Remote operations

Dealing with extreme environments

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Mining operations require a great deal of force, deployed with a great deal of sophistication. The key to success is simply to install the most efficient and effective equipment and make sure it does what it was designed to.

Our mining gear is produced with the benefit of the largest installed base in the world and a comprehensive knowledge bank built up over more than four decades – we delivered the world’s first gearless drive to Lafarge Cement in France back in 1969, and the equipment is still operating today. Our first gearless mill drive for mineral processing was used at the Bougainville copper mine in Papua New Guinea in 1985. Since then, we have received orders for many systems, and we’ve delivered them all over the world.

To increase the robustness and efficiency of our machinery still further, we at ABB have devised a system to monitor all our assets, including hoists, ventilation fans and GMDs as well as the entire grinding and separation process. This allows us to arrive at new solutions to old problems: for example, our GMDs can be subjected to more than 30 continuous diagnostic analyses. As soon as a given variable crosses a set threshold, our experts as well as the customer’s personnel will be alerted and action can be taken before an unplanned stoppage occurs.

Ideal collaboration
Consider the advantages that this gives an operator. For example, a few years ago we signed a three-year agreement with one of the world’s largest copper producers whereby we monitored the performance of the GMD at one of its largest mines. This gave our client the additional security of a team of experts who are available to support its operations 24/7. If a problem occurs, our engineers will have already logged the relevant data, so analysis, in partnership with site personnel, can begin within the hour. This creates an ideal collaboration: our knowledge of the system combined with the client’s knowledge of the site. The advantages are obvious when you consider the vast scale of the operation, what the cost consequences would be of an unplanned shutdown, and the long-term productivity gains that accrue from operating the mill with exactly the right power.

Changing up
It is just as clear what the advantages are for operators with less rich ore bodies. As conveniently located deposits of high-grade minerals are worked out, companies have to travel further and deeper to exploit lower grades. The operations we service are found in the extreme north of Sweden, the middle of the Amazon rainforest and three miles high in the Peruvian Andes.

Without remote support, on-site personnel would have to handle all the plant’s operational problems as well as preventive and predictive maintenance: this is a big ask, especially given the difficulty of recruiting skilled personnel to work in isolated locations. What’s more, the scope of the support offered can be tailored to the client’s needs, and we can even help you determine what those needs are using our “Fingerprint” auditing service.

So, the bad news is that tougher production conditions will have to be met by ever greater productivity gains. But the good news is that there will be more scope for those gains as optimization processes become better at getting more output for less input: for example, we are on the cusp of machine-to-machine communication, which will build in more network links and feedback loops and thereby create smarter production.

ABB is driving these improvements with a combination of proven reliability and continuous innovation backed up by the advanced services that are exemplified by remote monitoring – and we can bring them all to your mining operations, and your bottom line …

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