In addition to supplying equipment, METS providers develop solutions that improve safety and lower operating costs
by Steve Fiscor, editor-in-chief
This month, mining equipment and technology service (METS) providers planned to showcase their new products and technologies. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the National Mining Association to postpone METS until next year, upsetting dozens of mining-related product launches. To find out what the industry may have seen at the event, Coal Age reached out to a large group of METS providers and asked them if they would be willing to discuss their original plans for MINExpo 2020. Some said they were postponing their announcements for another year. Several major mining original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are moving forward and have organized virtual events, which will take place in the next few months. Others wanted to share what they had, which has been assembled as a digest, referred to as the Coal Age METS Showcase.
Fletcher’s Underground Drilling Equipment
J.H. Fletcher was planning to bring several pieces of underground drilling equipment to MINExpo 2020.For coal operators, they were planning to showcase the HDDR with an indexing feed. “We’re taking automated, mechanical technology from the metal mining side of the business and applying it to the coal side,” said Ben Hardman, vice president-sales for J.H. Fletcher. “Currently, roof bolters put a drill steel in a chuck, drill the hole, remove the steel, insert a resign cartridge, push it up with the bolt, put the bolt head in the chuck and spin it into place. With an indexing feed, once the hole is drilled, the machine indexes the drill steel out of the way and the bolt is installed with a separate feed.”
Single pass drilling requires a longer feed, so this is a larger machine for larger seam heights. “The operators are also able to increase the bolting speeds while avoiding contact with the drill steel,” Hardman said. “Ergonomically, it removes the task of handling the drill steel. Once it is indexed out of the way, the bolt feed would be indexed into position. The machine basically has two feeds that swing into and out of position.”
The roofbolter would still have to insert the resin cartridge and the bolt. Fletcher has also added features to enhance safety for challenging environments as well as improved maintainability by re-routing hydraulic lines and enhanced component placement.
Derrick’s Super Stack Sizer
Derrick Corp. said it was planning to showcase its Super Stack high-frequency vibratory screening machine at MINExpo 2020. The machine was designed as a replacement for hydrocyclones in grinding circuits. The eight-deck Super Stack offers a significantly higher production capacity in a smaller footprint than conventional screening equipment. The decks on the Super Stack are about a foot wider than the decks on the company’s Stack Sizer. “The tensioning technology is quite a bit different, too,” said David Perkins, commercial director for Derrick’s Mining and Industrial Division. “This model institutes a front-to-back tensioning system, which uses a single lever, instead of the traditional tensioning bolts on the side. Screen panels can be changed in minutes instead of hours.
The Super Stack is close to having the same footprint as the Stack Sizer with nearly three times the capacity, Perkins explained. “We have increased the surface area and modified the crown,” Perkins said. “Instead of the side-to-side crown, it has a fed-to-discharge crown. Slurries stay on the same trajectory rather than migrating to the edges.”
Schurco Slurry’s New Mechanical Seal
One of the items Schurco Slurry intended to discuss at MINExpo was the new mechanical seal technology it is integrating with its slurry pumps, which goes somewhat against the grain of conventional thinking. “Typically, mechanical seals have not been a popular choice with slurry pumping applications,” said Will Pierce, manager of engineering, Schurco Slurry. “They can be finicky, and they haven’t worked well in the past. What we found was that the traditional maintenance practices were insufficient at the end-user level.”
They decided to partner with a leading manufacturer to produce a Schurco Slurry mechanical seal. “We now have 50 of them installed across a wide cross section of mining operations, including coal, gold and aggregate operations,” Pierce said. “We have experienced no premature failures to date [two years].”
The Schurco Slurry mechanical seals are a single-faced grease-quenched design. “We are using a single silicon-carbide face, but we can provide different faces, such as tungsten carbide, if needed,” Pierce said. “It has a containment lip seal outboard, which retains a special synthetic grease lubricant with an inter-seal design. It could run dry for short periods of time, but we do not recommend it.”
The seal manufacturer worked with Schurco Slurry to develop a cost-effective product. Because the shafts on slurry pumps are so large, the cost for mechanical seals are higher. By offering it as a Schurco brand, they were able to provide it at competitive prices. “It’s still more expensive than a standard packed, stuffing-box seal or an expeller seal, but it offers the advantage of zero external leakage,” Pierce said. “An expeller can be prone to leaking when a slurry pump is shut down. The packed seal leaks by design.”
