Global engineering company Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology’s Eclipse Fire Suppression Systems are contributing to an enviable fire safety record at the Ambatovy nickel mine, in Madagascar, one of the biggest nickel mines in the world.
With several mobile machines, as well as other risk areas protected by Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology’s Eclipse Fire Suppression Systems, the mine has neither lost plant equipment nor exposed on-site workers to hazardous fires since beginning production in 2012.
The success of the mine’s safety interventions speaks volumes for its policies and procedures; it points to astute selection of fire suppression systems that are correctly suited to the kind of risks associated with Ambatovy’s type of surface mining activities.
Ambatovy’s fire record is a good example of a mine’s management engaging with its supplier to adopt the right technology and systems to best protect its assets and, by implication, safeguard its people and production, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology fire suppression business developer Nick Steinz.
“Our relationship with Ambatovy spans back to 2008 when their maintenance manager at the time first made enquiries about Sandvik’s Eclipse Fire Suppression Systems.”
He elaborates that having used and seen the fire suppression systems in action while at a previous mine, the maintenance manager enquired about the suitability of Sandvik’s fire suppression systems for plant equipment, pump houses and other at-risk equipment on the mine, which was still in developmental stage.
“Having met all the mine’s requirements, we won the supply tender and were able to supply systems for mobile earthmoving equipment, including dump trucks, dozers, excavators, wheel loaders and graders, as well as pump engines and generators throughout the mine.
Every new piece of equipment since then has also been outfitted with a Sandvik Eclipse Fire Suppression System,” he says.
Steinz points out that Sandvik’s Eclipse Fire Suppression Systems use an entirely water-based foam system that attacks all aspects of the fire triangle.
Cleanups and recharging after triggering of the system are quick and easy, as opposed to powders, which can take hours to clean and may render a machine or entire area inoperable for an entire shift.
In the event of a serious fire, the foam-based solution has other advantages, including having a cooling effect which can prevent reignition. It is also able to extinguish the fire without hampering visibility as is the case with powders. This makes it safer and easier to evacuate an area in the event of a serious fire. Further, the foam is not harmful to the environment, is biodegradable, is non-toxic and is suitable to be used on all diesel-powered equipment.
“Our client also trusts the failsafe triggering ability of our devices, which is kept under pressure and will only activate in the event of a loss of pressure caused by special sensor tubes detecting excessive heat in the presence of a fire or when activated manually.”
Being stored under pressure also provides an additional failsafe when the operator checks the gauges at the beginning of each shift, he adds.
Further, Ambatovy’s mobile equipment maintenance manager says that, in terms of fleet safety, it is critical to have fire suppression systems in place to prevent the loss of a machine and give the operator time to safely exit the machine and move to safety. The system also needs to be flexible enough to be used on different types of machines and robust enough to remain functional in typically tough mining conditions.
Dealing with a company like Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology also provides reassurance that systems are properly configured to cover all risk areas on a machine and that after-sales service and qualified support are available to ensure the systems stay in good condition and are tested regularly.
Equally important is the company’s ability to provide sufficient parts and spares, while also being in a position to outfit new machines as required, as was the case recently when 78 earthmoving machines were added to the fleet.