THE world is ever-changing - from technology to education, health to politics, manufacturing to mining, change is pervasive and demands adaptation. With declining ore grade and low commodity prices, the mining industry has had to adapt to stay competitive.

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A mining operation utilising Weir Cavex hydrocyclones.

As merger and acquisitions opportunities and greenfield projects diminish, there is a strong focus on modifying and optimising existing mine sites and processes to achieve greater operational efficiency.

Mining companies are under intense pressure to increase production through the optimisation of their current plant and its resources. In order to achieve this, it is important they preserve and extend their assets, a tactic Weir Minerals is very familiar with.

“At Weir Minerals we recognise the demand within the industry and have expanded our service offering as a result. We don’t just design and manufacture products; we provide tangible solutions for operators across the globe,” says Weir Minerals’ director of technology John McNulty.

When it comes to supplying solutions to mining operators, Weir Minerals ensure they visit mine sites daily to assess operator’s processes, discover their pain points and work with them to overcome productivity related problems, providing the solutions they need, when they need them.

This could be anything from modifying a cyclone cluster to developing a transportable self-priming pump to increase availability of a plant.

“It is our job to ensure operators maintain optimum performance of their plant, from comminution through to tailings disposals. We want to gain an understanding of their throughput issues and use our leading engineering expertise to deliver a comprehensive solution,” says John McNulty.

Weir Minerals supplies tangible solutions to enable operators to utilise existing infrastructure and equipment to maximise production whilst minimising total ownership cost. “It’s not about reinventing the wheel, it’s about re-thinking how we use current assets and working together to modify the process, increasing mine throughput and improving access to high-quality mineral resources.”

Through its plant optimisation strategy, Weir Minerals uses laser scanning technology to examine the entire plant, gaining a full understanding of all of the equipment, applications and processes present.

Many older plants no longer have access to their original drawings, or find that the original drawings are out-of-date due to modifications since establishment. If original drawings are not available, or out-of-date, laser scanning is a useful alternative to create detailed drawings alongside 3D models.

This technology enables engineers to visualise where and how the equipment fits into the entire operation; identify what works and what doesn’t and detect bottlenecks.

Weir Minerals’ engineers can then refine the data collected to determine the best approach to modify and enhance the operator’s entire process. “Laser scanning allows us to modify our products to fit customer applications accordingly and enable them to run exactly how they need them to,” says John McNulty.

It’s important to take a holistic approach to optimisation - modifying each process with the entire operation in mind, avoiding bottlenecks which slow down the overall process.

“A bottleneck represents a restriction in the process which must be dealt with to improve the production process,” he says. “The key is to understand where the bottlenecks are in the process and evaluate the root cause before they negatively impact the throughput of the entire operation.”

Bottlenecks are inevitable in mining, therefore, it is important to unlock these barriers and plan the production flow accordingly.

Aside from removing bottlenecks, mine operators may be looking to expand capacity, lower operating costs, increase productivity; whatever the challenge, Weir Minerals is adept to provide innovative, multi-product solutions for its customers.

John McNulty concludes: “It’s our job to truly understand customer challenges and use our engineering expertise to optimise the process, taking their business to the next level. We constantly look for innovative solutions to industry problems, and utilise our engineering skills, experience, entrepreneurship and innovation to address these problems.”

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