Fortescue fosters a new era of conveyor monitoring

Image: Fortescue Metals Group.

Conveyor systems play an integral role in almost all mining operations, carrying extracted materials from one location to another.

Their importance means that companies must ensure that conveyors are performing at optimum efficiency – a failure to do so can be costly.

Historically, mining companies have used paper-based systems that track and maintain the asset health of conveyors.

For Fortescue Metals Group conveyor specialist in asset management, Derek Moulton, the process could only be described as “cumbersome.”

“The process was very manual, the papers were hard to fill out in the field without photos of the conditions and they often had iron ore dirt on them rendering them difficult to read and upload into the work management system,” he tells Australian Mining.

Moulton proposed a paperless asset inspection system to be conducted in the field that could be accessed anytime via iPad, phones and tablets (IOS and Android) – capturing asset health with software provided by a third party.

Data that analyses the health of assets is accessed live through any dashboards.

For Fortescue, reports of all inspected assets are sent to the stakeholders of each site enabling them to see the condition of their plants, thanks to high definition images that were taken out in the field from the conveyor technicians.

Fortescue is focussed on the efficiency of its conveyor systems, introducing a relocatable conveyor at its Cloudbreak iron ore mine in Pilbara last year.

The five-kilometre conveyor included a semi-mobile primary crushing station which feeds directly into the Cloudbreak ore processing facility at the Chichester Hub.

Fortescue chief operating officer, Greg Lilleyman said: “The long and shallow nature of the ore body at the Chichester Hub presents unique challenges and opportunities. We adapted the relocatable conveyor technology frequently used in underground mining operations, allowing our team to respond to the requirements of the mine plan with greater flexibility.

“Together with the rollout of autonomous haulage technology (AHS) across the Chichester Hub, this innovative conveyor system is contributing further productivity and efficiency improvements.

“While there has been a very key focus on operational improvements at the mine site, more and more we are seeing opportunities through the use of data analytics to optimise performance and outcomes and this remains an area of opportunity and focus for us.”

Fortescue’s latest development for examining and maintaining the health of conveyor assets has been emblematic of its innovation on what is perhaps the backbone of mine sites around the world.

This article also appears in the September edition of Australian Mining. 

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