Wear solutions provider Rio-Carb completed a liner supply project for diamond miner Petra Diamonds’ Cullinan mine, near Pretoria, in Gauteng, in June.
The 18-month project for the newly built R4.2-billion C-Cut mineral processing plant entailed Rio-Carb supplying chromium-carbide (CrC) liners for the plant’s chutes.
Rio-Carb GM Sias Suurd says Petra Diamonds started production in July and the liners are performing to standard, with minimum wear on the plant’s equipment, including head chutes, screen discharge chutes and silos.
Petra Diamonds’ 5.7 ha C-Cut project entailed the construction and development of an entire new block cave below the B block on the western side of the mine’s orebody, providing access to unmined, undiluted ore, subsequently allowing for
a higher mined tonnage and a significantly higher-grade production profile.
Rio-Carb is also working on a project with water-jet cutting company Aquajet to test a vibrating screen plate for silicomanganese producer Transalloys.
To manufacture the screen plates, Aquajet uses its Aquamax process, which uses water to cut small aperture holes down to 5 mm in CrC sheets. This creates a vibrating screen plate that has high wear resistance in mineral processing applications.
Suurd notes that a challenge for Rio-Carb is supplying plants that have a predetermined design that handles a range of minerals and metals, including diamonds, coal, gold, platinum, uranium and iron-ore, with engineers often not having practical knowledge of how these materials will react with liners when used in active plants.
To counter this challenge, Rio-Carb is becoming involved in the earlier development stages of processing plant design instead of supplying liners once the plant construction is complete.
In the earlier design stages, the company can provide input on various materials, their best application and how they behave once operation starts.
“We often see older plants with a specific design, which includes a certain type of material, not lasting, owing to the inappropriate application being selected for that material,” explains Suurd.
He adds that project houses sometimes resist suggested changes to plants or applications for materials, but Rio-Carb’s experience with wear materials speaks for itself and, eventually, in practice.
“We know we can add a lot of value by being involved with and educating project houses to demonstrate what we have learned and discovered across a spectrum of commodities.”
Rio-Carb prides itself on its practical frame of reference for using materials in various mineral processing applications for mines since 1982.
Additionally, Suurd mentions that Rio-Carb emphasises its CrC liners’ ability to offer the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO) and attendant benefits for mineral processing plant owners.
“Mines and minerals processing plants often shy away from high capital costs, owing to the industry’s general movement towards cost cutting. Therefore, we explain the value-adding, long-term cost benefits gained through reduced labour requirements when replacing equipment and conducting maintenance, less downtimeand the ability to increase an asset’s production capability, with peace of mind that it will have minimal wear.”
Rio-Carb’s approach to TCO entails reducing cost-per-ton-mined spend, while delivering a superior-quality product compared with, for example, quenched and tempered steel liners, which require replacement more often and increased TCO.
Meanwhile, the company is working to diversify its product portfolio by introducing new materials, such as rubber and ceramics, from which to manufacture its wear liners other than its signature CrC liners. Diversifying its product range will enable Rio-Carb to enter more markets, including earthmoving and agriculture.
Rio-Carb is in the early stages of planning and developing technologies to enhance its service offering and support product features.
“We are starting to use Big Data on minerals processing plant projects to measure liner thickness and analyse wear on equipment in high-wear areas, quantifying information and reporting it to the client,” Suurd points out.
This type of technology allows for predictive maintenance and facilitates accurate estimates of product or equipment life in plants.
Rio-Carb is also aiming to develop a “smart” liner that uses ultrasonic thickness testing technology to allow for monitoring, not only online but also in real-time while a plant is operating.
“Using this type of technology, we can gather and compile specific information on wear per ton every hour, which is helpful for plant maintenance planning and determining when to replace liners,” concludes Suurd.