Article first published in Mexican Mining Review (MMR). Our thanks to MMR for kind permission to re-publish the article.
Tenova TAKRAF is recognized globally as a leading OEM supplier of mining and bulk material handling equipment, ranging from in-pit crushing plants, conveyors, to spreaders, stackers, reclaimers, ship loaders & unloaders, and truck & train load-out stations. Boasting an existence dating back more than 200 years and specializing in engineered solutions for over the past 100 years, the TAKRAF Group has the experience and know-how to design solutions for the most complex challenges in the mining, materials handling, minerals processing and beneficiation industries. Leveraging its significant experience and global engineering expertise, TAKRAF designed and supplied the spreader at the Penasquito waste rock pile facility in Mexico.
The spreader was commissioned in 2013, with engineering and design being conducted out of the company's German competence centers in collaboration with the Denver office in the United States. This spreader forms part of a larger system, comprising overland conveyors and a tripper car, which was constructed and commissioned entirely by TAKRAF. This is a world class system, able to handle 12,000 MTPH of material (or 7,300 m³/h) - that's one regular 10 m³ dump-truck every 5 seconds! This system substitutes dozens of mining trucks that would otherwise be hauling material for several miles, burning diesel, and emitting greenhouse gases 24/7. Maintenance-wise, the savings are also significant since a conveyor system is more reliable than a trucking operation and the vast majority of servicing is conducted during pre-scheduled shut downs. As a result, there is no impact to the planned production of the mine.
The outreach of the spreader's discharge boom is 50m. This guarantees that equipment and personnel are significantly far from the edge of the pile. This not only ensures that the operation runs efficiently at a large block size, but, more importantly, that it runs safely. The superstructure of the machine has been laid out in the typical TAKRAF compact design, having a center of gravity suitably low for seismic conditions and best access to the hydraulic hoists as well as the e-house. With a ground pressure of only 125 kPa, the forces impacting the pile are very low, contributing further to the safety of the system. With such low pressures combined with the large distance between equipment and the crest of the pile, it is guaranteed that caving or the sliding of material will not occur. This double-designed protection favors production, but, more importantly, the safety of the operators and equipment.
The spreader moves longitudinally along the shift-able conveyor and once the block is completed and no more material can be dumped at low cast, the system is shifted by means of a dozer equipped with a shifting mechanism. The upstream conveyor should also have its crawler-mounted head station extended to the new location. This is all able to be conducted in less than 24 hours, with the system able to be ready for operation on the next shift.
Only one operator is required to operate this system. As the material is fed through the conveyors, the spreader reclaims it by means of a crawler mounted tripper car to which it is directly connected. The operator controls the movement of the spreader as well as the direction to which the boom is pointed. Of course, the stopping sequence of the equipment is such that even in the event of a power failure, no overflow of the chutes will occur. All conveyors will be ready to be started automatically when the command is given by either the spreader operator or the plant's control room. As is customary, all equipment is monitored by sensors to avoid plugged chutes and belt slippage. Also, automatic detection of belt rips is employed so that in the event of tramp metal puncturing the belt, the system will automatically shut off to limit belt damage. Pull cords are also installed at any point where an emergency might require the belt to be stopped.
The spreader has been in operation for the past 4 years and has demonstrated both exceptional reliability and efficiency; in fact, the system is so flexible that it has even catered to slight changes in operation in comparison to the original design of the dump site. What's important is that the client has been able to improve their bottom line; from significant savings - diesel fuel, maintenance & operation of mine trucks, shovels, and push dozers - to increased production and efficiency. What's even more important is that the client has been able to achieve this with increased safety levels too.
Below follows an interview with Tom Gramling (President: TAKRAF Mexico and TAKRAF USA) conducted by MMR in the same issue:
Q: What role does the Mexican mining industry play in your business strategy?
A: We started to focus on the mining industry in Latin America in the 1990s when traditional markets in Eastern Europe broke down due to economic shifts. The company realized that Latin America had the fastest-growing copper markets, particularly in Mexico. Today, we have a presence in all the major mining countries around the world, including Mexico, Chile, Peru, Canada and the US. In comparison to other mining economies, Mexico has substantial advantages. Countries like Australia have depleting resources while others such as Indonesia have political problems. Mexico on the other hand, has an abundance of resources yet to be explored and the potential to be a mining powerhouse. Mexico is a major player today in the global mining industry, with 1,172 opportunities identified across all commodities and in all stages of development. We are interested in 717 that are in early stages of development. We have completed many successful projects in Mexico including a high-capacity conveying system installed in Buenavista del Cobre for Grupo México, and a shiploader for limestone in Quintana Roo. We continuously strive to be at the forefront of new technology so that we can best serve our clients in Mexico and elsewhere in their pursuit of delivering ore and concentrates at competitive prices.
Q: What role do mergers and acquisitions play within your business strategy and ability to innovate?
A: We search for companies that are well respected in the industry and have excellent long-term relationships with their clients, but that also aim to develop technology that can impact the industry. TAKRAF recently acquired FMC Technologies’ material-handling business (Material Handling Systems) based in Pennsylvania. With a product portfolio complementary to TAKRAF’s, the group can now provide a wider range of equipment specialized to smaller capacity volumes and integrated in-plant conveyor solutions.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to entering the Mexican market with innovative technology?
A: One of the biggest issues we face is acceptance of new technology, although we have succeeded in introducing state of the art equipment on some recent projects in Mexico. I am encouraged that our clients in Mexico trust that our equipment can help them overcome challenging situations. Mexico is an ideal candidate for introducing products such as our overland conveyors, spreaders and mobile stackers and availing of TAKRAF’s wide range of services from conceptual studies. Considering the complexity and sophistication of the equipment, TAKRAF provides installation support as well as emergency calls. TAKRAF specialists can get to any site in Mexico within a day.
Q: What kind of logistical challenges do you face in Mexico when it comes to shipping and processing?
A: As in many places around the world, Mexico has challenges when it comes to safe and efficient transportation of goods. Mexico is improving the situation by further developing its bridges and roads to facilitate transportation to its industrial sites. The two-lane highway to Cananea, Sonora from Arizona is still quite dangerous even after improvements that have taken over three years to complete. Improving the efficiency of logistics will require continued investment in its transportation infrastructure, but this is vital in Mexico because moving goods and equipment safely and effectively remains an issue for our clients in the country.
Q: What plans do you have to further establish the company’s brands in Mexico?
A: TAKRAF will continue to invest in its offices in Santa Fe, Mexico City and Cananea, increasing resources as needed to advance the TAKRAF, DELKOR and TAT brands. We predict that mineral prices will be at high levels again by 2020 and Mexico will be one of the main beneficiaries. So it is essential that we continue to improve our presence in the country, maintain our client relationships and develop new partners.