ANINE VERMEULEN I FEATURES REPORTER
South African filtration company Filter Focus is in the process of integrating its services into Anglo American subsidiary Kumba Iron Ore's newly opened Kolomela iron-ore mine, near Postmaburg, in the Northern Cape.
The mine officially opened on June 22 and Filter Focus aims to extend the life of hydraulic oil used in processing equipment at Kolornela, which will decrease the mine's environmental footprint.
The company has been involved with Kumba's Sishen mine since 2005, assisting with oil cleanliness and addressing frequent component failure of hydraulic crushers.
Hydraulic oil is generally discarded owing to contamination; however, Filter Focus has developed systems that eliminate this wasteful practice.
The company initially concentrated on the primary, secondary and quaternary crushers, which consisted of 21 independent filter systems.
"The consumption of oil at Sishen's primary and secondary crushers was worrying. The total oil consumption was about 160000 l/y," says a Wear Control Specialist at Filter Focus.
"Owing to high consumption, filtration of the oil was investigated. The mine came to the conclusion that if they employed submicron filtration of the oil and filtrated the oil while in use, it could improve the life cycle of the equipment. The old centrifugal filters used by Sishen were inefficient, labour intensive and required daily cleaning."
He highlights that Filter Focus's filtering process provides a higher level of oil cleanliness, as the oil in operation, after being filtered, is cleaner than new oil delivered directly from the refinery.
"Oil additive packages are kept intact, extending the life of the oil by up to ten years.
"This decreases the rate at which oil is disposed of and, therefore, an operation's impact on the environment," states the specialist.
Further, the life expectancy of lubricating pumps has been extended tenfold, compared with historical averages, and oil consumption has been reduced from 4 000 l/y to about 500 l/y as a result of the filtration process.
Crusher socket life has also been extended from an average four months to 3.5 years and maintenance work has been reduced, enabling the hazard identification and risk assessment level at Sishen to drop from 42 to 0.5.
"As a result, Filter Focus has been awarded a supply and maintenance contract to provide plantwide filtration services at Sishen.
"Five permanent staff members are based at the mine to fulfil the contract requirements.
"Our products and services are now being extended across operations on the various plants at Kumba" the specialist adds.
Filter Focus also works with ferrochrome producer Hernic Ferrochrome, based on the western limb of the Bushveld Complex, in the North West province, to assist with oil cleanliness and frequent component failures at its processing plant.
The specialist explains that ultrafine offline filtration systems have been installed on all gearboxes, along with bearing lubrication systems.
"Since installation, the oil has not been replaced, as cleanliness is being maintained and wear rates have decreased by 92%.
"Numerous gearboxes and pumps have been saved as a result of our work.
"An oil analysis programme has also been implemented and comprises monthly oil condition monitoring from which reports are generated.
"Further, all conveyors have been equipped with Easylube single point automated lubrication systems, which have extended bearing life. Filter Focus has also taken over the lubrication of the girth gear and, through improved lubrication qualities, we have reduced consumptions from 400 kg/m to 40 kg/m," he asserts.
As a result, temperatures across the face of the girth gear have decreased by about 20°C, extending component life.
The specialist adds that pinion bearings are being treated with lubrication technology provider Lubrication Engineers' Almagard 3752, resulting in a temperature reduction of 12%, extending bearing life and lowering friction.
Filter Focus is also providing filtration and lubrication services for Namibian zinc and lead mining business Rosh Pinah Zinc Corporation, platinum producer Zimplats' Selous Metallurgical Complex and Ngezi concentrator, in Zimbabwe, and Anglo Platinum's Mokopane platinum mine, in Limpopo, South Africa.