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MATERIALS HANDLING


C


learing material from hoppers, chutes, bins and vessels can be done using manpower and tools on hand, but safety experts


recommend considering a solution that prevents exposing workers to potential hazards. Operators at modern mining sites, such as Eagle Mine located in Western Marquette County of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, understand that using specialised equipment reduces worker exposure, offers the safest mode of production and provides the most cost-effective lasting results. “Safety is a top priority for us,”


says Ted Lakomowski, lead reliability technician at Eagle Mine. “When we experienced clogging and downtime at the processing mill, our crew naturally swung into action to resolve it, but we immediately sought a safer long-term solution.” Owned by Lundin Mining, a globally diversified base metals mining company headquartered in Toronto, Canada, Eagle Mine is the only primary nickel mine in North America, producing 1.5% of the world’s total nickel production. Ore from the mine is stored in a covered coarse stockpile facility prior to transport by road approximately 65 miles (105 km) to the Humboldt mill.


A single worker can perform maintenance on outward facing valves, reducing potential risk


Mike Moody explains how an ore mine is using air cannons to unclog chutes


BUDGE THE SLUDGE


INITIAL SOLUTIONS Clogging issues were found in an undersized chute in the milling process. Although material was damp when mucked, it was further exposed to rain, snow or summer humidity during transport by truck to the mill. Accumulation would stop the entire crushing process three to four times per shift for as long as an hour, blocking input of material all the way back to the ore storage area. Te breaks in production and ensuing downtime had an immediate effect on the cost of operation. Workers attacked the clog with 15ft (4.5m) long air lances from the top of the hopper and bottom of the chute. Te method used a tremendous amount of compressed air and diverted manpower from other essential duties. Moreover, air lances caused excessive splash-back of wet material, which was extremely messy and potentially hazardous.


Safety cables secure the cannons to the vessel


42 www.engineerlive.com


COMPRESSED AIR USAGE Te technical team at Martin Enginering observed that previous solutions did not


adequately aid the flow of material. “We proposed installing air cannons at strategic points throughout the chute to dislodge material and aid flow, but managers had some initial reservations,” says territory manager Jason Haynes. “Compressed air is almost a currency


here, so we were naturally sceptical of using a solution that impacted pressure,” Lakomowski clarifies. “Many in the organisation had experience with older air cannon designs and knew the potential drain they could put on a system.”


AIR CANNONS


Air cannon technology uses compressed air to promote proper flow by quickly filling a tank, delivering a powerful shot to the vessel wall in the direction of the moving cargo, dislodging adhered material and introducing it back into the stream. After Haynes detailed the low impact that new air cannon technology has on compressed air systems, Lakomowski advocated for the initial installation of five 35 litre (9.25 gallon) Martin Hurricane air cannons, followed by


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