It also offers the advantage of steady day-in, day-out operations, Pierce explained, and this is something more mines are considering as a cost-effective, robust solution for a wide range of slurries from handing 50% solids to mine dewatering applications. Packed seals, by design, allow water to re-enter the process, which is inefficient for dewatering applications. Most thickener and clarifier underflow pumps are packed, as the feed tanks are too tall for expeller seals. A mechanical seal would require less maintenance intervention than packed seals. “We would still propose expeller seals for most mining applications,” Pierce said. “When the costs are compared between packed and mechanical seals, we are starting to see serious cost-benefit advantages for the mechanical seals over the long term.
In a mine dewatering application with 10% solids or less, the new Schurco Slurry mechanical seal could operate for years. One in a thickener underflow application at an aggregate operation has been operating problem and leak free for more than a year now.
Hilliard’s Braking Technology for Mills
Hilliard said it planned to show its updated braking technology at MINExpo 2020. A mining industry leader in braking technology, Hilliard provides fail-safe braking technology for high-torque applications, such as draglines, overland conveyors and mine hoists. “More mining companies are asking Hilliard to provide braking systems for their large conveyor systems,” said Rick Kallenborn, regional sales manager for Hilliard’s Motion Control Division. He said the M500 paired with a BrakeBoss 2 or 3 is a popular choice for this application. “We use a bleeder valve for a slow brake release,” Kallenborn said. “If the mine needs 15 seconds to reach full load from startup, we can do a slow dump on the hydraulic pressure.”
With conveyors systems, fail-safe brakes, meaning spring applied and hydraulically released, are normally attached to the drive pulleys. “Brakes offer an advantage over backstops,” Kallenborn said. “A backstop will not allow reverse rotation. If the backstop initiates on a feeder belt, the discharge end of the conveyor can be overhung with a heavy load, which could make maintenance tricky. Brakes allow the belt to be reversed to free the tension for repair.”
Backstops can be placed in the system internally (inside the gearbox) and externally, while brakes are always externally applied systems. “The biggest advantage with our MTs or backstops is that we have a roller ramp design versus a spragged design,” Kallenborn said. “The cylindrical rolls, which are turning all of the time, do not have a common wear point.”
For years, draglines have relied on the A400 caliper SA (spring applied, air released thruster), Kallenborn explained. “We are now looking at rope shovel applications,” Kallenborn said. “The arrangement will be similar to the dragline application, but with a smaller disc, and the brakes would be mounted in a little different orientation.”
In addition to providing a reliable product, Hilliard also has extensive field service capabilities to maintain existing applications and design new systems as needed.
IWT Improves Networking Capabilities
Had MINExpo taken place, IWT would have showcased its latest innovation: the Wireless Working Section. The benefits of the wireless working section include improved rapid advancement, related to increases in productivity. The Wireless Working Section relies on IWT’s new SENTINEL Uniti Node. With no need for stringing cables, it is easy to deploy and the mesh connections it provides allows users to find the network and link up automatically. There is no preprogramming associated with this system.
The Uniti Node cannot only perform tracking and communication, it also provides the infrastructure to transmit data from production equipment at the face all the way to the surface. Earlier this year, the Mine Safety and Health Administration granted IWT an Intrinsically Safe Approval for the system. “The real benefits of the Wireless Working Section that mines see is increased productivity by improving workflow,” said Brad Hartwick, IWT’s Midwest sales director for mining and tunneling. “It offers the tracking, communications and data features that users would expect from IWT, and it provides Wi-Fi at the face. Maintenance personnel, for example, can now FaceTime a factory technician and get assistance in diagnosing an issue in real time. Uniti also enables the users to establish data analytics and performing SSI [Short Session Interval] time studies. The system supports the new MSHA and NRTL-approved Wireless Gas Monitor that IWT launched at the beginning of 2020.
More than 100 mines have adopted the use of IWT’s SENTINEL system. “The standard IWT communications and tracking system provides voice, text, tracking and data, which is a huge productivity enabler,” said Matthew Fisher, program manager for IWT. “We have some cases where the safety side of this technology has proven to be life-saving.”
