Conveyor technology promises big savings for mines that would otherwise rely on haul trucks to transport materials — but some are reluctant to adopt it.
As anyone in the business knows, one of the biggest sources of overhead in mining is the need to transport materials away from open pits. Mining companies have long relied on trucks to haul huge loads through worksites, but as these businesses become increasingly cost-conscious, the drawbacks of this approach are becoming more apparent.
Trucks need gas, maintenance, skilled drivers, and well-kept roads to work at full efficiency, all of which can carry significant costs. With transportation accounting for as much as 50% of a mine’s operating costs, a more cost-effective alternative could make all the difference between staying in the black or falling into the red. Fortunately for the industry, that alternative may already be available — the question is whether or not it will be adopted.
A Cheaper Alternative
In the 1950s, mining companies began experimenting with in-pit crushing and conveying systems (IPCC) as an alternative to trucks. Since then, they’ve slowly gained a foothold in the industry alongside the use of trucks as a component of the material hauling process.
IPCC systems require a significant financial investment, but once put into action, they often lead to big savings. Jorma Kempas, product manager at Metso, told Mining.com in a recent interview that conveyor systems can save 20-40% in transportation costs, with aggregate mines and metal mines seeing savings of 20-25% and 30-40%, respectively.
IPCC systems reduce costs for a number of reasons. Unlike haul trucks, they need little maintenance, less skilled labor, and much less energy usage. They can also operate on grades as steep as 30%, while most trucks can’t travel on grades of more than 10%. IPCC systems also create less noise and dust than trucks, preventing impacts on surrounding communities and ecosystems and making it easier for companies to comply with environmental regulations.
Why Adoption Has Been Slow
Despite these benefits, many mining companies have been hesitant to install a conveyor system, with high upfront costs accounting for much of the reluctance. Since IPCC systems are not easily moved once installed and are less efficient in deep mines with many benches, they can limit operational flexibility. And while easier to maintain than trucks, IPCC systems can still be damaged by harsh weather.
With few IPCC systems currently in place, mining companies have for the most part looked elsewhere for a cost savings and greater operational efficiency. As Kempas explains, many companies simply choose to stick with what they know. He quickly adds, however, that IPCC systems could “grow ten times bigger” — with equipment prices and delivery times at a recent low, now might be the time to make the investment.
Mining Industry Solutions from Midwest
For those companies that are interested in installing an IPCC system, Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. is here to help. Our powerful deicing product, Ice Free Conveyor®, is a multi-component, glycol-based compound that creates a non-freezable barrier between your conveyor and the elements, weakening ice and snow in even the coldest temperatures.
Our other winter operating agents are just as effective in ensuring worker safety, eliminating mineral supply interruptions, lowering costs, and reducing the need for weather-related maintenance. Non-toxic, non-flammable, and biodegradable, our products have kept mines running for more than thirty years, and remain the preferred choice of operators around the world.