One of the biggest challenges facing the mining industry with regard to its motors, gear drives and belt drives is protection from adverse weather conditions and the resulting ingress of dust and moisture, says pumps manufacturer Australian Pumps, commonly known as Aussie Pumps.
“In the Pilbara, in Western Australia, where all the big iron-ore mines are, they have monsoonal rain and frequent dust storms. As such, we’ve started supplying Envelop protective covers for capital equipment in that area,” Aussie Pumps MD Warwick Lorenz notes.
He explains that Envelop, manufactured from a material developed by the US military for use on warships, is a custom-fit cover that can be used on most assets. The material is waterproof, but “breathable”, reducing condensation and keeping metal surfaces dry.
The Envelop covers mitigate corrosion through the use of a vapour corrosion-inhibiting layer that emits ions that bond with water molecules, preventing them from forming on metal.
Lorenz notes that the heavy-duty tarp is a “complete cover” solution that protects assets from dust, corrosion, heat and ultraviolet light. Its use reduces maintenance of key and expensive assets, ensuring that they remain operational for longer, thereby increasing productivity while reducing costs. Lorenz notes that, in an industry like mining, where lost time owed to equipment failure can cripple a company’s ability to compete, Envelop covers are a prudent choice.
Aussie Pumps has been the sole distributor of Envelop products in Australia and New Zealand since 2014. The company notes that, while there are no Southern African distributors as yet, “this could certainly change in the coming years as the market expands”.
Innovation Drives Success
Lorenz says the growth of South East Asian economies – which are developing on the basis of the aspirational needs of a significant majority of the planet’s population – has been a huge impetus for the growth of many mineral markets. “Australia, for example, is opening new iron-ore mines, expanding others, and looking for new areas to mine.”
He notes that the pumps industry is vital to mining, stressing that, as miners search for more efficient, cost-effective ways to achieve their goals, the pumps industry must also evolve.
He points out that, in line with the company’s African and Australian focus, Aussie Pumps is at the forefront of building machines that are “totally different” to the European style in terms of robustness, efficiency and safety.
Lorenz notes that the similarities between the African and Australian climates ensure that Aussie Pumps’ product offering is able to reduce costs and provide safer and more effective solutions for African clients.
He notes that the company has developed products and methods to mitigate the effects of harsh operating conditions faced in the Australian mining and agriculture industries, and has supplied equipment and assisted in the implementation of these methods in Angola, South Africa, Mauritania, Egypt, Ghana and Kenya.
Lorenz adds that the pumps industry is always looking for innovation, but that, “it’s hard to progress beyond the degree of efficiency delivered by standard centrifugal pumps and the level of convenience of self-priming pumps”.
He states that pump substitutes have yet to be developed that are better than the basic (centrifugal, self-priming) pump designs, with regard to simplicity, operating efficiency and capital costs, suggesting that, innovation is trending toward enhancing existing capabilities.
Aussie Pumps, for example, launched a 316 stainless steel lightweight 2'' pump that can be run from a Yanmar 4.8 hp engine. The portable stainless steel pump’s Ryton internals, enable it to handle a range of corrosive liquids found in most mine sites. “That’s an example of an innovative approach which shows an adaptability to corrosion challenges of the mining industry.”
Additionally, he points to technology in pumps evolving with regard to the role electronics play in unmanned operations. “We’re experimenting with a remote start feature and the automatic operation of diesel-driven pumps, as this could have a major impact on how the industry operates in future.”
Lorenz explains that having an automatic sensing system on a simple self-priming trash pump could lead to more complex systems with dewatering pumps that “snore” – suck up air – being replaced by simpler pumps with huge potential fuel savings.
Lorenz says the company holds about 25% of both the self-priming centrifugal trash pumps and large pressure cleaners markets, with most of its mining products being used in Australia.
He stresses that the company specialises in providing products suitable for handling aggressive liquids, including cast 316 stainless steel self-priming pumps for underground use, with close coupled motors and diesel- engine-driven pumps.
“The diesel-driven pumps always specify first-world brand engines like Yanmar, Kubota or Deutz, and are geared towards minimal maintenance.”
In light of this focus on maintenance, Lorenz explains, “the design incorporates a front clean-out port that enables the operator to carry out maintenance in situ without having to disconnect pipework”.
Further, he notes that the company also provides recommended parts lists for engine filters, pump seals and other easily replaceable spares with the aim of keeping engine drive products “operating at their best”.
Lorenz stresses that, if the engines are serviced in line with Aussie Pumps’ recommendations, maintenance can be substantially reduced.