The Uniti Node adds high-speed data rate backhaul, and offers local Wi-Fi access, in conjunction with battery-powered voice, text and tracking system. Any Wi-Fi enabled device can connect to the network, Fisher explained. “And, when there is an emergency, the mine still has the post-incident voice, text and tracking system enabled for a long time as it’s very energy efficient.”
One of IWT’s customers, a coal operator in the eastern U.S., saw productivity increase 15% based on efficiency improvments. It brings both worlds together to improve productivity using the wireless capabilities of the post-incident communications system.
IWT is also applying its network to solve other problems on the surface at mines and other industrial sites. The company has developed the Envōk Tailings Monitoring Solution. “We have a wireless network that can operate in rugged, remote areas, and can connect to existing sensors and equipment,” Fisher said. “Why not apply this technology to regularly monitor run-off, groundwater and tailings?”
When it comes to run-off, mines often must meet a predetermined set of environmental guidelines. “Envōk would collect water quality data and eliminate the need to manually sample the data on a pump or a sensor on a well,” Fisher said. “Manual data entry can be error prone. This system would offer real-time, live connectivity to the sensors. Environmental managers and engineers can view this data on their phones and manage it from the office. The system works in remote places with limited or no cellular service.” Hartwick added, “During the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies had to adapt quickly to working remotely. This technology has solved that issue for many customers.”
IWT’s wireless network is simple and easy-to-use, Fisher explained. “With minor configuration in the web application, the end users can see the data and decide how they want to present it to the organization,” Fisher said. Mine owners would have an automated solution and they could demonstrate to regulators that they are being proactive.”
The system could also be configured to signal ground movement to warn of a potential dam failure or landslide. “The system could monitor extensometers and, when ground movement hits a certain threshold, certain people are alerted immediately,” Fisher said. “This system could monitor conditions and send emails and alerts. It could also trigger other events to happen, such as sounding an alarm, closing a well or powering up a pump.
The adoption rate for remote monitoring systems varies throughout the mining business. Some organizations know exactly what they want and others just know they have a problem. IWT can provide a turn-key solution for both, Fisher explained. “Different vendors provide sensors with different accuracies and this is an adaptable architecture that connects everything,” Fisher said. “The system can take values from two different sensors and combine that into new data and monitor that as well.”
The Envōk Tailings Management System reduces the manpower associated with monitoring all those items, Hartwick explained. “In a day, a mine engineer in the western U.S. could travel a 300-mile loop to manually record data from every point. Wireless devices can transmit all this data to one device within seconds. It will make the whole process more efficient.”
Prior to this, the environmental manager would typically need to get IT or engineering involved with the data collection efforts. While there will always be a little need for that, depending on the system’s complexity, this turn-key solution solves a lot of those problems, Fisher explained. “We assist in design, installation and maintenance,” Fisher said. “And, we provide an interface that allows users to manipulate values that they understand rather than programming custom apps. We are simplifying the installation process and eliminating the need to write code.” IWT already installed a few Envōk Tailings Management Systems and are looking to work with more mines to implement pilot programs.
“All of these products use the proven technology of IWT’s proprietary 900-MHz protocol,” Hartwick said. “We are using our intimate knowledge of mining to help our customers be safer and more productive.”
Richwood Improves Conveyor Performance
For more than 40 years, Richwood has played a vital role in the industry by improving the performance of the conveyor systems that transport coal. Founded in 1976, the company manufactured its first product, the Richwood Belt Cleaning System, in 1980. Since then, they have continued to evolve as the size and capacity of conveyors has grown.
Richwood COO Kevin Maloy, who joined the company in 1984, explained that while conveyors have changed, the company’s philosophy has not. He recalls being impressed with the belt cleaner’s original design when first joining Richwood, but what he admired most was their approach toward customers. “Simply put, we don’t manufacture and sell equipment,” Maloy said. “We provide tools to deliver results and cost savings for our clients. We make recommendations specific to application needs, provide engineered drawings for that equipment and commercial proposals that include a written guarantee of performance. The customer is not just buying equipment, they are making an investment for the results the equipment will provide.”
