The increased focus on reducing capital budgets by the mining sector is not necessarily going to pay in the long term.
This is according to Mark Baller, managing director of Weba Chute Systems, who says that miners would do well to assess the operating cost of an item before making ill-informed decisions.
“The focus should be on the payback period of a capital item and not only on the actual cost of the purchase,” he says.
Baller says this is particularly true when it comes to transfer points, however he is also quick to point out that in many instances the cost of operating chute systems within a plant is largely unknown by the end-user.
Activities that should be allocated to chute maintenance or repair are often hidden in other cost items.
As an example, Ballers says that where excessive spillage occurs these clean-ups could be allocated to conveyor system costs purely because the reporting and allocating system does not allow for the transfer points as a separate item.
“This lack of base knowledge is a major stumbling block to reducing operating costs on a plant. When the existing costs of operating chute systems is unknown you cannot measure anything against this.
It is therefore difficult to motivate or justify the capital expenditure for an engineered transfer point solution and we often find that cheaper fabricated chutes are procured,” he says.
Unfortunately, not selecting a correctly engineered transfer point often only becomes apparent much later down the line when the inherent problems with the cheaper option start causing major unscheduled downtime.
It is at this stage, Baller says, that plant operators start to consider the real impact of the original purchasing decision.
Weba Chute Systems believes that to bring total operational costs down plant operators need to adjust how they view operational and maintenance budgets. “We are encouraging plant operators to allocate costs associated with transfer points and chute systems correctly as only once this has been done will accurate costs be available for these items,” Baller says.
“Without this information there are a lot of unknowns and plants tend to operate under the misconception that cheaper is better when it comes to transfer points.
This is absolutely untrue as these conveyances move material continuously through a plant and need to be engineered to cope with the demands of the individual applications.”
It is critical to understand the value that individual transfer points bring to the overall plant and this perspective with accurate operational data will enable end-users to make well informed decisions, from which benefits will be reaped in the long term.
Close collaboration with customers has seen Weba Chute Systems provide transfer point solutions that have paid themselves off within anything from nine to 19 months, Baller says. “After this payback period, the chutes continue to operate reliably saving operational and maintenance costs which makes for a sustainable solution on a plant.”