 7.51 Mt of feldspar concentrate, and 1.34 Mt of mica concentrate over the life of operations.

Piedmont envisages a total initial capital cost of $838.6 million for the project and an after-tax net present value (8% discount) of $1.92 billion.

While still very much preliminary, the flowsheet and mining process for this planned operation is of interest to any lithium developer looking for a ‘sustainable’ mining footprint.

The company currently envisages using a Metso Outotec alkaline pressure leach process as part of its plan. This will reduce emissions, eliminate sulphuric acid roasting and reduce solid waste, it said.

At the same time, in-pit crushing and conveyor systems are on the agenda, eliminating mining trucks in the study to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Piedmont has also been working with a solar developer to build and operate a solar farm on Piedmont property capable of producing electricity to supply up to 100% of Piedmont needs.

The company will also co-locate all operations on the same proposed site in Gaston County to minimise any transit and allow unused by-product streams to be repurposed for site redevelopment, it said. This adds up, Piedmont says, to highly efficient land and water use compared with South American lithium brine production.

Keith D Phillips, President and Chief Executive Officer of Piedmont, said: “We are exceedingly pleased with the results of our updated scoping study. The economics of our project continue to impress, but I am particularly proud of the project’s sustainability profile.

“As we move forward to complete a definitive feasibility study for Carolina Lithium later in 2021, Piedmont has engaged Evercore and JPMorgan as financial advisors to evaluate potential strategic partnering and financing options for its North Carolina project. Given the project’s unique position as the only American spodumene project, with world-class scale, economics, and sustainability, we expect strategic interest to be robust.

BHP weighs trolley assist and IPCC as part of decarbonisation efforts

BHP has provided an update on its progress on climate action, new climate commitments and how it integrates climate change into corporate strategy and portfolio decisions in a new report.

The company’s climate change approach focuses on reducing operational greenhouse gas emissions, investing in low emissions technologies, promoting product stewardship, managing climate-related risk and opportunity, and partnering with others to enhance the global policy and market response, it says.

“BHP supports the aim of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C,” the company clarified.

It explained: “BHP has been active in addressing climate risks for more than two decades, and has already established its long-term goal of achieving net zero operational (Scope 1 and 2) emissions by 2050 and its short-term target of maintaining operational emissions at or below financial year (FY) 2017 levels by FY2022, using carbon offsets as required.”

In the past year, BHP has made progress on this aim, announcing that the Escondida and Spence copper mines in Chile will move to 100% renewable energy by the mid-2020s, and, last week, awarding new renewable energy contracts for its Queensland coal assets, and the world’s first LNG-fuelled Newcastlemax bulk carrier tender.

BHP’s climate change briefing and 2020 climate change report outline how the company will accelerate its own actions and help others to do the same, it said. Today’s update sets out:

  • A medium-term target to reduce operational greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30% from adjusted FY2020 levels by FY2030;
  • Scope 3 actions to contribute to decarbonisation in its value chain. This includes supporting the steelmaking industry to develop technologies and pathways capable of 30% emissions intensity reduction with widespread adoption expected post-2030 and, in terms of transportation, supporting emissions intensity reduction of 40% in BHP-chartered shipping of products;
  • Strengthened linking of executive remuneration to delivery of BHP’s climate plan; and
  • Insight into the performance of BHP’s portfolio in a transition to a 1.5°C scenario.

The report also outlined some examples of emission reduction projects the miner is considering, which will be weighed as part of the maintenance capital category of its capital allocation framework. This includes solar power installations; alternative material movement technologies such as overland conveyors and in-pit crush and convey solutions; and trolley assist to displace diesel for haul trucks.

The company expanded on this in its report: “The path to electrification of mining equipment will likely include solutions such as trolley assist, in-pit crush and convey, overland conveyors and battery solutions.

“Diesel displacement represents a higher risk, higher capital step towards decarbonisation, so a phased approach to execution is proposed with particular emphasis on Minerals Americas-operated assets that are further advanced on the decarbonisation journey. Taking a transitional approach to electrification provides flexibility to allow for the potential for rapid development of emerging technologies and to resolve the complexities of integrating these technologies into existing operations.

