José Pablo Domínguez, General Manager – South America,
"ME Elecmetal is working on several initiatives with mining companies to make changes to processes and products, such as upgrades to mill liners that allow mining operations to run more safely and efficiently."
Which of ME Elecmetal’s solutions were in most demand in 2021 in South America, and can you elaborate on the work the company is doing at Teck's QB2 and Antofagasta's INCO project?
Although 2021 was a challenging year from the perspective of Covid and rising costs, it was a really successful year for ME Elecmetal in South America. We experienced important growth in almost every line, but especially in mill liners, grinding media, crushing parts and GET.
QB2 and INCO are two emblematic projects for the growth of mining in Chile, and ME Elecmetal has been in both from the beginning. We proposed AMSA and Teck to perform an optimization process of the mill liners designed for the specific processes of each operation so new equipment could be installed ready to use. That is why we expect, in both cases, that the clients will be able to achieve a smooth ramp-up of their mills and equipment, because they will start with liners designed specifically for those environments. This is unlike what is usually done, where standard mill liners are installed by the OEMS without taking into account for the distinctive features of the projects.
What do you think differentiates ME Elecmetal in the provision of solutions to the mining Industry?
ME Elecmetal has been focused on providing an integral solution tailored to the client’s needs. When we take on a project, we are not only looking for excellence in the manufacturing of the spare part or the liner, but also on the interaction of that component with the mill, the crusher, the equipment, the way they operate and the impact that will have on the tonnes per hour the mill or the crusher will yield, and/or in the mineral recovery. We have focused on learning about mineral processing and from that understanding, complementing our capacities with the equipment of manufacturing, maintenance and metallurgy of the mines to create the combination of solutions with the best performance.
How do ME Elecmetal’s solutions help reduce downtime and increase productivity?
The first thing we look for is preventing failure by delivering reliable and safe equipment. Secondly, we reduce downtime for maintenance; for that we have increased the size of the spare parts so that instead of changing 300 hundred pieces, for instance, only 150 need to be changed, thus reducing the time of installation. We also provide a service of maintenance monitoring, in which we follow up the micro and macro times to spot improvement opportunities. Furthermore, we continually update the design of our liners because downtime is one issue, but productivity is a whole other thing. For productivity we have found strategies to customize the lining profiles both for crushing and milling to achieve a better interaction between the milling balls and mill liners.
How is the company incorporating digitalization into its solutions?
Digitalization has brought up opportunities to capture a lot more information on what is happening both in crushing and milling, both in the mine with the shovels and the elements we provide, and from there we have been able to analyse the data to make improvements in products and services.
We incorporated our ME digital lab which has helped us implement solutions such as extending the use of laser and the Digital Twin. We have also integrated an important number of sensors to send valuable information about what is happening inside the mill.
What are the main themes you see impacting Chile’s mining sector?
We are seeing a mindset change regarding climate change. We have had many conversations with large mining operations and we are joining the sustainability strategy that mining is taking as an industry. We intend to make commitments to reduce our carbon footprint, incentivize circular economy processes, and help solve waste problems in mines. We have already made a lot of progress, for example, 96% of the raw materials we use for our mill liners are already based on recycled material, mostly recovered from the same mines.
Another key theme we see is the need to improve data analytics. Finally, we must continue to increase workplace safety for miners and remove them from harm’s way. For that, ME Elecmetal is working on several initiatives with mining companies to make changes to processes and products, such as upgrades to mill liners that allow mining operations to run more safely and efficiently.