Full buckets at Mt Keith

AUSTIN Engineering Ltd with its project partners has played a key role in assisting production improvements at BHP Billiton’s West Australian Mount Keith nickel mine operated in alliance with Thiess.

AUSTIN Engineering Ltd with its project partners has played a key role in assisting production improvements at BHP Billiton’s West Australian Mount Keith nickel mine operated in alliance with Thiess.

The Continuous Improvement Team at BHP Billiton was assisted by Austin Engineering in implementing a new design to help improve the current bucket fill factor on their 650 tonne Face Shovel buckets.

Austin Engineering marketing manger Tony Reeves said buckets of this size normally used cast bucket lips due to the forces generated by the power of the shovels.

“After carefully studying the Finite Element Analysis results conducted by Austin Engineering and our GET supplier, the development of an 180mm fabricated plate lip using a six station welded GET system was decided on,” Reeves said.

“The lip has a square leading edge which is not the traditional bevel configuration associated with plate lips.

“The challenge was to offer a slim profile lip system in lieu of the bulk associated with cast lip systems to improve penetration capability and bucket fill whilst maintaining structural integrity.

“In order to eliminate potential cracking from heat affected zones associated with welded components, the entire leading edge of the plate lip was machined including the radii in the steps of the spade edge.

“The GET adaptor legs were built up and then machined to offer a virtual machined fit to the plate lip.

“This installation method was considered crucial to the success of the assembly.

“Thiess had a spare 29m3 bucket at the site, smaller than the other site buckets which have a 33m3 capacity. This unit was despatched to Austin’s Perth facility where the cast lip was removed and the new plate lip assembly installed.”

The lip assembly was fabricated at Austin Engineering’s Brisbane factory under the watchful supervision of the technical team headed by world authority in his field, General Manager of Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing, Dr Nasir Ahmed.

Reeves said while it was still early days, reports from the site indicated the project was a great success and the smaller bucket was capable of moving more BCM’s than the long-term average of the larger buckets.

“The willingness of all parties to participate in an experiential, and somewhat risky venture, demonstrated a joint effort to improve production rates at Mt Keith,” Reeves said.

“Austin Engineering is delighted to have been part of the process.”

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