Up in the Air

At any mine site with crane-assisted construction or overhead repairs under way, what goes up must come down — at the right time and under complete control. Here’s how the latest crane tech can help ensure that outcome.

When miners say things are “looking up,” it’s unlikely they’re talking about overhead safety awareness. Similarly to many other industrial environments, the usual visual focus in surface mining is largely on what’s in front of or below a worker, and that can be a dangerous fixation: there are often hazards overhead ranging from improperly secured or controlled crane loads to fasteners, tools and parts dropped from height during maintenance and repair activities.

The cost of lifting and overhead-safety-related mishaps can be staggeringly high, from both financial and personnel health aspects. A recent analysis by overhead crane manufacturer Konecranes of Occupational Safety and Health Administration-reported crane incidents in the United States, involving a study tracking 249 incidents over a 10-year period, showed that the average cost to an employer from a major crane-related injury was $200,000. A crane-related fatality costs an average of $4 million.

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Shell-supported Ball Mills: Grinding Technology on a Large Scale

A major ball mill manufacturer presents a persuasive case for choosing this proven — and improved — design over other types

Over many years of use, shell-supported ball mills similar to those pictured above have proven their efficiency and reliability, and a large number of mining projects would not have been viable without them. A large and increasing number of references show that shell-supported ball mills work efficiently and reliably under the most stringent operating conditions. Their design advantages have earned them wide acceptance in the minerals industry, where they are used to grind copper, gold, and silver ores and other hard-rock materials.

Shell-supported mills comprise a steel cylinder, which is attached to the end walls. The mill cylinder is supported on two integral slide rings. Each bearing assembly consists of four to six white metal-coated sliding shoes, allowing the cylinder to rotate.

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Connecting the Connected Mine

Wireless communications help tie together all aspects of large and complex mining operations

How do you connect operations that cover vast stretches of land in some of the world’s most rugged and remote locations?
That’s the question many mining companies are asking today as they look to create a connected mine. They want to take advantage of greater data access, real-time analytics, autonomous systems and services such as remote monitoring, but they first need a network infrastructure that will tie all of those technologies and capabilities together.

Their challenges are unique. Not only do mining operations span great distances, but they are often located in remote areas with minimal or no communications infrastructure. The very nature of mining operations, with continuous digging or blasting, also means that the landscapes in which communications must take place are constantly changing or expanding. And the need to maintain network uptime is vital to both a mine’s productivity and safety.

The first step for mining companies is to converge their information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) systems into a single, unified network infrastructure. This eliminates silos of information and, as result, enables seamless information sharing across an entire mining operation.

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Winning the War Against Wear

‘The best defense is a good offense’ applies to many activities, including games and military combat. Metal wear generally can’t be defeated, but proactive product selection can be effective in battling abrasion to a draw.

Mining takes its wealth from the Earth, which in turn imposes its own expensive toll on the equipment used to dig, move and crush ore — wearing down parts and equipment at a rate that costs the mining industry untold millions in replacement costs and downtime. In the most extreme mining conditions, it can be a race between abrasion and corrosion to see which process can destroy a part faster (see sidebar article, p. 69).

Miners typically employ a three-pronged approach — prevention, detection and repair — to battle the problem, and industry suppliers are providing new weapons in all three areas. Here’s a look at the latest wear-protection products and technology.

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