Materials handling and engineering problem solvers, Chute Technology, have lifted production further for an Australian mining operation with speedy optimisation of a chute system handling copper and gold.
“In their search for ongoing performance, this mining operation could see that safety and production efficiency could be boosted further in surface operations by a chute system designed to optimise processing of the outputs they were delivering,” said Chute Technology engineer Gian Naldi, who, with his colleague and Chute Technology Director Dennis Pomfret, partnered with the mine’s on-site teams to streamline material flow to achieve higher outputs with fewer blockages and enhanced OHS conditions as a result.
Further, Chute Technology had to design the chute so that maintenance and installation work done by on-site staff could occur within the mine’s scheduled shutdown period, which turned a job typically taking six months into an eight week project from end-to-end.
“One of the reasons we were able to deliver this project so efficiently, is that we already had the theory in place ready for the first meeting. Chute Technology had already developed the material flow optimisation concepts for the coal industry, and the technical aspects were transferrable to this job,” said Mr Naldi.
“It was an excellent challenging assignment, not only to optimise the flow of material and reduce the need to have people on standby to wash down blocked chutes, but also to fit the entire project strictly within pre-determined shutdown periods,” he said.
“While design work could be done off-site with the latest flow enhancement and problem-solving technologies, this was a very hands-on project because we had to fit physical construction, installation, testing and commissioning around ongoing operations at a busy plant.”
Material flow optimisation
Phase one of the work involved a chute system integrated to the secondary crusher plant. The chute loads a double deck vibrating screen, which has three outputs (fines, middlings and oversize).
“The first chute we helped to optimise is under the vibrating screen and handles fines, which are highly abrasive and sticky. Working closely with the experienced on-site staff – who could exactly identify system requirements – we designed a chute that feeds the conveyor in the middle, with minimal impact compared to the old design, which had direct impact to skirts and belt. The optimised design loads between skirtboards, without contacting them. Skirtboards function only when there is a surge coming through,” said Mr Naldi.
Initial work included:
- Flow modelling and surface design alternatives using Discrete Element Modelling (DEM) flow technologies to identify friction and hangup hot spots, with production rate analysis for different throughput, including catering for fines and clay with high internal strength.
- Identification of existing bottlenecks and areas of construction where recurrent problems needed to be designed out, including uneven loading of conveyors from discharge chutes, with mis-tracking issues particularly on the first chute re-engineered
- Selection of optimum wear materials, including 50mm thick replaceable ceramic tiles to minimise any recurrent need to interrupt production with replacement of excessively worn components. Previous liners of different and thinner material could wear out in less than three months.
“The results achieved on the first chute spoke for themselves so clearly that the optimisation engineering involved is now being employed throughout the entire plant, which is tribute to teamwork and local staff and management’s commitment to excellence,” said Mr Naldi.
“This was a very satisfying project, because we achieved significant throughput gains and improved flow rate. And every daily gain you make on a good design translates directly into production and profit, particularly where you are handling throughputs of hundreds and thousands of tons an hour, and millions of tons over the course of a year,” he said.