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NEXT-GEN mining motors R

Tom Eklof and Peter Svartsjo reveal how advances in low-voltage motors can bring a range of benefi ts to the mining and minerals industry

elatively weak commodity prices and the need to increase operational effi ciencies will keep the mining and minerals sector under pressure in the near future.

Modern electric motors have more to off er to the industry and may hold the answers to many of its challenges. If you were asked to design the perfect electric motor for today’s mining and minerals sector, what would it look like? T e motor technology, it could be argued, is well established. T e motor must meet global mining standards, yet be fl exible for adaptation to local legislation; robust to meet the aggressive nature of the environment; highly reliable; and never be responsible for unplanned downtime by being the weakest link in the drivetrain. To improve the current tide of poor

productivity, mining companies not only need to embrace new technology but also to re- think the way they view existing technology. Today’s electric motors can be fi tted with intelligent instrumentation that tracks the temperature of bearings and windings, and monitors vibrations, thereby vastly improving the reliability and safety of the machine. T is enhances and simplifi es access to information, alerts operators to potential problems and reduces maintenance with extended equipment lifecycles. All of which keeps the process running and production moving. Traditionally, energy effi ciency has never been a major issue in mining. T is is changing, as operators become aware of the prospect of saving hundreds of thousands of dollars by reducing motor energy consumption, which typically represents at least one third of a mine’s operating costs. Safety is always topical and extends from

product, production, personnel and application safety through to a motor supplier’s own health and safety policy.

38 T at is why, when choosing a motor

supplier, it is vital to consider its lifecycle services. Predictive maintenance, remote monitoring and diagnostics are essential tools to lower maintenance costs while increasing productivity and safety. One thing all mining companies appear to

have in common is their conservatism towards new products and technologies. T e industry tends to be risk averse. Although this is not a bad trait, it can overlook opportunities to improve productivity or effi ciency. For instance, many sites have a habit of scrapping motors, sometimes on a two-year cycle, or at best sending the motor for rewind. Yet today’s motors are designed to the highest levels of reliability, meaning that they can survive in the mining environment for well in excess of their warranty periods of three to fi ve years. With planned preventive maintenance, motors can last several decades. If a company’s policy is to change its motors as a matter of course, then purchase price becomes a dominant factor. However, a mining motor should be viewed as a long-term investment. Mining companies need to reasses their motor management policies.

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