Wearing down the industry

One of the majorly overlooked issues in mining is of the effects of corrosion.

The high cost of corro­sion is a major challenge for the industry and is a difficult problem to manage as it is an extremely intrusive and disruptive outlay to all mining and services businesses.

The mining industry sees millions lost in production, repetitive repairs and main­tenance and in some instances the outcome is serious machin­ery failure.

This is often a very expen­sive situation to remedy, espe­cially when it occurs on a regular basis.

Flow on consequences of this is the tying up of manpower in planning and organ­ising downtimes to fix the corrosion damage.

However, this does not have to be an inevitability of working in the industry.

Despite these well known outcomes, “new projects often postpone corrosion preven­tion since it is part of maintenance and operating budgets, so the initial design life of a mine is extended so the solu­tions that may have lasted a few years are often totally inadequate for the real life of the mine,” state manager of
QLD and NT at CEA Australia, Peter Hatchard said.

Integra Packaging manag­ing director Roger Till outlined the general acceptance of corrosion as unavoidable and its effects as ingrained within the industry.

“Years of inter­nal solutions and a reluctant but passive acceptance [of corrosion] can lead to a
culture that affects the entire business … and a perception of corro­sion as an inevitable cost of doing business have seen costs justified in financial accounts,” Till said.

He went on to say that the effect of continuing with traditional high cost remedy protocols can be as much as 20% of product cost.

There are a number of methods to overcome or at least drastically slow the effects of corrosion, ranging from metallurgical solutions through to lining and coating systems to heavy duty protective pack­aging in the case of asset storage or shipment.

“A well deliberated design and material selection can reduce a lot of unnecessary corrosion in most equipment,” Hatchard said.

In the case of coatings, its effectiveness depends on whether the right coating has been chosen in the first place.

After which it requires preparation to be carried out by professional applicators in the right conditions and
temperatures.

Modern moisture and surface tolerant coating systems can eliminate the need for environmental control and can reduce the need for abra­sive blasting.

“By specifying a coating without considering the expe­rience of the applicator you can run the danger of having to replace a defective coating not once but twice in a running plant, which will cause massive produc­tion loss and costs involved in repeat shut­downs,” Hatchard said.

“There is also the environmen­tal impact and adverse public­ity involved when equipment such as tanks or bunds leak into the groundwater,” he added.

Protecting assets from corrosion while in storage or during shipping requires a different approach.

Integra Packaging uses Intercept Technology, which employs highly porous copper particles that are permanently embedded in a plastic matrix wrapping material.

This wrapping material provides anti-corrosion protec­tion and protects against mois­ture, mildew, static and the effects of UV light.

It was recently utilised to send underground coal mining equipment from Australia to Siberia by sea and rail, with no adverse effects on the machinery.

Despite very different methods of corrosion protec­tion, the outcomes and the sentiment remains the same.

Corrosion does not have to be an inevitable part of mining, and with prior plan­ning it can be avoided or at
the very least severely dimin­ished in intensity.

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