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Hydraulics in mining

If a picture paints a thousand words, then which word paints an accurate picture? A recent survey of the general public found that when people think of mining, most think of Big Trucks (32%), Employment 27%, and Coal Mining 14%. Other words that respondents said came to mind in the open ended survey, were Boom, Mining Towns and Money.

True, these words are all relative to mining, but when you ‘drill down’ a little deeper, you’ll find that the word Hydraulics actually plays the biggest part. Hydraulics engineering is an integral part every stage of the mining process, either by use of hydraulic tractors, or rigs that use hydraulic components for at least some stages of their function.

  1. During stage one, exploration drilling, hydraulic components at at work in the crawlers, drills and drill masts.
  2. Stage two, open cuts, brings in the tilt trucks and explosive drills.
  3. Then trucks with fundamentally hydraulic components are brought in to move and deliver the ores and coal.
  4. Stage four, the processing of the minerals, is clearly supported by hydraulic engineering during the extraction and pumping processes.
  5. Then, in coal mining, there’s the loading process during the coal sampling, a process reliant on hydraulics.
  6. The final process of mining uses hydraulic vehicles to place coal and minerals on conveyor belts using stacker reclaimers and coal loaders.

In underground mining, the equipment is almost wholly hydraulic. Even the reinforcing concrete in the tunnels is sprayed on using hydraulics. Hydraulic power is involved in the whole mining process.

Whilst there may be some debate over some of the recent developments in Hydraulic Mining, or ‘Fracking’, this process is not to be confused with hydraulic equipment used in mainstream mining. Mining on the whole is one of the most positive industries in the world.

Major companies in the industry are enjoying the long-standing boom and are in return providing a boost to our economy.

BHP Billiton, amongst the largest employers in the world and a premier supplier of iron ore to the world, has a long and sustainable future mining iron ore in Western Australia, with reserves for at least another 30 years and additional resources for future development. All their mines are open cut.

Machinery supplier, Komatsu, has just announced its plans to inject $50 million into the local economy and create 400 new jobs in the construction phase of its new high-tech ‘Super Site’ in Wacol, west of Brisbane.

Hitachi, which accounts for around a third of new mining excavator sales in Australia, has just announced the launch of its new giant hydraulic shovel, the EX8000, defining the trend of bigger is better and prompting the question, ‘How big can they go?’ One benefit of hydraulic shovels, via face shovel and backhoe configurations, is that they have greater flexibility when compared to their electric rope shovel counterparts. Another benefit of hydraulics includes faster travel speed.

Rio Tinto has been awarded the honour of being official metals provider for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where almost 5000 medals will be awarded to over 4000 athletes from 205 countries. Rio Tinto operates globally, employing almost 80,000 people, and contributing to the growth and prosperity of many of the countries in which they operate.

A $3 billion coal mine has been conditionally approved for Wandoan in the Surat Basin west of Maryborough in southern Queensland. The mine has an expected life of 30 years and will create nearly 1,500 jobs.

BHP Billiton has also moved to get government approval of its plan to massively expand its Pilbara operations. The United States Ambassador to Australia says Western Australia’s Pilbara region is now considered one of the best areas in the world in which to invest.

Reserve Bank Deputy, Ric Battelino, says Australia’s “very big” mining boom is here to stay at least for the next fifteen years and Australia is “sitting pretty”.

Eagerly riding the boom is an innovative hydraulics supplier in Queensland, Tidal Fluid Power (TFP). TFP supplies components and spare parts to each level of companies that support the mining industry, from the original equipment manufacturers, the end user network and the distribution network.

Based in an unassuming workshop and warehouse in Clontarf, Queensland, TFP has representatives in every state. Hands-on partner, Steve Rees, says that “new engineering developments have been made, due to the boom, which have resulted in new machinery being made.” He said that on top of the demand for new equipment, ongoing infrastructure is now working harder and requiring maintenance. TFP offers fast-fix maintenance and new equipment options to savvy businesses that want to keep on top of the demands from the boom.

What sets Tidal Fluid Power apart from other suppliers is that it offers free 24/7 telephone and email technical support on many problems that may be experienced in the day to day application and repair of hydraulic components. This is just one of its new concepts that hasn’t previously been seen in the hydraulic market, all of which are designed to assist their customers to make more money and shorten turn around times. Their highly trained staff have gained over 50 years combined expertise from practical, hands on experience and training by some of the world’s leading hydraulic and manufacturing companies.

TFP is highly competitive when it comes to providing the right components and parts. Rees said, “The key to providing high speed solutions is to know what the end user needs.” Its sales engineers are highly qualified to discover the needs of companies that have to get equipment fixed and get back to work. “We can usually provide alternative and have the solution within days, as opposed to weeks or months offered by many companies,” he said.

Rees said there are four important words to remember when providing practical solutions, and they are “Availability, Service, Quality and Price”.

Tidal Fluid Power stocks an extensive range of quality motors from Vane Motors to Bent Axis motors. The Vane Motors range includes T25M, T35M, T45M and T50M as well as a Veljan range of VM3B, VM4C and VM4D. These motors offer high speeds and high pressure as well as overall efficiency. This returns excellent starting torque characteristics when starting a motor under full load. All the TFP motors offer cartridge technology for ease of maintenance and changing motor speed and torques characteristics. The hydraulic balance significantly reduces wear and heat producing friction.

Also available is an extensive range of Sunfab Bent Axis motors. This fixed displacement piston motor has spherical pistons ensuring an efficient motor, especially suited for truck hydraulics.

Their magnum opus is the genuine Tidal TPV piston pump, which, as with all their stock, carries a full warranty. TFP stocks the highest quality replacements for the Rexroth A10V series. Their TPV piston pump is fully interchangeable and is manufactured in ISO9001 certified factories.

An extensive range of fully compatible spare parts are also available from their wellstocked warehouse. TFP has released the most comprehensive piston pump and spare parts brochure to date, detailing performance characteristics of the various components. The brochure is available in print form or on CD ROM, and should be at-hand in every hydraulics workshop, because one never knows when a machine might fail. Tidal Fluid Power is the pumping heart of hydraulic muscle.

By Barbie Young for Tidal Fluid Power 07 3889 4591 www.tidalfluidpower.com.au

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