Cost Control for an Uncertain Economy

Leaving the bigger is better format behind, the Haulage & Loading conference organizes a technical program that will help surface mine operators save money and operate more safely

The Haulage & Loading conference returns to the Wigwam Resort in Phoenix, Ariz., May 18-20, 2009. The most significant change that past delegates would probably notice is that the theme for the conference, “Cost Control for an Uncertain Economy,” was adapted to more accurately reflect the austere measures being taken by mining companies in today’s softening market. The 4-day event, which is the only conference geared specifically to surface mining and truck-shovel loading particular, integrates a small exhibit with a very strong technical program. Delegates can also participate in a golf outing and many of the meals and soirees are built into the program. 

The show officially opens Sunday evening May 17, 2009, with an evening pool-side reception, but attendees may want to arrive a day early to participate in the golf outing, which tees off at 7:00 a.m. Miners and suppliers, who will are attending Haulage & Loading for the first time, should leave the coats and ties at home. Similar to the venue, the dress code is resort casual/western wear. Spouses are welcome and the Wigwam has the exclusive Red Door Spa, which promises to properly pamper the significant other.

The conference begins on Monday morning, May 18, 2009, at 9:00 a.m., following a seated breakfast. Across the course of 2.5 days, delegates will hear about potential ways to improve operations from peers, vendors, and academics. The exhibits are open throughout the day all three days. The technical program, which awards professional development hours, consists of five sessions: Operational Excellence, Operations & Maintenance Strategies, Panel Discussion: Operating Safely in a Low Cost Environment, Safety & Management Training, and Information & Technology. This might just be the three most productive days in learning how to get a leg up during lean times.

Operational Excellence

On Monday morning, May 18, the Keynote Session opens with Dr. Roger J. Thompson, professor of mining engineering, Western Australian School of Mines, giving a presentation, Recognizing, Managing and Eliminating Safety Critical Defects on Mine Haul Roads. The design and management of mine roads has developed over the past decade, both in response to the requirements of mine operators for more safe and efficient haulage systems, and the truck manufacturers’ requirements for a more predictable and controlled operating environment. These developments have been paralleled by the need to minimize haulage hazards, both from a health and safety perspective. Generally, both objectives have been achieved, but with some specific areas of design and operation still presenting on-going potential health and safety hazards. 

This presentation summarizes over a decade of mine road accident data to illustrate a strong correlation between well designed and managed roads and reduced health and safety hazards. However, some hazards and incidents on mine roads are more common than others–what does this tell us about design, and more critically, management of a haul road network, to reduce these specific ‘safety-critical’ incidents? About half of the accidents on mine roads arise from design deficiencies centered on functional factors of dustiness, poor visibility, skid resistance and large stones in or on the road. In the case of geometric design it was seen that inappropriate junction layout, the absence or inadequacy of safety berms and lack of a road shoulder area were most frequently cited as factors in sub-standard geometric design. The balance of accidents were attributable to non-standard acts including human interactive errors. It is these human factor interactive effects that are the most difficult to eliminate in road design. They encompass the geometric, structural, functional and maintenance design components and to prevent an accident or reduce the severity of its consequences, a road should be more accommodating to human error. In this way a haul road can be designed to compensate for human error; the more that is known about human error, the better the road can be designed to accommodate those actions or non-standard practices.

The presentation then provides design guidelines for these safety-critical issues, both from a road-design ‘best-practice’ perspective, and also from a road management perspective. Implementation of the approach is seen as a basis for reducing the potential of an under-designed mine road to lead to health and safety defects and secondly as a means of giving haul road safety issues greater prominence in the minds of the road-user, operator, mine planner and designer alike.

The second presentation in the session is: In-Pit Crushing & Conveying Systems—Not a New Idea, But a New Reality, by Jeffrey L. Duvall, senior consultant, Snowden Mining Industry Consultants. Many technologies have been adopted over the last half century for the haulage of material from open pit mining operations. Some of the technologies used include rail, bucket -wheel excavator, off-highway trucks, conveyors, and slurry pipelines, with each having its unique application and benefits. Over time, truck haulage, with its flexibility and moderate life cycle cost, has become the primary means of surface mine material movement. This paper focuses on the re-emergence of in-pit crushing and conveying (IPCC) as a competitor to truck haulage which has been plagued by problems in recent years of tire shortages, high diesel fuel costs, labor shortages, and long lead times.

