Predictive Mine Equipment Maintenance

mine equipment maintenancePredictive Mine Equipment Maintenance

Mining equipment is built to withstand a lot of beating. It must carry tons of weight and be used under the most extreme environments and conditions, while being able to function without problems. The maintenance of mining equipment is challenging due to its remote locations. Mechanics must be proactive in their repairs by remaining one step ahead of any equipment maintenance requirements, because miners lose money when equipment breaks down. Failing to assess, determine or predict equipment reliability, or getting replacements on time, can be devastating to the organization.

Modern digital equipment has been developed, which can be used to take precise measurements of each different part and determine the current condition of the part. It is vital that equipment is measured regularly to determine if any worn parts may require replacement. To help predict the current condition of your equipment and prevent costly unscheduled downtime, these technologies provide miners with early warnings of any pending problems. This allows resources to be secured in advance, so that any problems can be addressed before the equipment fails.

Vibration monitoring

Vibration monitoring allows the engineers to measure precise amounts of wear occurring on the moving parts of equipment. This is done using sensors, which are specially designed to measure the vibration of large moving mining equipment such as bearings, gears and pumps. The data is displayed in real-time, in a data acquisition system and in a control room.

Additionally, the data is monitored by a vibration analyst for any warning signs that will indicate deteriorating health. This is highly efficient because mining machines are spread out over a wide area, making it difficult for the maintenance team to deal with them on a regular basis. From the results of the collected data, the team is able to troubleshoot any issues, and schedule needed repairs or maintenance, in advance.

Laser alignment of equipment parts

Laser shaft alignment helps reduce the energy expenditure of equipment that is joined together by shafts and couplings. Without proper alignment, the machines can develop a high vibration level, which can also cause more wear on bearings. This can lead the bearings, and eventually the machine, to fail. Having rotational equipment aligned removes many reasons equipment fails. Some benefits of proper alignment are:

  • Reducing vibration levels
  • Reducing shaft wear and probability of failure
  • Reducing power consumption

Besides minimizing the measuring time, the laser alignment tool helps monitor the vertical and horizontal position of each shaft as it is being adjusted. This tool saves time by reducing the amount of unnecessary corrections made and by allowing the maintenance team to be more proactive in their equipment maintenance.

Leading preventive maintenance solutions can do more than just save equipment. With greater access to equipment reliability data, maintenance teams in mines are able to make strategic decisions and be more proactive regarding equipment maintenance.

Applying for A Mine Maintenance Career

mine maintenanceConsiderations when applying for a mine maintenance career

A mine needs to run economically and safely if it is going to maintain a successful operation. It is a fast-moving business with unpredictable commodity prices, diminishing workforce and environmental concerns. A mining company needs good productivity from all their assets. This means that they must prevent breakdowns as much as possible. Unplanned downtime can lead to expensive repairs and replacements, which can result in slowed production, safety concerns and reduced profit margins. This is why having an experienced maintenance team is vital to help keep the mines running smoothly.

If mining maintenance interests you, here are a few things that you should consider:

  • Current understanding of technology. As part of the maintenance team, you will be provided with the tools to keep equipment running. You need to have insight, and data knowledge, to effectively keep all equipment intact and identify emerging mechanical problems. Also, you must be up to date on diagnostic equipment, which uses predictive maintenance software and sensors.
  • High risk of danger. Mining jobs come with high risk of danger that is mainly associated with the heavy mining and transportation equipment. On average, five to ten percent of people who work in the mining maintenance profession will experience serious injuries. While on the job, you must be prepared, both mentally and physically, for an unexpected accident.
  • Potential for long work hours. Since mining is an around the clock industry, you must be prepared to work irregular shifts. Although you are most likely to be employed on a normal eight hour shift, you must be prepared to put in longer hours if needed.
  • Passionate about the profession. Applying for a mining maintenance profession solely for financial gain and benefits would be a mistake. Not demonstrating an in-depth interest in the job could be problematic if you apply, because you would be prone to burning-out, and being unmotivated.

When applying for a position in mine maintenance, we recommend you follow these guidelines:

  • Tailor your resume for the position.  Ensuring your curriculum vitae (CV) is professional, showcases your experience, achievements and skillsets. You should do your best to understand what each individual company is looking for, so you can tailor your CV to meet their requirements and expectations.
  • Have a long-term career goal. It is crucial that you research the mining company that you wish to work for. Mining companies typically look for employees who have long-term career goals, because it shows dedication, perseverance and passion.
  • Earn experience. Without any experience, the chance of getting your desired position in the mining industry is low. What you can do to increase your chances is gain some experience through temporary work for smaller local companies. After gaining at least two years of entry-level experience, your application will stand out when applying with large mining companies.

Proper Welding Safety for Miners

welding safety for minersProper Welding Safety for Miners

Mining is a hazardous work environment. There is a risk of death, which is why miners must wear protective gear and follow safety guidelines. One of the most dangerous activities for miners is welding in a closed environment – especially underground. Even if all the safety rules are followed, the welder is in constant danger, because a spark could set off an explosion. Therefore, welding is usually done in locations where there is ample space.

However, when the mine is being built, welded metal arcs hold the entire structure of the mine together. They keep the ground overhead from collapsing down into the mine. That is when miners face the dangers of welding in a cramped enclosed area. In order to protect oneself while welding, safety must be a priority.