“During FY2021, we will seek to collaborate further with International Council on Mining and Metals members, industry and original equipment manufacturers to progress research and development to reduce costs and assess any potential impacts from electrified mining equipment solutions to replace current diesel options.”

BHP Chief Executive Officer, Mike Henry, said of the report: “I’m pleased today to show how we are accelerating our own actions and helping others to do the same in addressing climate change. We see ourselves as accountable to take action. We recognise that our investors, our people and the communities and nations who host our operations or buy our products have increasing expectations of us – and are responsive to these.

“Our approach to climate change is defined by a number of key requirements. Our actions must be of substance. They must be real, tangible actions to drive emissions down. We must focus on what we can control inside our business, and work with others to help them reduce emissions from the things that they control. To create long-term value and returns over generations, we must continue to generate value and returns within the strong portfolio we have today, while shaping our portfolio over time to benefit from the megatrends playing out in the world including decarbonisation and electrification.

“Our portfolio is well positioned to support the transition to a lower carbon world aligned with the Paris Agreement. Our commodities are essential for global economic growth and the world’s ability to transition to and thrive in a low carbon future. Climate change action makes good economic sense for BHP and enables us to create further value.”

Apron feeders: the material handling workhorses

Following the publication of the International Mining October issue and, more specifically, the annual in-pit crushing and conveying feature, we have taken a closer look at one of the core elements that makes up these systems, apron feeders.

In mining, apron feeders play a major role in ensuring smooth operations and increasing uptime. They are very diverse in their application within a mineral processing circuit; however, their full capabilities are not widely known throughout the industry leading to many raised questions.

Martin Yester, Global Product Support of Bulk Products at Metso, has answered some of the more important ones.

What is an apron feeder and when should it be used?

In simple terms, an apron feeder (also known as a pan feeder) is a mechanical type of feeder used in material handing operations to transfer (feed) material to other equipment or extract material (ore/rock) from storage stockpiles, bins or hoppers at a controlled rate of speed.

These feeders can be used in a variety of applications in primary, secondary and tertiary (reclaiming) operations.

Apron feeders are the preferred feeder for several reasons. Some of these are:

  • Aprons provide better feed control to prevent material feeding in downstream equipment from choking;
  • They can absorb the shock of loading material directly onto the feeder with a shallow bed (the impact coming down on the feeder when the material is dumped is great); and
  • Apron feeders can reclaim a variety of dry or wet materials of various sizes at a uniform rate, with this flexibility applied in many applications.

What are the advantages of using a tractor chain style apron feeder?

A tractor chain style apron feeder refers to the undercarriage chain, rollers and tail wheels that are also used in bulldozers and excavators. This style of feeder dominates the market in industries where users require a feeder that can extract materials of varying characteristics. Polyurethane seals in the chain prevent abrasive materials from entering the internal pin and bushing, which reduces wear and extends equipment life in comparison with a dry chain style. Tractor chain style apron feeders also create less noise pollution for quieter operation. The links of the chain are heat treated, which results in an increased service life.

Overall, the benefits include increased reliability, fewer spare parts, less maintenance and better feed control. In return, these benefits lead to more productivity with minimal bottlenecks within any mineral processing circuit.

Can apron feeders be installed on an incline?

The common belief about apron feeders is that they must be installed horizontally. Well, contrary to popular belief they can be installed on an incline! There are many added benefits and capabilities that come from this. Less space is needed overall when installing an apron feeder on an incline – not only does the inclination limit floor space, the height of the receiving hopper can also be reduced. Inclined apron feeders are more forgiving when it comes to larger lumps of material and, overall, will increase volume in the hopper and reduce the cycle time of the haul trucks.

Keep in mind there are some factors to pay attention to when installing a pan feeder on an incline to optimise the process. A properly designed hopper, the angle of inclination, the design of the support structure and the access and stair system around the feeder are all key factors.

Apron feeder optimal speed – faster is always better, right?