Multiple mining companies the world over are studying the adoption of IPCC to their mining operations and several have recently implemented these systems. IPCC systems can have many different configurations including fixed, semi-mobile, and fully mobile. This paper presents a broad overview of the technology and its application to open pit mining operations including system components, study methodologies, required inputs, mine design considerations, and system operation.

Scott Motycha, P.E., vice president and executive consultant, Marston & Marston, will present Texas Lignite Mines: Haul Road Design & Construction. In it, he will introduce the evolution and progression of haul roads in Texas and to provide perspective on design, construction and operational. A case history will be discussed about a design/build project, where Marston & Marston was responsible for the permitting, design and construction oversight of a haul road in a Texas lignite mine. 

The session will conclude with A Smoother Ride–Developing Improvements in Haul Truck Suspension Systems by Dr. Tim Joseph, professor, University of Alberta. Current research, development, training and implementation of more appropriate tradition kilometer per hour (tkph) evaluation procedures from existing hauler data demonstrates its implication for predicting tire life for a given operating site. Also in the development of more active suspension systems in general, the presentation offers prediction scenarios surrounding hauler emission levels as a function of road performance. 

Operations & Maintenance Strategies

On Monday afternoon, May 18, 2009, the second session has a total of six presentations and opens with Electric Mining Shovel Productivity Enhancements–Using Innovation to Increase Machine Availability by Ronald J. Doll, director of product marketing, Bucyrus. Mining shovels have been used since 1835 to move large volumes of earth in both the mining and construction industries. Since that time the capacities have steadily grown, but many of the design elements have remained constant. The wire rope crowd and dipper latch mechanism require periodic repair and replacement, that reduces critical production time. The Bucyrus HydraCrowd and LatchFree Dipper technology developments greatly reduce or eliminate downtime interruptions, and offer a significant return, compared with prior solutions. This paper reviews these new improvements and the quantitative results they offer.

Blake Larsen, high horsepower executive engineer, Cummins, will follow with Meeting Tier IV Emissions. The U.S. EPA Tier 4 Final Mobile Off-Highway emissions regulations go into affect January 01, 2015. The Tier 4 Final regulations require greater control of particulate emissions at 0.04 g/kW-hr while the NOx emissions target remains unchanged compared to the Tier 4 Interim (January 01, 2011) limit of 3.5 g/kW-hr. Several diesel engine technologies are available to meet the Tier 4 Final emissions regulations: Variable Valve Actuation (VVA – Miller Cycle), Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR), Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), and Diesel Particulate Filtration (DPF). An analysis of VVA, EGR, SCR and the use of a DPF will be presented.

The third presentation in the afternoon session, Managing OTR Tire Costs, by Jack Dutcher, national manager-OTR training & development, Bridgestone Firestone Off-Road, will give delegates some great ideas about managing tire for large fleets. Duiring this presentation, mine operators will learn how to manage inventories and maintain tires by monitoring inflation pressures and implementing an inspection program. Along with tips about operation conditions, it will suggest methods of forecasting tire needs and a selection process for best alternative should supplies be unavailable. 

Jonathan Baucom, product manager, Liebherr, in his presentation, Utilizing a Cost Per Ton Model as a Driving Factor for Haul Truck Design, will identify the major cost drivers associated with a new truck purchase and how Liebherr has approached finding a solution for these primary cost per ton influences. Liebherr’s solution is the decision to develop the highly efficient Ti274 320 ton (290 metric ton) mining truck. With an anticipated gross vehicle weight optimization that allows for cycle times that parallel the 240-ton truck class and production that competes with the ultra truck class, as well as improved tire and payload management, the Ti274 represents an aggressive approach by Liebherr toward an innovative solution for cost control.

