According to regional manager of Victaulic, Marcel Ley, mine productivity is dependent on the successful implementation of innovation to alleviate the roll-on effects of downtime. Once the bread and butter of the South African economy, the mining industry faces considerable challenges.

These challenges will culminate in a combination of escalating commodity demand, restricted supply, and rapidly rising commodity prices.

As a continent, Africa offers an area full of potential, but also poses a number of substantial risks to mining companies in terms of innovation, both below and above the ground.

High quality, geologically easy-to-mine resources in effortlessly accessible locations have been long identified and exploited; posing a requirement for the mining industry to diverge into new and increasingly remote locations in order to capitalise on the growing need of mineral-rich deposits.

A Deloitte African Insights report on mining in Africa claims that the rapid industrialisation of India and China is the force behind the increase in demand for raw materials that far exceeds the industry’s supply abilities, causing prices to escalate rapidly.

The combination of these higher prices and scarce supply has forced mining companies to mitigate unnecessary costs where applicable.

There are a number of current trends to reduce the overall costs associated to mining, however the most promising looks at the innovation of products used in the operation, and how the implementation of such innovations lends to overall productivity.

An important trend to consider in 2018 is the continuous focus on productivity improvement and innovation plays a huge part of this..

A study by market research company Hanover Research highlights HDPE piping as the fastest growing segment of the piping industry today.

Moreover, improvements in materials science, and an increase in performance standards have made HDPE suitable for a variety of once limited applications in particular the mining sector.

Whether it carries compressed air, water, or slurry, the success of a mine operation is dependent on the piping systems’ always-on operation, with downtime equating to immense losses.

Moreover, maintenance costs on average amount to 30-50% of a mine site’s total operating costs, while downtime due to shutdowns, equipment unavailability, and change-outs can cost millions and have significant roll-on effects.

There are varying mineral deposits owing to the success of various mining operations.

According to sources, some mining operations are able to mine gold at a rate of US$130 000 per hour.

In turn, the resultant downtime for both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance in addition to productivity loss, makes for an extremely costly exercise.

Profitable mining operators have to ensure to minimise their downtime, thereby keeping production rates high, however regardless of how efficient the operation is, routine maintenance and downtime are part of everyday life.

There are however two situations whereby innovation can assist in the reduction of downtime, as well as the maintenance costs associated.

Mining activities such as paste backfill systems for underground mining involve an intricate series of piping networks in order to fill stopes following the extraction of material for processing.

These piping networks require extensive manual labour to operate and maintain a functional system, as these systems operate under extremely rigorous conditions.

Currently, in order to divert paste fill from one stope to another, manual removal and reinstallation of pipe is required, resulting in a laborious, unsafe, and time consuming process.

Additionally, mines are pumping slurries over greater distances at higher solids concentrations, further placing additional strain on pipe components such as slurry valves.

Moreover, the abrasiveness of the material transported also dictates how the valve will be affected over time.

For mine piping systems, there is only one choice that will overcome such obstacles, as well as keep downtime to an absolute minimum—Victaulic systems and engineered solutions.

Victaulic addresses these challenges, with the aim of ensuring that the customers alleviate downtime and promote productivity.

Victaulic Series 725 Diverter Valve for example allows flow to be diverted from one piping network to another while eliminating the need for crews to manually reposition fill lines.

Further, this valve is specifically designed for backfill, and is able to be controlled with remote actuation, therefore reducing handling and resulting in safer, more efficient operations.

Featuring a rugged ductile iron body and a 5D bend profile, the Series 725 ensures smooth, continuous flow and durable, reliable service.

The company’s truly disruptive mining innovation has been launched in the form of the Series 795 Knife Gate Valve– the first slurry valve that can be installed as quickly as a coupling and maintained without removal from the system.

The valve’s innovative design can reduce maintenance downtime by up to 95% and generate up to 60% savings in annual maintenance costs.

Moreover, the component encloses all wear parts into a single seat cartridge kit, which greatly simplifies the maintenance process, reduces times, and allows for the valve to remain installed through ongoing maintenance cycles.

In fact, an international mining company that beta tested the Series 795 saw its maintenance downtime reduced from a matter of hours to just a few minutes.

The new valve improves worker safety because only one component has to be replaced versus removing the entire valve from the pipeline.

This first-of-its-kind, revolutionary design eliminates the need for rigging with heavy chains and pulleys swinging over the heads of maintenance crews.

At a mine in British Columbia, Canada, savings are projected to amount to in excess of more than US$2 million per year – a massive saving for any organisation.