Conveyor Manufacturers Australia has designed a modular, relocatable and reusable surface conveyor system using general shipping containers.
In the choice between deploying haul trucks or conveyor systems to carry materials in surface mining operations, the argument is often won by the trucks. But this could change with an innovative technology that overcomes the common limitations in conveyor systems.
Truck and shovel operations are currently the staple haulage method in most surface mining operations. They can be purchased off the shelf, have comparatively low capital acquisition costs, and provide flexibility when designing mines.
On the negative side, truck and shovel operations have high labour requirements, energy inefficiencies relative to alternatives, and dependence on the logistics of diesel fuel and consumables such as tyres.
Coupled with these downsides are the safety implications of operating large fleets of mobile mining operations – roughly one third of all work-related fatal accidents in Australia result from vehicle collision.1 The industry still frequently experiences truck and mobile fleet-related collisions and incidents.
Conventional surface conveyor systems pose three primary limitations, according to Ben Smith, director of business development for Conveyor Manufacturers Australia (CMA).
“These include high upfront capital cost, lack of flexibility and the difficulty in arranging finance due to traditional surface conveyors being hard to recover and often costing more to overhaul and reinstall than a brand new purchase,” Smith tells Australian Mining.
Conveyor Manufacturers Australia’s answer to all three limitations is one innovative solution: the Containerveyor.
Designed as modular units based on shipping containers, the Containerveyor is a flexible conveying system that offers a plug and play solution. That is, they are built and completely fitted out off-site at low capital cost, transported to site as a shipping container, installed using the container as the installation framework, and re-located and re-used as mining moves further away, or to another pit or site altogether.
“Being modular gives Containerveyor a great degree of flexibility. It can be used for any application that a normal conveyor system is used for – including on vertical and horizontal curves. But, the Containerveyor has the additional advantage that it can be buried below or partially-below surface, installed as an elevated gantry conveyor or fitted with a range of options to suit the site and surrounding environment,” Smith says.
“Moreover, it’s now possible for operators to get financing from the banks to purchase or lease the Containerveyor system because once the work is finished, it’s easy to recover the units and use them for another project. The whole cost of expensive re-work and refurbishment is now a thing of the past.”
Conveyor Manufacturers Australia first came up with the idea for designing Containerveyor in 2014.
In the years since, the company’s engineering team has worked with international manufacturing partner, COSCO – the largest shipping line and one of the largest container manufacturers in the world – to perfect the design and manufacturing. This included rigorous engineering and certification testing.
“Our teams in Australia and internationally work together on a daily basis to factor in the requirements for each customer,” Smith says.
“Given our strong manufacturing and engineering partners and divisions, we have the ability to scale rapidly to meet short timeframes.”
This is particularly useful when some new projects look to short-term trucking while conventional overland conveyors are built – usually a slow process. With the Containerveyor, the process, time and cost is significantly reduced.
“We don’t believe in a one-size fits all approach and assess and engineer each application and installation on its own merits,” Smith says.
“For example, one customer might want external walkways while another prefers internal walkways, some mines might need two conveyors installed in the same module to carry different products and some might want a very wide container for a higher capacity. We can accommodate all of those requirements.”
Moreover, mines have the option of extending the conveyor system as the haulage lengths increase, Smith says.
“Some customers are looking to be able to extend their conveyor, say by a couple of hundred metres every year. It’s very easy as you just need to add more modules. Plug and play,” he says.
Another benefit of Containerveyor, Smith says, is that since the conveyor is contained, it reduces the level of sound, vibration and dust generated.
“This is particularly beneficial if the operation is close to a residential area. Not only are the aesthetics improved, there’s also huge environmental benefit as the conveyor system does not generate any dust into the air. Others may be in noise-sensitive areas and need to fit our sound-attenuation paneling,” Smith adds.
Containerveyor is not the only innovation that CMA prides itself on. The company also won the Flexco Excellence in Mine Safety, OH&S Award at the 2018 Australian Mining Prospect Awards for its trademarked and patented Redline underground conveyor system – a modular conveyor system which is hung from an overhead monorail system and propelled by a hydraulic traction unit.
The Roll-Over Idler is another patented and trademarked innovation by the company, which allows conveyor operators to replace idlers when convenient and without lifting equipment. It can also be completed while the conveyor is still operating – saving enormous amounts of time.
Smith says the company was founded with the sole purpose of being a “solution finder” in the mining industry.
“So often a new thing is designed and made in search of a problem to solve, but that’s not how we go about it. We start with the problem first and let that drive the solution,” Smith says.
“The team at CMA consists of practical and highly-experienced mining people, who together bring over 100 years of mining operation and engineering experience to the mix,” he adds.
Smith says time and cost savings in mining operations are the driving vision behind all of the company’s innovative solutions.
“You can replace every other resource, but you cannot replace time. Everything that we do at CMA is aimed at saving time, and conveyor systems just happen to be one area where great time and cost savings are possible through innovation,” he concludes.
This article will also appear in the June edition of Australian Mining.