Mining equipment supplier Weir Minerals Africa has invested heavily in developing its infrastructure and resources to meet the challenges that the mining industry has faced over the past five years, modifying its products and streamlining its service offering to ensure that its pumping solutions can address the most pressing needs of existing and prospective clients, says Weir Minerals Africa South Africa and Southern African Development Community sales director William Cumming.
“A core focus in this endeavour has been on reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) and improving plant availability. To help our clients achieve tangible results, Weir Minerals has changed its entire approach – we are no longer simply a product supplier, but rather a solutions provider that can help companies improve their operations and profits by providing holistic, ongoing solutions to a myriad of pumping and system challenges.”
He highlights that mining companies are under pressure to increase their production rates, while limiting the detrimental effects of rising operating costs, and are often tasked to do so without a strong resource of industry skills and experience.
Weir has a range of pumping equipment available specifically designed to suit applications in either mill circuits predominantly used in gold and platinum mining, or dense-media circuits used in coal and chrome mining. This includes newly designed Warman SLR plant process pumps developed to enhance wear life and efficiency in various parts of the process circuit.
“A key challenge, however, is assisting mining companies in realising that the long-term benefits of high-quality, fit-for-purpose products far outweigh the upfront savings that can be gleaned from cheaper products. The need to guard against the cost implications and safety risks associated with a catastrophic pumping failure for mining operations cannot be overemphasised.”
When clients experience problems with their pumps, Weir takes a holistic approach, analysing the entire circuit to pinpoint the factors affecting the pump’s performance and ensuring that each element – from crushing through to tailings pipelines – is performing optimally with a view on improved recoveries. To do this, the company has further expanded its range of expertise, assimilating design engineers, process engineers, pumps and product specialists into a team of professionals throughout its branch network within Africa.
The company is also securing the future of its in-house skills base through intensive training programmes for its graduates and apprentices. Cumming estimates that about 5.5% of Weir Minerals Africa’s workforce is accounted for by individuals who are undertaking one of these programmes at any given time.
“Our core aim is to help clients navigate a new mining environment by ensuring that our products not only offer the most advanced technology, but are also supported by the expertise needed to enhance their performance in particular operating environments.”
Another key focus for the company is the prevention of catastrophic failures through our predictive analytics program and condition monitoring system. Weir’s Synertrex cloud-based program can be installed on most of its processing equipment, including pumps, and configured to measure the required parameters, such as vibration, temperature, flow and pressure levels, to increase meantime between failures. Cumming explains that the software acts as an early-warning system that helps mines implement preventive maintenance and better planned shutdowns for repairs. “This Synertrex platform is a key focus for Weir going forward, assisting our customers in ultimately improving the longevity of their equipment.”
Key Product Developments
Weir’s most popular pump – the Warman AH centrifugal slurry pump – has been enhanced through the addition of a WRT impeller and throat bush combination, improving efficiency and wear by a simple two-part replacement which subsequently improves TCO. The newer range of pumps – the Warman WBH pumps – offers single-action adjustment technology, which allows for the gap between the impeller and throatbush to be simultaneously adjusted rotationally and axially. Decreasing this gap reduces the recirculation of slurry and lowers the wear rate of the unit.
The company has also included a pressure- burst disc on some of its new range of pump designs, providing an important safety feature to prevent the explosion of the pump in the event of a blockage. The Warman DWU dewatering pump range with improved discharge head can manage the higher pumping levels and pressures of liquid that needs to be pumped.
Meanwhile, Weir’s Warman WBV heavy-duty vertical cantilevered slurry pumps range for sump pump applications can be retrofitted onto the Warman SP current vertical spindle pumps range to manage the build-up of solids in the sump. The design combination of the agitation and inlet flow inducing feature are meant to ensure that solids do not settle and build up in the sump.
Weir has also developed several alloy and rubber materials for use in slurry pumps, formulated for high wear applications reducing downtime further.
“Industry demand for Weir Minerals’ new pumps technology has grown substantially over the past 18 months as the benefits of our products have become evident. The launch of Weir Africa’s online store last year has further enhanced product accessibility by our customer base. Confidence is returning to mining and we are well prepared to help our customers as business picks up,” Cumming concludes.