Predictive maintenance can help curtail mining accidents and incidents that can damage a company's reputation and compromise operations. Strain sensors and other devices can be used to track equipment reliability, helping mining companies select and use only machines that they know have been put to the test and have been found adequate.
A recent uranium spill at Australia's Ranger Uranium Mine helps to highlight the benefits that can be derived from using equipment condition monitoring systems to track the performance and functionality of machines. The chemical spill at the mine operated by Rio Tinto resulted from a leach tank that burst, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. About 1 million liters of acidic uranium slurry were spilled in the second such incident within a week for Rio Tinto. A uranium mine in Namibia that the company operates experienced a major equipment failure with one of its 12 leach tanks that brought about a spill on Dec. 3. The Australian government halted processing at the Ranger mine in response to the most recent incident. Aging infrastructure within the mines has been singled out by some as a possible cause of the incident.
'It's the same company, same mineral, same piece of infrastructure,'' Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation told the source. ''This copycat incident shows there is a serious structural issue here and that the halt on processing at Ranger should not be lifted.''
Aging equipment and infrastructure can result in the type of incidents that shut down operations and cause production to grind to a halt. Performing preventative predictive maintenance on machinery and equipment can help reduce the risk of such a damaging incident taking place. The development of increasingly sophisticated technology that enables machines and devices to more easily communicate with each aids the predictive maintenance process for mining companies, manufacturers and other businesses that rely on big, complex machines, according to Computerworld India. Within the harsh conditions of a mine, having equipment sensors that can communicate with each other can help companies stay on top of potential maintenance issues.
Equipment condition monitoring mechanisms such as load sensors can relay vital information about how machines are holding up under use so that workers can take care of problems before they become major catastrophes. Away from the mine, manufacturers may use predictive maintenance to monitor other systems.