V-belt health in coal mining: Wambo case study

Coal mines are notoriously high-stress environments for machines to operate in due to the contamination of parts.

Regular maintenance regimes are therefore essential to keep rotating equipment in working order in the larger coal mining operations.

Wambo is an open-cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales that produces an estimated 3.6 million tonnes of coal per year.

The consequences of machine failure on their production line can be catastrophic for the operation and for the local economy.

Which is why Wambo lean on CBC as their trusted parts and services supplier, to perform regular maintenance at the plant and ensure smooth operations.

One particular component that is regularly and carefully maintained at Wambo are the mine’s V-belts. As CBC Reliability Engineer Cadet Connor Hincks explains, this is because V-belts tend to fail quickly in highly contaminated environments.

“For V-belt drives, common problems include: the belt coming off the pulley, burning out, or shredding. They are normally easy to diagnose because nine times out of 10, the sites themselves aren’t maintaining their drives or aren’t maintaining them according to the specifications of the manufacturer. If that isn’t done, then the V-belt drives fail very quickly,” he says.

“CBC is one of the few companies that provide regular V-belt drive maintenance services to customers in the Hunter Valley, including Wambo. Regular checks of fixed plant drive components ensure complete reliability of the system during critical operations of coal washing. We visit the site every three weeks to check on the V-belt performance.”

The longevity of V-belt drive systems in coal mines is dependent on regular maintenance as the drives are subject to heavy contamination and the belts are susceptible to cracking from heat.

“Some of the belts in coal plants will fail around the one year mark because of the drive. Drives that are running in coal plants are subject to very contaminated environments and undergo a lot of wear, but those in cleaner environments can last up to two or three years,” Hincks explains.

“The heat generation comes from the coal ingress into the pulley system which is the most common reason why belts will crack and fail. We ensure the reliability of plant equipment through regular maintenance checks and making sure the correct installation of components is carried out.”

In the case of Wambo, the V-belt drive maintenance that CBC provides involves the regular checking of all V-belt drives on pumps around the site during scheduled shutdowns.

It also includes the replacement of damaged components, and the correct alignment and tensioning of the belts.

The V-belts used at the Wambo site are exclusively Gates products as they have proven to be the most effective, says Hincks: “Gates belts are superior products. Other belts will last but not to the extent of the Gates belts.”

The CBC team provide the initial installation and explain to the Wambo on-site maintenance crew as to how the components need to be maintained and what the procedure is to replace them.

They will also advise as to whether the V-belt drives need to be replaced or maintained depending on what is economically viable for the customer.

At Wambo, keeping the V-belt systems running efficiently depends on both the maintenance checks that their on-site teams perform and the regular servicing that CBC provides.

“There are 45 V-belt drive systems at Wambo and they shut down every three weeks. We check a certain number of drives each shutdown. So, on average we check each belt system every eight months,” Hincks says.

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