Coal Age

MAY 2019

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28 May 2019 material handling Staying on Top of Stockpile Management Smarter, quicker solutions emerge for measuring and controlling stockpile size and quality by russell a. carter, contributing editor In tradition-driven industries like min- ing, deep-rooted habits and customs die hard. Pre-digital-world miners might have mistakenly equated task fa- miliarity with productivity, while man- agers could lean heavily on institutional memory to plan projects and budgets. But things change: Big Data is driving the industry down a path in which old policies and practices are regarded with suspicion and new sources of informa- tion shine bright lights into the dim corners of conventional mining busi- ness intelligence. In the process, one of the most mundane links in the mining chain, stockpile management, is being polished by technological tools to a higher level of operational luster. Stockpiles fulfill a number of func- tions ranging from alleviating feed- flow interruptions at process plants, to blending of various types of ores and coals. At the other end of the min- ing value chain, shipping-terminal stockpiles represent a near-final step in the quality-control chain before mineral products are delivered to the customer. In line with an industry-wide in- terest in maximizing asset utilization, producers are taking a closer look at how stockpile management can im- prove key metrics such as plant utili- zation versus plant availability ratios. They are refining their stockpile strat- egy, taking advantage of equipment and control-system advances to re- fresh stockyard infrastructure, and, through improved material flow and quality control, reinforce their capa- bility to maintain market share of their products. High on the list of upgrade objectives are automation of all or part of stockpile operations, replacement of aged stacker-reclaimer setups with new-generation models, and quicker, more accurate stockpile accounting. A sample of recent industry an- nouncements underscores the degree of interest in stockyard upgrades. In Western Australia, Rio Tinto Iron Ore is moving ahead on a $39 million pro- ject to replace stackers at its Parabur- doo mine. The existing stackers were part of the mine's original infrastruc- ture, loading the very first shipment of iron ore from the mine in 1972. In 46 years of operation, they have stacked more than 800 million tons of ore. TAKRAF is leading the design and implementation phases of the stack- er replacement. The company's of- fice in Perth is managing the project, with support from its office in Bris- bane and global competence centers. The company said design of the new equipment is under way and fabrica- tion is scheduled to begin later this year, with installation and commis- sioning finishing in early 2020. The new stackers feature state- of-the-art engineering design and mechanical technology, the latest generation of variable-speed drive control and fiber optic networking, an advanced anti-collision system with GPS backup, and automated op- eration monitored from the Rio Tinto Operations Center in Perth. In a similar project, thyssenk- rupp just announced it is supplying large-scale stockyard machines for BHP's South Flank iron ore project in the central Pilbara region of Western Australia. The contract is valued at approximately $170 million, making it one of the largest fabrication and construction projects the company has conducted in Western Australia. The South Flank project is tar- geting first ore extraction in 2021. Generating roughly 80 million metric tons per year (mtpy) of output, it will replace production from the Yandi mine, which is reaching the end of its economic life. Thyssenkrupp will provide two stockyard stackers and a As part of a contract valued at $170 million, thyssenkrupp will build and install two stockpile stackers and a reclaimer for BHP's South Flank iron ore project in Western Australia. Shown here are similar machines at work in BHP's Mining Area C. (Photo: thyssenkrupp)

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