Effective transportation of bulk materials is crucial to the success of a wide range of industrial entities, such as mining and processing enterprises. From the point at which a mineral is mined through to refining, processing, and distributing to end users, there is need to transport bulk materials efficiently and safely from one place to another, whether over a few metres or thousands of kilometres.
The recent strikes on the metals and mines industry in South Africa has had an impact on the Bulk Materials Handling industry, however growth prospects are good and there is a fair amount of work in refurbishment of existing equipment.
The Bulk Materials Handling industry is critical to the growth of the South African economy, and one needs to consider its importance in the mining and related industries such as the processing plants required to crush, screen and beneficiate ores, as well as the infrastructure at ports required to either export or import the goods. In addition, there are users of these primary materials such as the power stations, ferrochrome, iron and steel industries, explains Adriano Frittella, Mechanical Engineer from AFripp Projects.
The BMH industry continues to improve utilization of assets mainly through refurbishment activities designed to extend the life of existing infrastructure. In addition, the industry also devotes time to education and training believing that increased education and understanding of how BMH systems work will ensure that these systems operate in efficient manner. Unfortunately many of the skills, as with other industries, have been lost. Hence BMH education in whatever form is critical to the ongoing growth of the industry and of the economy, adds Frittella.
The Bulk Materials Handling industry strives for continuous improvement both in terms of reducing environmental impact and the energy required to transport material. In belt conveying design there has been significant research into the characteristics of the rubber compounds used in order to reduce the total energy required to operate the system. This is particularly applicable to long conveyors, and there has also been a worldwide increase in the use of enclosed conveyors such as pipe conveyors and sack belts in order to reduce environmental impact of spilled material, further elaborates Frittella.
It is critical that the system is inherently safe to use and is able to sustain the typically very rough handling anticipated in mining environments. In hard rock mining, factors such as large lump size and its detrimental effects on Bulk Materials Handling components require considerations. In addition, the transfer point where the impact of an incorrectly designed transfer can reduce production to a trickle, is another aspect that is receiving increased attention, adds Frittella.
There has been very little effort that has been dedicated to research in South Africa as compared to countries such as USA, Germany and Australia who have extensive Bulk Materials Handling requirements. Fortunately some links between local universities and overseas institutions have formed, leading to local research activities taking place. The majority of the current technologies seek to improve details of the existing BHM elements, making systems safer and less costly, concludes Frittella.