Freeport says RME ‘engineering the risk’ out of vital maintenance task


Staff reporter

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Russell Mineral Equipment’s semi-automated maintenance support structure and new AutoMotion mill relining machine

An early user of a proprietary semi-automated mine comminution mill relining system developed by Australian company Russell Mineral Equipment says RME is “engineering the risk” out of the task, which minimises downtime associated with pivotal production equipment.

Copper major PT Freeport Indonesia is said to be analysing performance data from its initial mill reline using RME’s semi-autonomous equipment, but says early indications are the system exceeded expectations.

“PT-FI Indonesia has largely removed crew from inside the mill as we reline,” Freeport-McMoRan director metallurgy and strategic planning, Dr John Wilmot, said at the recent SAG 2023 conference in Vancouver, Canada.

“While there are still a few residual activities where we need to enter, such as wash-down, we’re executing relines faster and safer than before.

“Mill relining is no longer on the critical path.

“RME’s modular systems approach enabled us to progressively implement the technology, which meant we could quantify the safety and productivity improvements at each reline event, even as the new technology was being deployed.

“The staged implementation also provided an opportunity to create strong buy-in from our reline crew. In our experience, when the crew is part of the optimisation journey, the change program is infinitely more successful. At PT-FI Indonesia, our reline crew has now taken full ownership of the process.”

Queensland-based RME, established in 1985 and now said to have deployed equipment in more than 60 countries, says its semi-automated plant maintenance system is built around an advanced configuration of its “most adopted” relining machine (Russell 7 mill relining machine, or MRM), its Russell 7 Model R AutoMotion MRM.

It is complemented by its Thunderbolt Skyway, a semi-automated knock-in system used on the exterior of the mill that’s been working since 2020 at sites in Central America and Indonesia.

RME has also developed InsideOut tooling and compatible liner and bolt design.

The semi-automated system can “grab knocked-in worn liners off the shell or from the charge, and place new liners against the shell with millimetre precision and without personnel working inside the mill”.

A top-down render of a SAG mill maintenance scenario

The manufacturer says its system addresses the two main phases of mill relining: worn liner removal and new liner placement.

“By eliminating human-machine interaction, we can speed up the machines and relining processes, consistently and repeatably,” RME founder and executive chairman, Dr John Russell, said.

“This advanced capability is now a reality.

“We have now completed more than 30 real-world relines using the various products of RME’s advanced technology suite.

“The data we’re seeing from the 30-plus relines gives me the confidence to state that this system better for productivity.

“The transition to net zero requires an enormous increase in the minerals that are essential to the decarbonisation of our economies.

“We are delighted to be able to play a part in safely speeding up the production of those minerals.”

 

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