In a special guest blog, Jayde Ferguson of Statewide Bearings outlines advice on how to run a successful mining operation.
by Jayde Ferguson
Many of the natural resources used by the global population are found within the Earth’s crust, and the mining industry is responsible for locating and harvesting them. In Australia, more than 245,000 individuals, or 2% of the workforce, work in the mining industry to locate and uncover hidden reservoirs of oil, coal, rare metals, gemstones, and all kinds of other valuable materials. While raw manpower is sometimes needed on the job, most miners rely on special machinery to do most of the hard labour. Without this equipment, many tasks would be improbable or impossible for humans to accomplish. That’s why the smooth operation of the mining industry relies completely on mining devices that are tough and dependable.
1. The Critical Components
Heavy-duty digging systems are giant contraptions consisting of three major components – teeth, chains, and sprockets. All are essential to the normal functioning of a digging system and must be perfectly compatible with each other. The teeth are responsible for tearing into hard surfaces, and they’re placed all over a chain that runs via the rotation of sprockets.
When any one of those parts is worn or broken, the efficiency of the entire system is greatly reduced, and it can become inoperable. The consequences of a failing part can be grave. Not only could the entire digging machine be put out of commission for an undetermined amount of time, resulting in huge losses of profit, but the damages could also cause unnecessary harm or death to nearby workers.
2. Use of Materials
To maintain the efficiency of a digging system, prolong its lifespan, and prevent accidents from occurring, it’s very important to use parts that are made of the highest-quality materials. Quality digging teeth are crafted from high-grade steel, and they’re often faced with tungsten carbide. Chains are also made from similar materials. Sprockets come in cast, flame-cut, and forged variants, but the latter is considered to be the most durable. Stainless, alloy, and carbon steels are used for these gears.
Using the right materials is fundamental to having a strong, long-lasting digging system, but the processes used to create those materials also greatly affect quality. When it comes to steel, proper heat treating is essential to achieving extreme rigidity without the risk of chipping. Good steel is one that can take a lot of abuse over a long duration of time without suffering a lot of damage. In addition to chipping, damage can refer to wearing, deformation, or oxidation. Different types of steels will have their pros and cons, so it’s a matter of selecting one that possesses the qualities deemed most important for its intended use. There is no such thing as an indestructible material, only one that has the highest ratio of benefits to drawbacks.
Investing in digging systems that can perform multiple roles is the best move for the mining industry. Those designed for very specific jobs only have a singular use, and while they may be necessary tools, they probably won’t see much service. It’s a better idea to reserve the bulk of the budget for multi-purpose digging systems that would function effectively in all kinds of terrains and environments.
Most digging systems are highly customizable, so the secret lies in equipping them with the right parts for every situation. Choose your teeth, chain, and sprocket designs wisely. Reliability is the most important feature of a digging system, and the right combination of parts will have it running like clockwork.
4. Customer Support
Mining product manufacturers should stand behind their products completely. Tools will degrade with use, and they’ll eventually need to be repaired or replaced, but products sometimes fail to work as advertised. In the case that premature damage to a part is documented, it should be relatively easy to get in touch with the manufacturer to explain the situation. Once the defect is confirmed, new parts should be sent out in a timely manner so that mining operations are not compromised during the wait. Again, indestructible digging systems don’t exist, so manufacturers should be ready and willing to help when their parts fail.
5. Safe Work Procedures
There are 3.84 fatalities for every 100,000 workers in the Australian mining industry. That’s a number that almost doubles the national average. Mining is a profession that poses more workplace hazards than most others, but many precautions can be taken to ensure that the work environment remains as safe as possible.
Before mining even begins, the excavation site should be checked for potential hazards. The risk for injury should then be assessed for each hazard. If the hazard is determined to pose a significant threat to the safety of workers, measures should be taken to control or eliminate it.
Essential mining equipment is responsible for many on-site injuries and fatalities. Some workers meet their ends using them improperly, but others are forever scarred as a result of poorly maintained machinery. To prevent horrible accidents from occurring, digging systems should receive regular maintenance to ensure their proper functioning. Mining teeth should be checked for secure attachment to chains. Chains should be inspected for weak links. Sprockets should be liberally lubricated on a regular basis and examined for worn teeth.
The appropriate tools should always be used for every project. Teeth, chains, and sprockets come in a wide variety of designs that all have unique properties and serve different purposes. When incorrectly applied to a situation, parts can break and cause serious harm to the equipment and its users.