better together story

Testimonial 1

Working the oil sands together with our customers

In surface mining, huge equipment components, such as mechanical shovels, are used to remove overburden and ore from the ground. Strong and long-lasting wire rope that is used to make shovel ropes is key to maximizing the efficiency of these machines. The rough circumstances in which mining operations take place cause these shovel ropes to wear out frequently, resulting in lengthy and expensive downtime for the equipment.

Bekaert Wire Rope Industries (Canada) has been working in close cooperation with one of its customers harnessing the resources of the Alberta oil sands in Canada. The oil sands represent 30% of the world’s known oil reserves. The planned expansion over the next few years makes this area the fastest growing surface mining region in North America. As working the oil sands implies special challenges, the Bekaert engineers set out to improve overall rope service life. They observed and tackled two clear issues that affected the shovel rope performance.

Tackling premature rope retirement

First, the bale design forced the ropes to endure a severe bend as the shovel is parked. As a result, the outer wires of the rope were being damaged and wire breaks began to appear early on in the rope life cycle. The second issue was related to the loading of the ropes. In typical hard rock mining, the mine wall is blasted in order to fragment it. In the oil sands, on the other hand, the shovel needs to break the bench wall so that the rope loading is high throughout the entire digging cycle. On top of that, oil sand fills the bucket more evenly than rocks and the sticky sand causes the buckets to overfill. As a result, the ropes were being loaded far more heavily than in traditional hard rock mining. Both issues combined led to premature rope retirement.

We initiated a test program designed to target the identified problem areas in close cooperation with the mine personnel. By incorporating a flat wire around the rope in the area where damage was occurring, our engineers provided protection for the rope around the bale. They also incorporated higher tensile wires in the rope, thus resulting in a 20% breaking load increase.

70% reduction in shovel downtime

Initial results have been very promising. Whereas the average service life obtained with standard plastic filled shovel ropes was 700 hours, the average life obtained so far with the test ropes is close to 1200 hours. This has reduced shovel downtime by no less than 70%. Our efforts to provide a total customer solution were greatly appreciated, as we were awarded 100% of the shovel hoist rope business at this mine.

Shovels contain several ropes made of Bekaert wires: pendant lines, hoist ropes and trip ropes. The hoist ropes usually last a relatively short time. Together with our customer, we improved the ropes to prolong their life time.

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