Filter cleaning machine could dust thousands off maintenance bill
By Andrew Topf, MINING.com Editor
The movement of ore, either through surface or underground operations, generates a tremendous amount of dust. The tiny dust particles must be run through filters to avoid damaging, or impeding the performance, of moving parts located in key pieces of mining equipment, including trucks, loaders, shovels, and crushing and grinding machinery.
Mine operators have incorporated the replacement of air filters into their regular maintenance schedules. But the maintenance is costly, not only in terms of labour and replacement filters, but also to the environment, as used filters are routinely land-filled.
To use one example, a large mining shovel has 56 filters costing $285 apiece. One complete change-out amounts to $16,000, which happens every 500 hours, or 45 days. Not a huge component of a multi-million-dollar mining operation, but not insignificant either.
Canadian company Diversi-Tech saw the opportunity in the problem, and the result was the “Green Machine.” The machine releases compressed air through a rotating air jet that moves up and down in a spiral motion inside an enclosed chamber. As the filter is cleaned, pollutants are captured and stored in a 55-gallon drum.
The machine is capable of cleaning a range of primary air intake filters, including those used in haul trucks, dozers, and shovels. It does not clean safety filters, which must be replaced.
At $20,000 per machine, Diversi-Tech claims it can save mining companies thousands in maintenance costs. According to the company’s brochure, a surface mine with 50 dozers and haulers would pay $396,000 a year to replace filters, plus another $24,000 to dispose of them, for a total of $420,000. Cleaning the filters instead would only incur the initial cost of the Green Machine, leaving an annual savings of $400,250.
Diversi-Tech’s Morrie Dynbort says the product may seem like “a no-brainer” considering the potential for maintenance savings, but the challenge has been convincing mining companies to change their maintenance routines. Many prefer to continue replacing filters, despite the obvious, and arguably, unnecessary cost.
“Change is a slow issue. It’s not just getting the name out there but educating the major mining companies,” says Dynbort.
Diversi-Tech has had recent success, however. Newmont Mining, a major gold producer, purchased a Green Machine in February, at the company’s sample preparation facility, where samples are brought from Newmont’s global operations for crushing and grinding.
The facility’s huge dust collectors employ filters that must be cleaned every three months by hand.
Dave Kerbaugh, the facility’s supervisor, says the machine has been used since February and is proving effective.
“With this machine I don’t have to put people in (maintenance) suits and full breathing apparatus so they can get in there and blow them out,” says Kerbaugh. “We just put one of the filters in this machine and then go do something else.”
He noted the Green Machine would be worth having for the manpower alone, with filter-cleaning accomplished with two employees versus six to eight previously.
Diversi-Tech recently did a demo at Newmont’s Carlin mine in Nevada which was also attended by employees from Barrick’s Goldstrike mine.
To prove the machine’s effectiveness and safety for diesel applications, the Green Machine will be tested at Southwest Research Lab, used extensively by Caterpillar and many mines, where a filter from a Cat 797 dozer will be cleaned using the Green Machine.
“We’re well on our way to re-energizing our efforts to get the machine out in front of a whole bunch of minesites,” said Dynbort.