As the mining industry faces growing pressure to contain costs and maintain profits, mining houses are looking towards the engineering industry to offer innovative ways of overcoming these challenges, says Pretoria-based specialised engineering solutions company Rand Technical Services (RTS) MD Ian Fraser.
The Mogalakwena platinum mine, near Mokopane, in Limpopo, faced a monetary challenge, while having to deal with excessive dust. Fraser says the company supplied a tailored air-filtering system to the mine, which had to meet certain requirements, while also having to overcome other challenges, such as space constraints.
“There were significant space constraints on the project, which the mine outlined from the start. RTS had to design an air-filtering unit that could run at 32 000 Nm3/h on a platform which had other items of equipment on it.
RTS held several meetings with mining giant Anglo Platinum regarding a means of dealing with the dust, with the product being installed in January, notes Fraser.
He says RTS had to deal with an excessive amount of dust, which was created by the process of stripping the overburden. “We provided an air-filtration system that forced air into the machinery space, therefore preventing dust rising through the open floor grid into the enclosure.”
He notes that the solution was a standard industry product that was modified to suit individual needs, adding that there is a demand for this version of the product in the industry because of the performance that spin filters offer on opencast mining operations.
Fraser points out that RTS worked closely with Anglo American Platinum on the project, and is in constant contact with the mine to monitor the performance of the spin filters.
“Our feedback from the client has been excellent and several similar installations have been carried out,” he says, adding that the ability to successfully complete a project, within specific design parameters, gives the company confidence that it can undertake similar projects in the future.
RTS recently supplied spin filters to switchgear solutions provider JB Switchgear Solutions for the variable-speed drive (VSD) panels the company has installed for a mining project in the Northern Cape.
JB Switchgear approached RTS to supply dedicated back channel cooling to the VSD panels on the mine, and JB Switchgear projects director John Balsdon says the company is satisfied with RTS’s work.
The spin filters are purpose-designed to accommodate a variety of applications, and they offer an extremely efficient answer to the problem of heat and dust build-up, says Fraser.
Further, he notes: “Spin filter technology is finding wide application in coal, gold, diamond and other mining environments – including motor control centre rooms, control rooms, substations, transformer rooms, machinery spaces and workshops – as a cost-effective solution in ventilation and filtration.”
RTS’s spin filter technology is a unique ventilation and filtration system that is extremely efficient and ideally suited to many of the items that the company manufactures.
“Electrical and electronic equipment requires cooling – through the adequate movement of air – and a high degree of filtration to ensure an environment that is suitable for the sophisticated equipment used in our panels,” says Balsdon.
“Thanks to RTS, we are now able to offer an effective solution for the cooling of electrical and electronic equipment that requires little or no maintenance – at an extremely competitive price,” he adds.
Spin filters, although not new technology, are becoming increasingly sought after in the mining industry. Based on a high-efficiency application of cyclone technology, this technology provides a cost-effective alternative to conventional dust filtration and air conditioning, with the added advantage of being virtually maintenance free.
JB Switchgear is seeing the cost benefits of the technology, says Balsdon. “The RTS system is economical to operate, particularly when considering the alternative of air conditioning. The operating costs of air conditioning far exceed those of the RTS filtration system in terms of power consumption.
“Because the filter is self-cleaning, it is ideally suited to remote industrial applications, where regular maintenance might be difficult or is simply neglected,” he notes.
In terms of electronics installations, particularly in a harsh mining context, the RTS system not only meets but also exceeds ventilation requirements in an economical manner, says Balsdon.
“In addition to providing such an innovative and effective solution, RTS provides the kind of professional backup service that is essential in these sophisticated applications,” he concludes.