Transfer chute upgrades at WA iron ore facility significantly lift productivity

Western Australia’s iron ore industry is a highly competitive environment. Any loss in productivity can have a significant impact on the financial performance of the major mining companies that lead the way in this sector.

Flexco has established strong relationships in the iron ore industry by helping these companies apply its innovative solutions at their operations.

A key example of this was a transfer chute upgrade project at an iron ore export terminal that delivered a crucial boost in productivity for the facility.

As part of the iron ore client’s performance optimisation project, Flexco was given the opportunity to assist with improvements to several conveyor transfer points.

Flexco WA state manager Adam Wright said the company was engaged due to the long-standing business partner relationship between the two parties over the past 15 years.

“Our client’s performance optimisation project targeted transfer chute improvements that could be undertaken to achieve its key outcomes,” Wright told Australian Mining.

“The most notable results the company wanted to achieve were an increase in tonnages and throughput, and an increase in belt availability.”

Flexco helped the iron ore company deliver improvements on two chutes that required upgrades.

Originally designed to deliver 10,000 tonnes per hour (tph), the cutes were only able to achieve between 8500-9000tph of iron ore fines. By engaging Flexco, the miner is now achieving its targeted output.

The two chutes were found to have their own unique problems preventing them from operating at peak performance. For example, transfer chute one was experiencing build up and blockages at flow rates above 8500tph despite having a 10,000tph capacity.

Transfer chute two, on the other hand, was too narrow and material flow was restricted when handling lower density product, resulting in it choking back to a reduced feed rate of 8500tph.

Inspection of the chutes identified a series of concerns, including that several small ledges and faceted flow surfaces inside the transfer had resulted in residual product build up, which was restricting the flow of fines.

Committed to lifting productivity at the facility, the iron ore company turned to Flexco knowing that its chutes have been proven to achieve 10,000tph regardless of the product.

The chute project upgrade included two phases, with the first stage involving the design of the new solution.

Following discussions between Flexco and its client, it was determined that the new chutes must be designed to accommodate a rate of 10,000tph for fines.

“A flow chart modelling report was completed following the discussions,” Wright explained. “The chart included discrete element modelling, and an in-house trial at Flexco’s facilities with a one-to-five scale transfer to support the calibration process for the computer modelling.

“Throughout the trial, the iron ore miner proposed investigating the maximum possible rate and subsequently, the design rate was lifted to 10,5000tph for all products, including fines.”

After further consultation, it was decided that Flexco would incorporate existing standard deflector plates into the transfer chute design.

At the end of phase one, it was agreed that transfer one would comprise a one-on-one oblique transfer with an integrated cross-cut sampler, while transfer two would comprise a one-on-one oblique transfer with a head shuttling between.

Both transfer chutes were designed to handle the full range of products through the facility, ranging from lump through to more difficult products, such as fines.

The transfer chutes were lined with 63mm and 37mm ceramic wear liners and configured in replaceable, bolted panels 300mm x 300mm in size.

Phase two involved supply of the transfer chutes. For this stage, the transfer chutes were manufactured at the Flexco manufacturing facility in Bundaberg, Queensland and transported to Perth, WA for installation of the ceramic wear liners by an existing tile supplier. The transfer chutes were commissioned by late 2016.

“Both transfers with all products, including fines, are operating blockage free and are loading central on to the receiving belts at the iron ore facility,” Wright said.

Importantly for the iron ore company, continuous rates of 10,000tph for all products, including fines, are now being achieved.

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