New technologies are able to provide additional support to mine operators and in turn upskill its labour force.
Insights by Marcel Ley, Regional Manager Victaulic South Africa
Victaulic first disrupted the piping industry as far back as 1919, bringing about the concept of joining pipes with a mechanical bolted coupling in order to rapidly deploy fuel and water to the Allied Forces during World War I. This powerful, industry-changing idea laid the groundwork for Victaulic to become a global leader of pipe joining technologies, developing innovative solutions specific to the needs of the mining industry with benefits for owners, engineers, installers, and maintenance personnel alike.
As such, the imperative nature of piping in mining operations speaks for itself; its importance a direct reflection in the success of the operation. Whether it be compressed air, water or slurry – mining infrastructure is dependent on systems that remain operational. Maintenance costs are commonly between 30-50 percent of a mine site’s total operating costs and possibly even higher. Downtime due to shutdowns, equipment unavailability and change-outs can cost millions and have significant effects. One can imagine the effects that downtime can pose in an operation – most notably the cost in the loss of productivity, with industry experts estimating that some gold mines harvest at a rate of up to R2-million per hour.
In order to remain profitable, mine operators have to ensure uptime. However, no matter their efficiency, mines require routine maintenance, and therefore downtime is inevitable. There is however a solution to ensure minimal downtime for mine piping systems – the implementation of Victaulic systems and engineered solutions.
Innovative Knife Gate Valve technology
Victaulic’s Series 795 Knife Gate Valve is the first slurry valve that can be installed as quickly as a coupling, and maintenance on the valve can be performed without removal from the system. The valve’s innovative design is able to reduce maintenance downtime by some 95%, in addition to generating up to 60% savings in overall maintenance costs. The product’s advancement lies in its technology that encloses all wear parts into a single seat cartridge kit. The design allows the valve to remain installed throughout the maintenance cycle, greatly simplifying the process.
A mining operation in Montana in the United States beta tested the new product, and recorded the maintenance process that once required hours was reduced to only a few minutes. This in turn has enhanced worker safety, as only a single component requires replacement during the process versus removing the entire valve from the pipeline. Further, this first-of-its-kind, revolutionary design eliminates the need for rigging with heavy chains and pulleys swinging over the heads of maintenance crews.
During the first implementation of the Series 795 Knife Gate Valve at a mine in British Columbia, Canada, analysts have estimated that the operation will see in excess of $2-million in savings per annum. Extrapolate that impact based on a mine with hundreds of valves, and for the mining industry that was forecasted to spend $4 billion globally on slurry valves from 2012-2015.
Simplified Backfill expertise
Paste backfill systems for underground mine operations involve an intricate series of piping networks in order to fill stopes following the extraction of material for processing. As such, the piping networks require an extensive amount of manual labour to operate and maintain a functional system which operates under extremely demanding conditions. Presently, the manner in which to divert paste fill from one stope to another involves the manual removal and reinstallation of the piping, resulting in a process which proves laborious, time consuming, and generally unsafe practice.
Victaulic’s Series 725 Diverter Valve has been designed to allow for flow to be diverted from one piping network to another while reducing crew numbers to manually reposition the fill lines. Specifically designed for backfill, the valve is able to be controlled with remote actuation, therefore reducing handling which results in a safer and more efficient operation.
The Series 725 features a rugged ductile iron body and a 5D bend profile, ensuring smooth, continuous flow and durable, reliable service. With more than 70 installed valves, processing nearly 30 million tons of paste, considerable data has been collected on the valve’s capabilities and performance.
Victaulic System Solution for HDPE
Industry experts agree that HDPE pipe is the fastest growing global piping segment thanks to improvements in material science, cost effectiveness, and increased performance standards, which have resulted in HDPE being suitable for a variety of previously limited, or long-term applications, such as water and waste water.
Victaulic’s system solution for HDPE pipe, including couplings and fittings, offers a quick, simple joining method and can be installed with commonly used hand tools in any weather condition, greatly reducing maintenance time. Assembled with merely a socket wrench, the products do not require special equipment or certified crews, while the components can be installed rain or shine without protective tents or covers, with the joint completion time not dependant on atmospheric conditions. Victaulic solutions permit HDPE pipe to be installed even in vertical orientations and tight spaces, and unlike fusing, the system offers visual confirmation of correct installation with metal-to-metal bolt-pad contact confirming proper assembly.
Offering superior performance for long-term reliability, the couplings meet or exceed the performance capabilities of HDPE pipe, including working pressure, end pull load specifications and minimum bend radius requirement. Insights show that the pipe will fail before the joints do. That is the confidence that Victaulic has in its innovative and industry-leading product range.