The common misconception around operating any equipment is: “faster is better.” In the case of apron feeders, nothing could be further from the truth. Optimal speed comes from finding that balance where efficiency meets transportation speed. They do operate at slower speeds than belt feeders, but for a good reason.

Normally, the optimal speed of an apron feeder is 0.05-0.40 m/s. If the ores are non-abrasive, the speed can increase to above 0.30 m/s due to the likely reduced wear.

Higher speeds would hurt an operation: if your speed is too high, you run the risk of accelerated wear of components. Energy efficiency, too, decreases due to the increase in energy demand.

Another concern to keep in mind when running an apron feeder at high speeds is the increased possibility of fines being generated. There can be a grinding effect between the material and the pans. Not only would the generation of fines create more issues because of possible fugitive dust in the air, but this also creates a more hazardous work environment for employees overall. So, finding an optimal speed is more important for the productivity and operational safety of the plant.

What are the limitations on size and type of ore?

Apron feeders do have limitations when it comes to the size and type of ore. The limitations will vary, but there should never be senseless dumping of material onto the feeder. You will need to not only factor in the application you will be using the feeder for, but also where in the process this feeder will be placed.

Generally, an industry rule to follow for your apron feeder dimensions is that the width of the pans (inside skirts) should be twice the maximum lump size of the material. Other factors, like a properly designed open hopper incorporating the use of “rock turning plates”, can affect the pan size, but that’s only relevant in certain circumstances.

It is not unusual for 1,500 mm of material to be extracted if a 3,000 mm wide feeder is used. Material of minus-300 mm from crusher ore stockpiles or storage/blending bins is typically extracted with apron feeders to feed secondary crushers.

What information is required when sizing an apron feeder?

When sizing an apron feeder and respective drive system (motor), as with a lot of equipment in the mining industry, experience and knowledge of the entire process is valuable. Apron feeder sizing requires basic knowledge of plant data to be able to accurately fill in the criteria needed for a vendor’s “application data sheet” (or however the vendor receives their information).

Basic criteria that should go into this includes feed rate (peak and normal), material characteristics (such as moisture, gradation and shape), maximum lump size of the ore/rock, bulk density of the ore/rock (maximum and minimum) and feed and discharge conditions.

However, occasionally there can be added variables to the apron feeder sizing process that should be included. A primary additional variable that vendors should be asking about is the hopper configuration. Specifically, the hopper shear length opening (L2) directly above the apron feeder. When applicable, this is not only a key parameter in properly sizing the apron feeder, but also the drive system as well.

How does “bulk” density affect the sizing of an apron feeder?

As stated above, bulk density of the ore/rock is one of the basic criteria requirements that should be included for effective apron feeder sizing. Density is the weight of material in a given volume and usually bulk density is measured as tonnes/cubic meter (t/m³), or pounds/cubic foot (lbs/ft³). One specific note to remember is that bulk density is used for apron feeders and not solid density like in other mineral processing equipment.

So why is bulk density so important? Apron feeders are volumetric-type feeders, which means bulk density is used to determine the speed and power needed to extract a certain tonnage per hour of the material. The minimum bulk density is used to determine the speed, and the maximum bulk density establishes the power (torque) needed for the feeder.

To conclude, it is important the correct “bulk” density and not “solid” density is used for sizing apron feeders. If these calculations are incorrect, this could jeopardise the resulting feed rate for the downstream process.

How do you determine the hopper shear length of the apron feeder?

Identifying the hopper shear length is a key component for correctly sizing and selecting an apron feeder and drive system (motor). But, how can this be determined? The hopper shear length is the dimension from the back plate of the hopper at the skirt line to the shear bar located at the exit end of the hopper. It sounds very simple, but it is key to note that this should not be confused with the dimension at the top of the hopper where material is loaded.

The goal of finding this measurement of the hopper shear length is to establish the actual shear plane line of material and where material inside the skirts is separated (sheared) from the material inside the hopper (L2). The resistance to shear the material is typically estimated to be between 50-70% of the total force/power. This calculation of the shear length will result in either insufficient power (lost production) or excessive power (rising operating expenses (opex)).