The industry has changed a lot over the years and Richwood has evolved with it. “When I started, a wide belt was 48 inches, a fast belt was 500 feet per minute (fpm) and 500 tons per hour (tph) was a lot,” Maloy said. “Today belts can be as wide as 120 in., travel at speeds up to 1,600 fpm at capacities as high as 15,000 tph.”
To keep pace with the market, Richwood invested in its manufacturing and engineering teams as well as R&D. “We have a very solid network of technically trained people that support our clients in coal, aggregates and metals mining,” Maloy said. “We innovate product designs and hold numerous patents. Our mission is clearly focused. We provide unique solutions to material handling challenges that we are 100% confident to supply and support as Richwood grade.”
Had MINExpo taken place, attendees would have seen the full line of Richwood equipment including the exclusive Worry-Free Load Zones. “Load zones are our second-largest product focus behind the belt cleaners,” Maloy said. “The evolution with this product line has been organic. Customers asked us to address problems at transfer points, such as failing impact idlers and material spillage. The first result was the Richwood Impact Saddle. We took the concept of the slider bed and improved it by designing beyond the aspects that we observed to be detrimental to the life of conveyor belt. Belting is the single most costly wear part on a conveyor system. All Richwood product designs focus on extending the service life of belting by preventing damage. The Impact Saddle, for example, was designed to fully support the conveyor belt in a radius trough, protect the belt from damage and impact, and to be easily installed. We wanted to make it easy to service when maintenance was required and extend operating times between those service intervals as long as possible.”
That success led them to solving another problem with high-capacity conveyors: dust containment. “In looking at load zone support needs, one of the things we learned through our experience was that material containment on a conveyor, whether it’s the bulk material itself or dust, has to begin with the belt support as the foundation,” Maloy said. “If the belt support is correctly established and profiled, then sealing the conveyor from the top down can be accomplished successfully with a minimum amount of maintenance. The additional components in the system are designed to provide results with as few moving parts as possible.”
Conventional thinking related to dust mitigation has led some groups to manage flow on to the conveyor, which can be helpful, but it can also create an increase in wear in transfer chute design, Maloy explained. “Some opted for conventional dust collection systems, which are large-scale industrial vacuum systems. These include extensive filter systems that must be serviced regularly. They can work well, but maintenance can be a challenge.”
Richwood took a different tack. “We looked at what it takes to keep all of the material inside the containment area of the conveyor,” Maloy said. “We designed a system that contains the dust through a series of check chambers that successively slow the transferred air velocity and allows the dust to settle on the belt before exiting the containment zone. Ours is a passive system that requires little maintenance, no energy or power, and has proven to be quite successful.”
Richwood has installed several of these systems at large coal handling facilities in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. “The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality signed off on our projects the first time around,” Maloy said. “Now the visible haze that used to cloud these coal handling facilities is gone. These coal operators made the right investment to make those problems go away.”
Philippi Hagenbuch (or PHIL Systems) manufactures specialty equipment at its factory in Peoria, Illinois, USA. PHIL Systems’ designs have evolved with customer needs, Josh Swank, vice president of sales and marketing for PHIL Systems, explained. “We continue to focus on Hardox truck bodies, water trucks and trailers,” Swank said. “We have started to experiment with some of the more exotic versions of Hardox, such as Hi Ace in water tanks for highly acidic environments.”
This Hardox material has been amazing in water tanks, Swank said. “It practically eliminates the corrosion and internal rust,” he said. “Not a single one of them has rusted through. After about five to 10 years, most of the competitive tanks start to look like Swiss-cheese with all the patches. This is especially the case with the ones that use epoxy coatings.”
Swank said they also have been working on an extreme cold-weather water tank, and the first truck is almost ready.
US Tsubaki Offers Lifecycle Support
The chains and sprockets that are used extensively in the mining business are expected to wear, but not fail unexpectedly. Had MINExpo taken place, Mike Darragh, senior product manager, U.S. Tsubaki, said they would have been showcasing the Tsubaki ProService Chain and Sprocket Lifecycle Support package, which offers unique ways to extend chain and component life by leveraging strategic system optimizations and proactive maintenance. Installation support and on-site personnel training are also available with the ProService package. Using a team of field service engineers, U.S. Tsubaki collects key application data from thorough on-site inspections and uses this data to complete a detailed wear analysis at its manufacturing and engineering facility in Ohio.
