A torn conveyor belt and an extended shutdown replacement schedule may not be every production manager’s worst nightmare – but it probably ranks in the top 10. This was the scenario for one of Australia’s largest metallurgical coal producers.
At the miner’s underground mine in the Bowen Basin, a wear plate from a chute dislodged and jammed, causing a catastrophic longitudinal tear in the ST3500 drift belt, which carried up to 6000tph. An initial assessment put the tear at around 800 metres.
Within minutes of the tear the site’s regular belt supplier was contacted. The quoted repair time was 45 to 60 days, depending on raw material availability.
A call was then made to the Fenner Dunlop office in Mackay – a call that initiated a chain of events that saw the site back up and running in 19 days.
Within 12 hours of that call one of the company’s specialist belt technicians was on site to fully assess the damage and discuss possible repair and replacement options.
The tear was established at 1147 metres – almost half the total belt length – and the mine was offered two options: repair the tear, which would mean operating the belt at reduced capacity and ultimately a belt change-out; or clip the belt every 9-10 metres, run it to clear the coal and change-out the damaged section with new steel cord belt.
Based on Fenner Dunlop’s ability to supply replacement belt on a short lead time and quickly mobilise a team to complete the change-out, the second option was decided on. And with that decision made, an emergency response program went into action.
A team was sent from the Mackay branch to install the 400 metres of emergency belt held on site. A slot was created at the company’s Kwinana manufacturing facility to produce the 1150 metres of new belt – to be supplied in four rolls – needed to complete the job.
Concurrently, suitable custom splice kits were manufactured at the company’s Footscray plant in Victoria and despatched to site.
To overcome the possibility of the four rolls of new belt arriving on site together a staggered delivery schedule was implemented.
Each roll was despatched on its 4500km journey from Kwinana to the Bowen Basin immediately after final quality inspection and would be spliced on site while the next roll was in transit – a delivery schedule that ensured no bottlenecks and the shortest possible delay before the belt was operational.
Just 19 days after the torn drift belt stalled production, the mine was fully operational.
Reports from the mine tell of a smooth job and seamless integration of the new belt which, at the time of writing, had been running for around eight weeks with no quality, tracking or splicing issues – and is apparently performing significantly better than the original belt.
As to the cost of the job, when offset against the productivity losses from a potential 45-day repair, the decision proved a profitable investment.