How do I find the optimal length of my apron feeder?

Spacing of equipment is essential to any plant. As mentioned before, apron feeders can be installed on an incline to save space. Selecting the correct length of an apron feeder will not only reduce capital expenditure (capex), it will also reduce power consumption and opex.

But how is the optimal length determined? The optimum length of an apron feeder is one that can fulfil the required duty in the shortest length possible. However, in some cases for an operation, the choice of feeder might want to be a little longer to “convey” materials to reach downstream equipment and eliminate a transfer point (and unnecessary costs).

To determine the shortest and optimal feeder possible requires flexibility in the layout of positioning the apron feeder under the hopper (L2). After determining the shear length and bed depth, the overall length can then be minimised just enough to prevent what is referred to as “self-flushing” over the discharge end when the feeder is idle.

I properly selected my apron feeder, but what about my drive system?

Selecting the proper drive system for your apron feeder will depend on the operation and goals of the feeder. Apron feeders are designed to be ran at variable speeds to extract from storage and feed downstream at a controlled rate of speed for maximum efficiency. The material could vary depending on factors such as the season of the year, orebody, or blasting and blending patterns.

The two types of drives suited for variable speeds are a mechanical drive using a gear reducer, inverter duty motor and variable frequency drive (VFD), or hydraulic motor and power unit with a variable pump. Today, variable speed mechanical drives have been proven as the preferred drive system due to the advancements in technology and capex benefits.

Hydraulic drive systems do have their place but are not seen as the ideal option between the two variable drives.

This Q&A was taken from a series of Metso blogs on apron feeders. For more information, please follow these links:

https://www.metso.com/blog-hub/mining-minds/feeding-the-facts-part-1-apron-feeder-basics/

https://www.metso.com/blog-hub/mining-minds/feeding-the-facts-23-proper-sizing-and-selection-of-your-apron-feeder/

NEPEAN offers mine truck haulage alternative with relocatable conveyors

NEPEAN Conveyors’ New South Wales General Manager, Bill Munday, thinks its relocatable conveyor system will “change the game for materials handling” in 2019.

Munday said this to the Australian Mining publication during a site visit to Port Kembla.

Last year, NEPEAN Conveyors acquired Sandvik’s International Conveyor Components businesses and Sandvik’s Specialist Conveyor Systems business in Hollola, Finland.

NEPEAN’s Relocatable Conveyor system has taken over two years of research and design to develop and “promises to upend the traditional approach to conveyor design on account of its improved mobility, operational flexibility, ease of transport and speed of installation”, the company said.

Instead of building conveyor parts to meet the needs of freight shipping container dimensions, the NEPEAN Relocatable Conveyor is a half-height high cube portal frame configuration certified for standard freight shipping.

This means the conveyor is transportable anywhere in the world as a fully assembled unit, according to the company.

The frames are 12 m long, with the unit inside supporting belt widths of up to 1,800 mm on straight conveyors and 1,600 mm on curved conveyors. Roof-mounted wind guards are also available for each module in a single curve or straight two-piece configuration.

The modules can be triple stacked on a prime mover and unloaded in one bundle using standard container handling equipment, which can then place each module in line for final connection, according to the company.

This approach vastly reduces the total install cost per lineal metre by minimising both time and staff requirements during setup, NEPEAN said.

“One of the areas we really wanted to target was logistics,” Munday told Australian Mining.

“It can turn into a real logistical exercise moving all this equipment from one site to the next and doing so efficiently. The beauty of having a half-height hi cube shipping container format is that they can be multi-stacked on ships, trains or trucks,” he said.

“You can potentially get nine modules per road train at a length of 12 m per module.”

The frame’s integral legs can be set in place by removing a pin, folding them out and replacing the pin to lock the legs in position, minimising ground works.

The foot plates also have holes in for additional stakes to be inserted, which adds stability and security.