The ProService package also includes access to their proprietary Tsubaki Advantage system that allows miners to measure and dynamically track chain wear. “Using that data, we can monitor the wear and track all of their assets,” Darragh said. “Looking at the installation date, the application and wear levels, we can tell where a component lies on its predictable life timeline.”
For some time now, U.S. Tsubaki has been moving away from being purely a product supplier and more toward a full lifecycle solutions provider, Darragh explained. “We are now providing product installation support and services,” he said. “In addition to reliable performance, we now provide customers with predictable performance in terms of component life, so they need not worry about unplanned downtime.”
U.S. Tsubaki was also planning to showcase its new Titan XL coating, a proprietary pin/bush surface treatment that has been very successful in chain conveyors in feeder applications. “Titan XL provides a hard, smooth surface that minimizes friction between the bearing components of the chain and in turn offers extended wear performance, along with some enhanced corrosion protection,” Darragh said.
Matrix Adds More Products to its Line
Had MINExpo taken place, attendees would have seen some of the new features that Matrix has added to its equipment and some of the new equipment it has added to its product line. “We have accomplished a lot in the last year as far as adding equipment to diversify our product lines,” said Brian Jones, vice president sales, marketing and business development for Matrix. “And, we have a couple of new features for the Intellizone product that improves the downtime, maintenance and overall operations.”
One of those new features is a status screen that gives the continuous miner operator or anyone on the system a quick reference as to what is happening inside the system. “We launched this during August,” Jones said. “We have been testing it underground and we will be rolling it out during the next couple of months.”
Another new feature is the machine-mounted locator (MML), which monitors the health of the system as far as drivers and antennae. “Using that in conjunction with the status screen, reinforces operational performance and decreases trouble-shooting and maintenance,” Jones said. “We also have some new, longer-range drivers that extend the area of influence to 120- to 150-ft with accurate tracking of personnel locators. We would use these on faster moving machinery.”
Matrix recently announced some new divisions and one is an equipment division that specializes in ancillary safety items, such as rock dusting, rescue chambers and other related products. “We have a new dozer rescue kit that includes an O2 bottle and scrubbers,” Jones said. “If a dozer were to become buried, the operator could convert the cab into a pseudo rescue chamber. The operator does not have to place anything in his mouth like he would with a self-contained, self-rescuer. He can communicate freely with the radio during rescue operations (see Loaders & Dozers p. 32).”
The equipment division is also offering a new, large-capacity trickle duster. Instead of refilling the rock duster every four hours, miners can spread rock dust for 12 or 15 hours before they need to refill the tank.
Matrix recently acquired a South African analytics firm and formed Matrix Analytics. “We are in the process of integrating analytics into our product line,” Jones said. “Analytics can be used to make decisions that improve productivity and we’re scaling that up now.”
Partnering with APS, Matrix has also branched out into lighting. APS has a robust lighting product line that includes LEDs for area lighting and machine lighting. Mine owners can now replace the metal halide lights found at various locations around the operation with LEDs. “These lights have a terrific return on investment,” Jones said. “The payback is about six months and we offer a five-year warranty.”
Jones said they have a couple of safety-oriented lights for haulage that incorporate ultraviolet (UV) light, which makes reflective material pop. “UV better illuminates reflective material, especially for peripheral vision,” he said.
Matrix is starting to distribute a new methane monitoring system for continuous miners and roof bolters. They are distributing it on behalf of Monitech, a South African company that distributes the Intellizone for Matrix in South Africa. In South Africa, Monitech has 90% to 95% market share. “We now have approval from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for those methanometers and we have installed them in Alliance Resource Partners’ mines,” Jones said. “These devices will help coal operators recover the downtime associated with recalibrating methanometers. When MSHA cites a methanometer, there are fines and fees, but the downtime is usually more costly. The Monitech system does not have the same drift in calibration.”
Partnering with Maestro in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, Matrix is bringing its Plexus system to mines in the U.S. Plexus is an underground network that offers near-fiber speed over co-axial cable. “This is applicable for mines that do not have the ability to terminate fiber or mines that have a fiber backbone,” Jones said. “They want the connectivity for data and devices, such as IP cameras, but they would rather not run fiber into the working sections.”