New mining technologies inspire optimism in South America

7th July 2017 By: Tasneem Bulbulia - Creamer Media Reporter

New mining technologies inspire optimism  in South America

ADVANCING SECTOR Some of South America’s newer mines, as well as those yet to be developed, are favouring an uptake of technology that ensures the lowest possible mining costs per ton
Photo by: Bloomberg

While there is a level of general caution, owing to the inherent “volatile nature” of the mining industry, the South American mining market is mostly characterised by growing optimism, owing to the benefits of mining technologies, posits global leader in the development of advanced dragline and shovel monitoring technologies for the global surface mining industry MineWare global sales director Roy Pater.

He emphasises that this positive outlook presents a significant opportunity for the South American market to embrace technology, which will enable it to improve productivity and lower production costs.

As with other major mining markets worldwide, the South American region is cognisant of the need to lower its costs per ton and improve production. Pater posits that a 1% improvement on a shovel can improve a mine’s profitability by up to 3%.

He says some of the region’s newer mines, as well as those yet to be developed, are favouring an uptake of technology that ensures the lowest possible mining costs per ton to guarantee a lowering of the effects of commodity highs and lows.

Moreover, these entities are encouraging original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and mining technology providers to work collaboratively with these mines to provide desired whole-of-mine solutions.

Diversified industrial-use products and services provider Komatsu, Pater notes, has been a pivotal player in these collaborative ventures and the continued strength of mining expertise in South America. But, he says Komatsu is part of a number of OEMs providing such value.

“Our ability to innovate and continually improve to meet the needs of customers and our industry is critical,” he expounds. MineWare’s ability to be open to collaboration and integration has positioned it to be recognised as a notable mining technology company that truly wants to enable mining to be fully optimised, Pater emphasises.

MineWare’s work in the region is evidenced by many mines focusing on ways to improve all aspects of truck and shovel operations, from improved mine design and mine planning to rightsizing fleets and lowering production costs.

The South American mining sector has to deal with ever deeper mining depths with declining ore grades and this is being mitigated by major players in the sector adopting technology and autonomous solutions. Such solutions provide whole-of-mine solutions and facilitate the effective future optimisation management of the mine, says Pater.

Expanding into South America

Pater notes that MineWare entering South America – a new region for the company – presented a key challenge in sourcing the correct local partner, which is always the case when entering new markets. However, he praises South America for its strong level of mining expertise, good ore grades and access to a solid workforce.

MineWare finds it essential, along with its local partner, to demonstrate the real improvement its systems can deliver, and works closely with mining personnel to ensure the best benefits are obtained upfront and continuously. “Too often the mines mention that they implement a system and the initial improvements don’t last. This is something we ensure isn’t the case by assigning a person with good mining experience to assist the customer in sustainably getting the best from our systems over their full life cycle.”

The company is leveraging the sales of its Argus systems in Chile to drive its presence in the South American region.

In July 2016, MineWare concluded the sale of its first two Argus Shovel Monitor systems in the region with its partner, global mining automation, productivity and technology consultancy Haultrax Chile.

To date, the company has sold three of these systems to two of Chile’s largest copper mines. Pater tells Mining Weekly that both customers own major mining operations and want to integrate MineWare’s Argus systems across their sizeable shovel fleets. MineWare is capitalising on this with its partner Haultrax to place more local support resources in Chile, while expanding its Integrated Support Centre to Chile to provide local support and grow its global team.

Pater is “extremely positive” regarding the future uptake of these systems and other MineWare technologies in South America, noting that it is a critical region for the company’s future growth and success.

Pater expounds that the Argus systems were introduced to address the current payload challenges of these international clients in optimising the payload of each truck. To date, both mines have achieved a 3% to 5% improvement in their truck payloads while significantly reducing underloaded and overloaded trucks, he adds.

This success is attributed to the Argus system displaying each bucket payload within an accuracy of about 3%. The system provides the shovel operator with a visual ‘filler bar’, which indicates the amount that has been loaded and the outstanding tons required to fill the truck to its optimum level. Pater claims that one of its Chilean customers has improved its mine’s yearly tonnes moved from one shovel by 800 000 t.

He adds that MineWare’s global customer base reports payload production improvement of between 3% and 16%, with its most recent installation in South Africa improving shovel production by an “impressive” 25%.

Further, Argus improves shovel operator technique and performance through its real-time feedback, in-seat coaching and peer benchmarking. It also improves site safety, machine reliability and mine compliance, and reduces cycle and load time, machine stress, mine plan deviations and unwanted events.

“We have received positive feedback from all levels within these Chilean mines, from machine operators through to mine management.”

He attributes the successful execution of the Argus systems and favourable feedback to its intuitive, easy-to-use and fully interoperable design, compared with payload and mine compliance systems. Argus is available for all electric shovel and hydraulic excavator models.