With the price of gold at historically high prices, gold producers are now more than ever sharply focused on maintaining maximum production.
Newcrest Mining, with group gold reserves of more than 30Moz, is a case in point.
The company’s Cadia Valley business, comprising the Cadia Hill and Ridegeway gold mines, form the mainstay of its Australian operations. Therefore, minimising downtime at these operations is very important.
Cadia Valley operations purchasing officer Darrell Ryan says any breakdown or delay at one stage of the process can reflect right through the production chain.
“That’s why we have critical preventative maintenance and spare parts programs in place to anticipate needs and stay well ahead of them,” Ryan says.
The success of Cadia Valley’s spare parts programs, undertaken in conjunction with Outokumpu Technology’s Service Centre, was demonstrated recently when a rotor was urgently needed for a TankCell 150 float cell. This came about because an external plate lodged between the stator and rotor, which caused premature wear on the rotor. This problem was identified during a mill shutdown.
“If a cell rotor is not operational it can have a dramatic impact on production and recovery rates,” Ryan says.
“Rather than having to wait the usual six-week lead time, Outokumpu were able to deliver the rotor the following day after the call, which allowed the maintenance team to replace the rotor during the shutdown,” he says.
“This was exceptional service, very helpful to us, and it was followed up with a site visit by Outokumpu Technology personnel who invested the time to go around our operations thoroughly with us.
“They helped identify further areas of potential need to help us maintain a tailored inventory of spare parts that might otherwise cause downtime issues.
“As well as a dedicated spares list, the visit helped us to formulate clear indications of how long it takes to provide particular parts so we can anticipate maintenance needs,” Ryan says.
Newcrest has extensive installations of Outokumpu flotation equipment at Cadia Valley. This is also the case at its Telfer gold and copper project in Western Australia where a recent technology includes eight 30m3 flotation cells, six 18m counter-current decantation circuit thickeners and an 18m concentrate thickener.
From its service operations in Sydney and Perth, Outokumpu has expanded its skills base to enhance the efficiency of its customers’ plants.
The company’s service centre focuses on key areas such as process audits and optimisation, preventative maintenance, upgrades, spare parts management and training. Its core of specialist staff has recently increased to ensure the company has the necessary skills at a time of unprecedented demand.
As skills shortages have emerged in the mining industry over recent years, the company has invested strongly in skills and facilities to help companies outsource roles previously managed by their own staff.
A global player in minerals and metals processing, Outokumpu can draw on worldwide experience and expertise in areas such as comminution, flotation, thickening, physical separation, analysers and automation.
Ryan says security of supply and on-site knowledge of parts requirements is critical. “Some components have supply lead times out to weeks or even months. This is not something you want to discover when the need arises; it is something for which we must and do thoroughly plan,” he says.
“When you are dealing with the quantities and processes we have, you need to know all the time what is required to keep them at their peak and to progressively update your inventory accordingly.
“Whether you are looking at operational and consumable items or whether you are looking at major equipment items, you must be able to establish a long horizon of likely needs and anticipate issues before they ever arise,” Ryan says.
This article appears in the May 2006 issue of Australian Mining.