With mining operations valuing the optimisation of their assets, and safety and uptime remaining focal points, wear solutions provider Rio-Carb has “answered the industry’s call” with the development of a new modular chute, Rio-Carb director Sias Suurd tells Mining Weekly.
Development of this modular design concept started in September last year and was completed in January this year. Rio-Carb has introduced the patented concept to the local mining industry, which has been well received, Suurd enthuses.
The company has implemented one chute in Mozambique at diversified miner South32’s Mozal operations – an aluminium smelter; and has also implemented one chute at chrome producer Samancor TC Smelter, in Mooinooi, in the North West, which produces charge chrome.
He indicates that the modular chute concept was developed by the company to reduce the risk inherent in liner maintenance on chute systems. Currently, replacing wear liners requires maintenance personnel to enter the inside of the chute structure, which is fixed to the inside of the structure walls, adds Suurd.
During maintenance, all the associated equipment has to be shut down to allow maintenance personnel to enter the chute and prevent any potential injury while they are inside the structure. There is also an added risk of working at height for personnel inside the chutes. When conducting maintenance, personnel may require a confined-space entry permit, as it is a hazardous environment with limited points of entry and exit.
The modular chute design reduces these risks by removing personnel from working inside chutes, enabling them instead to replace liners from the outside of the chute in a more controlled environment. It also eliminates the risk of having to work in confined spaces and at height during chute maintenance, Suurd explains. This not only increases safety but also decreases downtime during liner maintenance.
Further, a modular chute design is easier to transport, compared with traditional chute structure, and boasts a 30% weight saving, as no chute structure is required. The number of parts and stockholding required for maintenance is also reduced, as chutes can be designed from standard wear panels. The design also eliminates the need for bolts to keep liners in place, as the wear liners provide a smooth surface inside a chute.
In the materials handling market, Rio-Carb’s aim is to provide engineering solutions that reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) of high-wear applications, Suurd says.
The company’s product offering ranges from its signature RC 700 chrome carbide overlay plate to its RC 400 and RC 500 quench and tempered material. Rio-Carb also supplies ceramics to the industry through its newly westablished ceramics division. The company has been active in this market since 1981.
Suurd points out that providing the company’s chromium carbide wear liners to the industry represents Rio-Carb’s most significant success in this market over the years, as these liners have reduced TCO on wear for several large mining organisations.
However, he indicates that supplying these liners has been and continues to be a challenge in that changing mining houses’ mindsets from using quench and tempered materials to Rio-Carb’s chrome carbide, is necessary. Although the chrome carbide liners present a more expensive initial capital cost, they are cheaper in the long run, owing to the aforementioned reduction in TCO they facilitate, Suurd elaborates.
To change this perception and bolster uptake, the company conducts site surveys and assists mining operations in assessing TCO more carefully, and in calculating operational costs to prove that its products can lower these costs.
Suurd enthuses that there is a “definite uptrend” in the materials handling market, which he attributes to favourable mining-industry changes in South Africa and an upswing in commodity prices.
He further avers that the biggest opportunities in this market lie in the copper and cobalt industries in Africa. However, other commodities are also doing well and several exploration projects are under way.
“Mining in Africa is growing in general,” he avers.
To maximise these opportunities, Rio-Carb has appointed additional sales representatives across the continent to consult with end-users on mining operations.
For the South African market, Rio-Carb partners with local companies that act as agents for its products, which Suurd describes as “an ideal arrangement”, as these companies already enjoy an entrenched relationship with potential Rio-Carb clients.