A reclaimer bucket full of benefits.

Improving safety, sustainability and cost efficiency with long-life reclaimer buckets.


An iron ore major in Western Australia was looking to extend the wear life of its reclaimer buckets by one shutdown cycle – from 48 weeks to 60 weeks. This would bring a range of benefits, including improved safety (as there would be fewer man-machine interactions) and sustainability (as less waste would be generated), and lower maintenance costs. It would also allow shutdown time to be spent on other maintenance activities around the bucket wheel.

 

Thanks to our close working relationship with the mining company, encompassing an installed base of over fifty stockyard machines, we were invited to inspect the worn buckets and propose a solution. After visiting various sites site, we suggested adding FerroCer wear panels to the areas of high wear.

Longest possible wear life in a low-weight, compact design

Our low-weight, compact FerroCer wear panels are designed to offer the longest possible wear life. Comprising a set of abrasion-resistant ceramic inserts within a matrix of malleable steel, their lighter and easier-to-handle size makes them simpler and safer to fit than alternative wear solutions – with no specialised tools or training required for installation.

 

To test the ability of FerroCer to meet the mining company’s objectives, we supplied three buckets – two with the FerroCer panels and one to the current design as a control. The upgraded panels also included our WearMax epoxy ceramic coating, applied inside the bucket around the FerroCer panels, as well as to the outside of the bucket to protect the FerroCer panel hold-down fixings. 

We monitored and documented bucket wear at each shutdown interval – although in the end two inspections were missed: one due to disruption caused by a cyclone; and one due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. In doing so, we had to work closely with the site team to co-ordinate our inspections during the shutdowns to ensure we could gain access to the buckets. 

Performance that goes on and on… and on

48 weeks – the service life of the existing solution – came and went. As did 60 weeks, the target set by the mining company. We’re now at 82 weeks in operation and the upgraded buckets are still installed and will operate until at least the 94-week shutdown. This almost doubles the service life of the existing buckets, extending the service life by four shutdown cycles. We are now in discussions to push the buckets past 94 weeks to the 106-week service and beyond.

 

As a result of the improved service life, another area of wear has become evident on the internal surface, where material exits the bucket. Mine personnel have also raised concerns about the service life of the bucket location pins and bushes, which have historically worn, allowing the bucket to become loose. The mine has supplied us with a number of the worn pins and we are assessing whether it’s possible to extend their service life too.

Key to the success of this project is our relationship with the mine, which meant they came to us when they needed a solution. And key to that relationship – as in any relationship – is communication. You have to be willing to visit the mine site and listen to their issues. Only then can you bring those real solutions that make a difference.

Alex BozwardRegional Product Line Manager, Materials Handling

So, our job is not yet done. In fact, this is just the start of providing the mine with the best possible bucket to reduce man-machine interaction, waste, and costs. All in the pursuit of that big-picture goal common to all mining companies: how to safely, sustainably and cost-efficiently improve the bottom line.


To this end, we continue to work to further improve the service life of the buckets and to innovate solutions to the challenges the mine faces. We are also in discussions about implementing the bucket upgrades across multiple sites. 

Alex Bozward

Regional Product Line Manager – Material Handling
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