In Optimizing Safety, Productivity and Operating Cost for Diesel Power in Mining Equipment, Ran Archer, mining sales manager, MTU, will present an impact study examining engine related factors that influence mining cost-per-ton for haul trucks, excavators and wheel loaders. It explores which factors are most significant and how the engine manufacturer, OEM and mining team can mutually influence efforts toward optimizing equipment performance.

The session will close with Roger Miller, Key Accounts Manager, Kaydon Filtration, and his presentation, Bulk Diesel Fuel Conditioning Improves Haul Truck Engine Reliability. It will examine the benefits of bulk fuel filtration and how it relates to improved reliability for diesel engines used in the mining industry. A brief discussion on engine technology (specifically fuel injectors and fuel pump systems) and the relationship it has to ever changing fuel chemistries and additives. A case study will be reviewed outlining the benefits of having solid and liquid contaminants dramatically reduced before the fuel enters the “on board” filtration system. These bulk fuel systems enhance operational time while reducing costs related to unscheduled maintenance and “incident” situations.

Panels Discussion Creates a Dialogue

On Tuesday morning, May 19, 2009, the technical program begins with a panel discussion titled, Operating Safely in a Low Cost Environment. Steve Fiscor, Editor-in-Chief, E&MJ/Coal Age will moderate a discussion between the audience and group of panelists: John Broderick, vice president and general manager of Sierrita operations, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold; Mark Kehler, general manager KMC Mining; Carmen Bianco, executive consultant, Behavioral Science Technology; and Mark Richards, marketing supervisor-large mining trucks, Caterpillar.

Mining companies are switching gears. They are rapidly adjusting production plans base on commodity prices and mining costs. During this period of change, operator safety is one area where mining companies can ill afford to compromise. Each of the panelists will make a 15-minute presentation based on there are of expertise, before fielding questions from the moderator and the audience. Borderick, who is involved in copper mining, and Kehler, who is a contract miner in the Canadian oil sands, will offer an operators perspective Bianco has worked with several large mining companies to instill a coroporate culture of safety based on bevavioral science. Richards will give advice on how to avoid operator fatigue with proper shift schedules

Safety & Management Training

On Tuesday afternoon, May 19, 2009, the regular technical programming resumes with a session on Safety & Management Training, which includes four presentations. The session genis with Apprentice Hiring and Training Model at Esperanza, by Rodrigo Diaz, Jefe Entrenamiento Mina, Minera Esperanza. As one of the newest mining projects in Chile, Esperanza understood that developing an effective training process for unskilled labor would be a key concern in achieving productivity and cost targets. This presentation discusses the results obtained in the instruction of 59 apprentices as Cat 797 haul truck drivers. The process was 6.5 months in length and it success rate was 81%. At its end, 48 students qualified as truck drivers, capable of operating with minimum supervision. five students of the group did not qualify but they are expected to eventually pass with further training and six students failed to qualify. The truck driver training process at Esperanza is based on three main tasks: Knowledge and practical skills development, behavior development and simulator use. In addition, it also included a previous recruiting stage supported on a competency model. The results obtained prompt to discuss further adjustment into selection tests at recruiting.

Mark Richards, marketing supervisor-large mining trucks, Cat, will present Slow Speed Object Detection for Haul Trucks. A need for better operator awareness of their surroundings has been growing for many years. While existing products, such as closed circuit television systems, provide better awareness than direct observation, they still rely on the operator to consistently use the system. A more active approach is needed to make the operator aware of the presence of objects in their immediate surroundings. This is especially important when the machine has been parked for a period of time and the operator needs to start moving the truck again. This presentation will cover Cat’s solution to provide an integrated active detection and warning system for haul truck applications. Topics to be covered include the research that went into developing the system, discussion of technologies used in the system, and features of the system.

Elaborating on some of the panel discussion topics, William “Bill” G. Sirois, senior vice president, Circadian Technologies, will present, Avoiding Operational Fatigue Through Biocompatible Shift Scheduling. For the equipment operators, however, 24/7 work schedules have meant chronic sleep deprivation and fatigue, increased human error, ill health, and dysfunctional family/social lifestyles. Mine work schedules are both the major cause and the cure for this dichotomy. This session will reveal why that is, what constitutes “user friendly” and fatigue busting shift patterns, and how to facilitate scheduling improvement through a positive and participatory process with people to reduce the costs, risks, and liabilities of fatigue.

