Industrial plastic piping company Plasti-Tech Piping Systems has supplied “next-generation” plastic pipe butt-welding technology for the installation and commissioning of a 15-km-long, 315-mm-wide, high-density polyethylene water supply pipeline for the Balama openpit graphite mine being developed in northern Mozambique.
The equipment, the company says, was bought by the contractor and will be sold to the mine for maintenance once the project is completed.
The Hürner computer numerically controlled (CNC) ECO 2.0 machine, manufactured by German welding technology company Hürner, has been available in Europe for a few years, but was added to Plasti-Tech’s product portfolio in 2011.
Two Hürner CNC ECO 2.0 355 mm butt-weld machines, valued at about R 400 000 each, were delivered in June to the mine, which is on a 106 km² mining concession in the Cabo Delgado province, in the Namuno district.
Owned by industrial minerals and technology company Syrah Resources, Balama is expected to have a production capacity of 356 000 t/y of graphite concentrate during the first ten years of operation, with average production over the estimated 42-year life-of-mine being 313 000 t/y of graphite concentrate at an average total graphitic content grade of 95%.
The water supply pipeline project has a strict deadline and remains on schedule, owing to the CNC welding machines being used for day and night shifts to join the five 315-mm-outside-diameter pipe sections, which each had a different pressure rating,” says Plasti-Tech managing member Brad Chamont.
The pipeline project started in June and is due for completion at the end of this month, with the mine starting production before year end.
The plastic pipe butt-welding machine used at Balama can join pipes from 90 mm to 355 mm in diameter, he notes, adding that the unit is easily transportable and comes with a fully encased CNC hydraulic control box and radio-frequency identification technology.
Design consideration for the operator’s safety is paramount when working at such high welding pressures with large pipes, comments Chamont.
While the CNC ECO 2.0 does not require any special qualifications to operate, training on its use is necessary and is conducted at Plasti-Tech’s Edenvale premises, on the East Rand, in Gauteng.
“Finding labourers with the skills set to work with the machines was very difficult, especially as the project took place in rural Mozambique. However, suitable candidates were found by the contractor and I helped with the training of the welding teams over the course of a week,” he explains, adding that he helped the teams familiarise themselves with the Hürner brand and the machine’s operation.
Four teams, each consisting of eight members, including a butt-welder and assistant welder are working on the pipeline project.
CNC ECO 2.0 Features
The CNC ECO 2.0 represents the latest “plastic butt-welding technology of the highest quality and durability, developed in compliance with the top global industry standards”, states Chamont.
Plasti-Tech can supply the technology to projects throughout sub-Saharan Africa in 12 basic machine chassis sizes.
The machine was developed in compliance with European machinery directive 2006/42/EC and, throughout the welding process, the heating element temperature and pressure control are implemented in line with applicable standards from German welding society Die Verbindungs Spezialisten, or DVS.
The technology also complies with standards enforced by the Italian Organisation for Standardisation, the European Water Industry Specifications and the Netherlands Standardisation Institute.
“All the parameters for a good-quality, reproducible joint are carefully monitored throughout the welding process and the associated data is saved to the unit’s internal memory, which can record up to 10 000 reports,” Chamont tells Mining Weekly
The CNC ECO 2.0’s heating element is covered with an antistick coating and, along with the facing tool, is attached to the chassis of the unit on the hydraulic system and control box. This configuration negates the need to equip the unit with an additional power source, he adds.
The standard version is also equipped with a front panel with a high-resolution, temperature-range extended character display and a keyboard for the input of the required component parameters and traceability data.
“All next-generation butt-weld machines from the Hürner range are made to house additional extras and model upgrades,” says Chamont.
Optional extras include a label or tag printer, which enables each welded joint or fitting to be easily labelled with a scratch-proof sticker and a movement push-button.
“The push-button on the basic machine chassis of the Hürner CNC ECO 2.0 allows for the unit to move while the welder stands alongside it,” adds Chamont, noting that this makes for a much more convenient setup, as it eliminates the back-and-forth movement by the operator between the hydraulic system, control box and chassis.
He further explains that the plastic butt-weld machine offers errorproof and user-friendly radio-frequency identification technology, which also ensures that unauthorised access is not permitted, subsequently increasing safety.
“The Hürner CNC ECO 2.0 embodies cutting-edge German technology and, with its generous features and scope for adaptability and adoption of optional extras, we are proud to carry a range of machinery that speaks the language of Plasti-Tech’s customer base across sub-Saharan Africa,” Chamont concludes.