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Reliability-Centered Maintenance at Work in Mining

Implementing innovative approaches to risk management

Streamlining operations often involves cutting maintenance resources and can result in lost production. Fortunately, this was not the case for one of TÜV SÜD Global Risk Consultants’ (GRC’s) major copper mining clients. After the recommendations and implementation of reliability centered maintenance, a continued increase of production has been realized despite a decrease in budget and resources due to a downturn in mineral prices.

Importance of Reliability-Centered Maintenance

During routine inspections by TÜV SÜD GRC personnel, multiple issues were noted including: nearly all maintenance was reactive rather than predictive and preventative, no alarm bypass systems or management programs were in place, and critical sparing was not at acceptable levels, particularly for transformers and the Gearless Mill Drive (although GMD sparing was at levels recommended by the manufacturer). Mill foundation inspections had also not been formalized, which should include laser inspections.

Recommendations for Improvements

TÜV SÜD GRC offered recommendations that were primarily predictive and preventative in nature. Due to the recommendations, the client implemented robust vibration programs, established and conducted improved thermographic inspections and formalized lubrication programs. One of the most notable items included implementation of a system to handle bypasses and forces. In the process, reducing 400+ bypassed alarms to less than 20. A process in control results in less stress on equipment. This also leads to more accurate (MTBF) mean time between failure information which allows for improved life cycle calculations. In addition, mill foundation settling issues were discovered due to the inspections put in place. This allowed for a planned outage to repair the issues and avoided possible catastrophic damage to bull gears and pinions. 

Critical Savings to the Client

Had the facility not implemented recommendations following TÜV SÜD GRC inspections, its production and possibly even its position within the industry would have been negatively impacted. Despite a reduction in resources and the fact that no new mills, concentrators, or crushers have been added to date, production at the client’s facility still increased and exceeded goals each year. Accidents also decreased as maintenance was planned and not completed in a hurry on off shifts with less experienced personnel.

Savings to the client can be realized in a variety of areas, and the reliability centered maintenance recommendations provided by TÜV SÜD GRC personnel are an excellent example of the value placed on providing solutions specific to the unique needs of each client.

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