In his presentation, The Role of Advanced Equipment Simulation in Training, Kelly Bevan, regional manager, Immersive Technologies, will discuss the use of simulators in training. Global economic conditions mandate every mine site maximize asset utilization while controlling maintenance costs. The need for a more efficient operator is at an all-time high without increasing risk to persons or equipment. Safety is not the only element of risk in this equation, however. Productivity suffers and maintenance costs escalate if new and experienced operators with bad habits are not identified. This presentation discusses simulation’s role in using strategic training as a driver for performance. Case studies outline the results of simulator utilization leading to dramatic results in mining companies around the world. Benefits include increases in tire life, decreased spotting and cycle times, and higher equipment availability and reliability.

Information & Technology

During the final session on Wednesday morning, May 20, 2009, five vendors will present ideas on the latest in Information & Technology. The presentations include: Green Peak Shavers, by Walter Koellner, business manager-mining, Siemens Energy & Automation. With highly cyclical loads, such as those found on electric shovels and draglines, the equipment pulls a very high peak load from the power system. The mines sometimes have to worry about line voltage fluctuation, often referred to as voltage flicker (e.g., monitors flicker, lights go dim, etc.). The mine could avoid high peaks by bringing additional power that from the stored energy story. For equipment that has motoring and regeneration, such as electric shovels and draglines, the mines could benefit by meeting the peak motoring current or power demands from a stored energy source. During regeneration, the energy source is recharged. Peak power demands are reduced, which lowers overall energy costs. Siemens is developing power storage systems using ultra capacitors.

Leveraging Remote Asset Health Monitoring Technologies to Reduce Mining

Equipment Cost/Ton by Curt Hanson, director-product management, P&H Mining Equipment Co. P&H is currently developing real time remote monitoring and asset health technology that empowers their customers to better manage P&H equipment, optimize production, and drive down their operating and maintenance costs. P&H’s customers operate their equipment in some of the most remote locations world wide, often with extremely limited access and on site resources. Their technology allows their customers to make real-time informed decisions centrally, away from some of the extreme remote locations, diagnose faults, respond to changes in asset heath and predict failures before they occur. P&H also leverages the technology to incorporate the information back into their products and manufacturing process to achieve operational excellence.

Switched Reluctance Drive systems and Hybrid Drive Technology, by Brad Rogers, vice president and general manager, LeTourneau. Since the 1930’s, LeTourneau has been a pioneer in the development of diesel-electric drive systems for earthmoving machinery. Over the past 3 decades, we have increasingly used “regenerative” methods to capture lost energy in the drive train to increase efficiency and lower fuel consumption. With the advent of Switched Reluctance motors/generators and associated power electronics in the past decade, LeTourneau has reached a new level of drive system efficiency, reduction of required maintenance and development of a true hybrid drive system to reach maximum fuel efficiency in diesel-electric earthmoving vehicles.

How to Do More With Less, by Rick Reynolds, chief of engineering, Westech, and Rich Peters, North American sales manager, Westech. In today’s economic situation, mines are being asked to do more with less. The real question becomes: how to do more with less hours? How can you increase the number of tons hauled per hour using fewer trucks? Lightweight bodies can do exactly that. Bodies that are engineered for strength where need and cut back where it isn’t.

Intelligent Machine Systems and Their Communications Requirements, by Dave Goddard, vice president-marketing and business development, 3D-P. The mining industry is quickly adopting the foundational technologies necessary to allow the vision of an autonomous mine to become reality. A multi-vendor approach to this adoption allows the mines to integrate best-of-breed technologies, but each of these technologies has unique communications requirements that have traditionally been fulfilled by the technology vendor with proprietary systems. This presentation will discuss the requirements of these various applications and describe a unified communications architecture that meets the individual application requirements. A recent deployment and lessons learned will be presented.