Pipes, Valves, Components & Wear Protection
Sustainability is driving piping and valve innovation
The reduction of diesel emissions was one of the key areas of focus at the 2022 World Copper Conference in Santiago, with Rag Udd, BHP’s president minerals Americas, giving an open invitation to companies that could assist in this area. While electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles are one option, the industry already has alternatives for certain processes, such as pumps.
Ricardo Garib, president of Weir Minerals, discussed some of the environmental benefits of using pumps: “With our GEHO ZPM Piston Diaphragm pumps, instead of having, as an example, 100 trucks a day, transporting concentrate over 300 km or so from the mine to a port, our solution uses several pumps in series which can transport slurry through a pipeline to the port, eliminating the need for truck transport.”
Pedro Urzua, general manager – Chile at Fastpack S.A., commented that as providers of piping and valves for fluid handling and control systems, Fastpack’s priority is to prevent spills or leakage events along customers' pipelines. “There is a percentage of water that is lost in the clients’ processes, sometimes up to 30%, due to improper use or equipment,” he explained, adding that to minimize water loss, Fastpack trains its customers’ operators to help them to get the best performance of the equipment and materials, resulting in greater ROI and more sustainable operations.
“In mining, due to the complexity and harsh environments in which rotating equipment is used in, generally we see very short life cycles. John Crane works with pump manufacturers on solutions including mechanical seals, which can last up to 18 months and do not use water.”
Carlos A. Ramírez, General Manager – Chile & Peru, John Crane
Innovation in the valve segment of the mining industry, through smart flow control solutions, is also enhancing the sustainability of mining operations. Gonzalo Silva, regional manager of Neles Chile SpA, which is now part of Valmet after the merger of Valmet and Neles was completed on April 1st, 2022, explained how the company’s software helps avoid unnecessary stoppages, reduces waste from the process, reduces the replacement of equipment, and avoiding contamination due to excessive consumption of any product.
Silva gave the following example: “To this end, we have solutions called Zero Leakage. These solutions guarantee that everything being controlled by our valves is going to stay within the process and not go out into the atmosphere.”
Equipment component suppliers
Brownfield expansions have been the greatest area of investment in the Chilean mining sector, with a number of greenfield projects on hold until uncertainty surrounding constitutional change and royalty regulations have cleared. This offers opportunities for the companies that supply components to material handling manufacturers and OEMs.
“We have seen great demand for bearings in the comminution stage, where conveyor belts are a critical part of mining operations and they require reliable solutions that can endure all types of contamination along the way, such as water and dust,” said Carlos Lahura, managing director – Andean region at SKF Group.
SKF has invested in new technologies such as the SKF Cooper solution for conveyor pulleys, which utilizes triple barrier technology to reduce the contamination, while at the same time reducing the time needed for maintenance by including a split bearing. Lahura added: “This innovation for this critical application results in significant reductions in downtime and immense savings in plant maintenance.”
Alvaro Palazuelos Gonzales, general manager – South America for Australian equipment supplier Austin, revealed that the company’s most popular solution in the Chilean market has been Austin’s dump truck bodies, having sold more than 600 units since 2019. He went on to discuss the benefits of Austin’s focus on customization, giving the example of the company’s work at Collahuasi: “The TBO (total benefit of ownership) of the dump truck bodies used to be 15,000 hours at Collahuasi, but with Austin’s customization it increased to between 22,500 and 30,000 hours.”
Austin’s La Negra base in Antofagasta became the company’s Latin American headquarters in November 2020 after the decision to close operations in Colombia and Peru and to supply these markets from Chile in the south, or from Wyoming in the north. Palazuelos said the decision behind this restructuring is to focus on the manufacturing of dump truck bodies and buckets – “something that we have a lot of expertise in globally, but have room to grow in South America.”
Another Australian company experiencing growth in South America is Hofmann Engineering, which has a range of mobile mining equipment such as draglines, electric rock shovels, excavators, blast hole drills and wheel loaders, gearbox solutions, and a range of fixed plant equipment such as HPGRs (High Pressure Grinding Rolls). Simão Antunes, Hofmann’s general manager – South America, said that the company has seen great demand for its HPGR components in the region, becoming the first non-OEM company to supply HPGR rollers and change outs to mining operations in Chile and Peru. He gave the example of Cerro Verde in Peru, where Hofmann has the best performing tires at the operation. “This is a result of ongoing work in improving the technical features of our HPGR rollers together with listening to customer feedback to make slight changes on our products to accommodate for better performance. We have been able to reduce manufacturing costs leading to decreased operational costs at Cerro Verde.”
“There is a ratio between costs and the price of a product that equates to a total effective cost. Some of our products might cost more than the competition but last twice as long, which means the total effective cost is less.”
José M. Castillo, Managing Director, Rema Tip Top Chile
Wear protection solutions
Inflation is forecast to be higher than 9% in Chile in 2022, mirroring a global trend of higher costs caused by supply chain delays and geopolitical tension. Demand for mining machinery has remained robust, but guaranteeing timely and affordable supply has been a challenge. In this respect, solutions that can increase the wear life of equipment have become more valuable.
“Rema Tip Top has been known for many years as the Mercedes-Benz of wear protection – our solutions make products last longer – and we have kept this reputation to this day,” stated José Castillo, managing director of Rema Tip Top Chile, who spoke of the ratio between the cost and the price of a product, which equates to a total effective cost. “Some of our products might cost more than the competition but last twice as long, which means the total effective cost is less,” he said, explaining that because of the quality of Rema Tip Top’s products and the fact they are embedded with wear protection solutions, the company does not compete in the cheap rubber market where clients do not necessarily request such high quality.
A Chilean company with a wide range of wear protection solutions is Fourthane, which created products for the quick repair of conveyor belts, in addition to having a range of products for lining mining equipment and components. Eduardo Fajre, Fourthane’s commercial manager, elaborated on the company’s evolution to cater for more varied mining processes, including abrasion and impact resistant products for flotation cells, chutes, agglomerating drums, bucked wheel excavators and pulley linings, among others.
Fajre revealed that Fourthane doubled its international client base in 2021, with customers in North and South America, Europe and Africa. He gave an example of where the company channels its innovation: “One of our focus areas is anti-wear coating for some components and parts used in flotation and grinding plants. For example, we can extend the life of SAG Mill trommels from 30 days to up to 90 days.”
High-Res Tecnología Antidesgaste (High-Res) is another Chilean company dedicated to the development and manufacturing of innovation in the area of anti-wear coatings for abrasion, impact or corrosion. Rodrigo Diaz, general manager of High-Res, spoke of the company’s work with Codelco at Chuquicamata on the first production line for crushing, before when Codelco has been having issues with the process, stopping every 15 days to change the coating in the middle conveyor belt. “Stopping a mining operation for eight or nine hours every 15 days is too much, so we proposed a solution – a High-Res design using rubber, plasma and tungsten carbide – which meant operations stopped only once every three months, rather than every 15 days,” said Diaz, adding that High-Res is now working on the entire line of wear products for Chuquicamata, and in certain areas can improve equipment wear from 20 days of durability to over six months.
Image courtesy of Neles