Once the modules are aligned to an installation jig on the ground – adjustable for idler spacing and roller configurations – the structure can be super elevated by up to 7° and banked around corners, according to the company.

“All the equipment is pre-designed for a fully functioning conveyor and the container module is just part of the system,” Munday said. “We have also designed a unique one-piece head end that incorporates a drive system up to approximately 4,000 kW, a loop take-up and delivery jib that can be put on a 200-t float to transport around mine sites. It is held in place by large ground anchors — there’s minimal concreting or civil works — you just dig a couple of holes and bury the ground anchor.”

In addition to significantly lowering civil works and installation costs, the NEPEAN Relocatable Conveyors mobility allows it to be adaptable to changes in mining operations and positions it as a true alternative to mine trucks when it is time to move the conveyor on site, according to the company.

First ore for FQM’s Cobre Panama copper mine

First Quantum Minerals has introduced first ore to the processing plant at its 74 Mt/y Cobre Panama open-pit copper mine in Panama.

On February 7, ore was introduced through primary crushing and onto the stockpile with initial feed rates between 4,000-5,000 t/h. Then, on February 11, ore was introduced through to the first milling circuit.

Operation on ore continues and will move into all other sections of the processing plant including producing copper concentrate, according to First Quantum. The company is now focused on an efficient phased ramp-up for Cobre Panama continuing through 2019.

At full tilt, Cobre Panama is expected to produce 350,000 t of copper from an in-pit crushing and conveying set up that includes four box cuts with semi-mobile primary crushers – two per conveyor line – feeding two in-pit conveyor lines that feed two overland conveyors after a transfer station to the secondary crushing and the main process plant. The company uses a fleet of Komatsu Mining P&H 4100XPC electric shovels; 363 t Liebherr T 284C trucks, Komatsu Mining Le Tourneau L2350 large wheel loaders (with SR drive), Liebherr R 9350 hydraulic excavators and Cat 777G 100 t trucks at the operation.

NRW Holdings signs A$10 million deal to buy RCR’s Mining and Heat Treatment businesses

NRW Holdings has entered into an agreement to acquire RCR Tomlinson’s Mining and Heat Treatment businesses for A$10 million ($7.3 million) in cash.

The agreement was signed with RCR’s administrators, which have been offloading various RCR subsidiaries since shortly after the company declared total liabilities of A$581.3 million alongside cash and equivalents of A$89.9 million in its 2018 financial year.

The purchase consideration will be funded from NRW’s existing cash reserves, with the deal expected to complete within the next two weeks, NRW said.

RCR Mining and Heat Treatment form part of the original RCR Tomlinson business established over 100 years ago.

RCR Mining includes the Mining Technologies business, which owns significant intellectual property across a range of products and processes and is recognised as a market leader by global resources clients, according to NRW.

“The Mining Technologies business is a leading national and international original equipment manufacturer and innovative materials handling designer with an extensive product range including apron and belt feeders, high capacity conveyors, slide gates, stackers, spreaders, fully track-mounted in-pit mining units (an example pictured above), sizers, scrubbers and screening plants,” NRW said.

One of RCR’s recent mining technology innovations is a 5 km relocatable conveyor, which includes a semi-mobile primary crushing station and feeds directly into Fortescue Metals’ Cloudbreak iron ore processing facility in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

Both the Mining Technologies and Heat treatment businesses have a high proportion of activity in equipment product support and maintenance (both on site and off site), NRW said, adding that the Heat Treatment business has facilities that include the largest stress relieving furnace in Australia.

Mining Technologies and Heat Treatment generated around A$110 million of revenue in the 2018 financial year and have a track record of delivering positive earnings, NRW noted, explaining the acquisition would be earnings per share accretive on a full-year basis, excluding integration and other one-off costs.

Jules Pemberton, NRW’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, said the acquisition would allow NRW to provide incremental services, in line with its strategic objectives, to several core clients common to both NRW and the RCR businesses.

“In addition, the annuity style income from the maintenance activities of Mining Technologies and Heat Treatment will provide a platform to continue to build a broader service offering across an expanded resources and oil and gas client base.”