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onveyors are among the most dynamic and potentially dangerous areas of equipment at a mine or a materials

processing site. Even though their safety and performance are critical to the operation’s success, the impact of their contribution to overall effi ciency is often unrecognised by management and workers alike. Operational basics of belt conveyor systems are too

often a mystery to those employees, who have little understanding about the hardware installed and the performance required from the components. T e knowledge gap is understandable. T e attention of personnel at a mine or coal handling operation is centred on the processing of the company’s main product. T e “care and feeding” of belt conveyors – that is, the adjustment, maintenance

Sensors can detect whether the belt is loaded, automatically relieving cleaner tension when the conveyor is empty to help minimise wear

and troubleshooting that make a huge diff erence in safety, performance and profi tability – is typically outside of their expertise. It’s not that they don’t care about conveyors, but the ongoing maintenance and service of these systems is often not part of their immediate focus or within their time constraints. In addition, there is often a failure

of the retiring workforce to pass along the wisdom they’ve gained over the years. Further, some industry experts have discussed the “missing generation” in mining-related jobs, exacerbating that knowledge gap. Although mining engineering seems to be regaining its “cool” in recent years, there still appears to be a general shortage of people in the 25-45 year age range.

Protecting the most valuable assets Personnel are the single most important resource of any mine or industrial operation, and engineers and designers are incorporating greater functionality into designs that will improve safety. Standards continue to tighten and organisations such as the USA’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) retain a strong focus on worker safety, driving the need for equipment designs that are not just safe, but optimised for safety – that is, designed with safety as a fundamental priority. At the same time, there is rising pressure for continuous and ever-increasing production. To meet the demands for greater safety and improved production, some manufacturers have introduced equipment designs that are not only engineered for safer operation and servicing, but also reduced maintenance time. One example is a new family of heavy-duty conveyor belt cleaners, designed so the blade cartridge can be pulled away from 25

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