A number of accident scenarios may occur if proper precautions are not taken. These scenarios can include:


An electric shock can occur if you touch two metal objects that have a current between them. High voltages of electricity can cause major injuries, or even death. This is why it is important to avoid touching any metallic object directly, while welding within a mine. It is also necessary to insulate yourself from the ground, to help reduce the risk of suffering from an electric shock. Additionally, since water conducts electricity, you must remember to wear dry clothing that will help protect you from electrocution.

Extreme Inhalation of Fumes and Gases

Welding fumes can be extremely dangerous when inhaled in large quantities. Since mines usually have an air shortage, the gases emitted from welding procedures can become twice as dangerous in the small confined spaces. To help protect you from inhaling excessive fumes while welding, there have been exposure limits set by various agencies. Based on these limits, there should never be an overexposure to hazardous gases, because it can be injurious to your health. Furthermore, proper ventilation should be provided within your work area such as an exhaust system or fan.

Explosions or Fires

Welding creates high temperatures conditions, which may lead to fires or explosions. To avoid any chance of fires, it is best to remove all flammable materials from the welding area. As a rule, every workplace is required to have fire extinguishers and alarms on site. This requirement ensures worker safety in the case of a fire. If the mine contains flammable materials that cannot be removed, a second person should be appointed to watch the procedure to watch the welding sparks.

Injuries from Lack of Protective Gear

Wearing the proper gear is important for miners due to their high risk work environment. While welding, you should be fully clothed and avoid rolling up your pant cuffs or sleeves. You should wear a welding helmet and safety goggles, which prevent sparks and debris from injuring your face or eyes. Thick leather boots and gloves should be worn to protect your hands and feet from the welding heat.  Additionally, it is best to wear protective earmuffs to avoid hearing loss caused by the loud noises in the mines.

The right safety procedures can help protect you from severe welding related injuries or death. Therefore, miners and their employers must make safety a priority. If safety guidelines are followed, the risks of welding underground in the mines can be reduced.

Leading in the Mining Industry

leading in the mining industryLeading in the Mining Industry

Recently, a dramatic increase has been recorded in the number of graduates intending to join the white collar job force. Lawyers, engineers and other office based jobs have seen a dramatic increase. However, this has also led to serious shortfalls in certain industry departments across the globe.

The Canadian mining industry has also noticed a serious reduction of young professionals taking up blue collar professions. Projections show that 40% of the current Canadian mine workforce is expected to go in to retirement in the next decade. Due to this, paired with only a fraction of students taking up mining-related courses, it is projected that there will be a serious shortfall in the mining workforce in the future.

To help improve the careers of each person that joins the mining industry, and to set yourself as leading in the mining industry, certain skills must be observed, practiced and perfected.

  • Enjoy the profession you choose to pursue: Not having a real interest in the profession is a major reason linked to the career failure of many professionals. It’s vital that a person joining the mining industry has interest in the industry, as well as the department they are joining. It is also the responsibility of the mining company to interview the candidates and determine what they are good at doing and what they are comfortable with, so as to start them off in a posting where they will be successful.
  • Learn to broaden your skills in the mining industry:  You may have a degree linked to a specific field in the mining industry, but this should not restrict you to pursuing only one skill. In fact, this may be considered a crippling point by some mining companies in Canada. This is because they prefer workers who are willing to learn and perfect different skills in the industry, making them more diverse and capable of contributing more towards the mining company’s growth. It’s important to be diverse in the mining industry, since it ensures you are in high demand and capable of handling many different jobs throughout the industry.
  • Avoid chasing after salary and concentrate on building your career: Many people entering the mining industry concentrate more on the amount of money they will be receiving, rather than building their career. It’s important that you first place more emphasis towards learning and perfecting your job, as well as diversifying your skills in the industry. Income increases as you acquire more skill and become more valuable to mining companies.
  • Find a mentor in the mining industry: Being new to the mining industry can be confusing. Having an experienced person provide their knowledge and experience can help you reduce stress, while gaining experience. The mentor doesn’t have to be from your current employers’ firm, they may even be retired from the mining industry. Make sure to select mentors linked to the department you work in. For instance, mining office workers won’t have the same insight as field workers and vice versa. This makes the department you work at important to consider when choosing a mentor.
  • Be prepared to take up new tasks: One of the ways your employer may test your willingness to progress, is by allocating new tasks to you. These may not be directly linked to your expertise, but linked to your department and industry, meant to determine your willingness to take up new challenges. When offered these new tasks, always take them up, even when you know nothing about them. Make sure to tell your boss you have no experience in the job, but are willing to try it with proper instruction. This shows your willingness to progress and learn more skills in the mining industry, making you more valuable to the company.

Success in the Canadian mining industry mainly depends on how you intend to build your career and make it thrive. It’s important that you be passionate about the profession and industry, so as to help your drive in building a successful career.  

Mining Safety: High Pressure Injection Injury

mining safetyMining Safety: High Pressure Injection Injury

The unpredictability of a mine’s infrastructure is not the only potential hazard for workers. If they’re not paying proper attention, mine operators can also be injured by various pieces of mining equipment. Among the most insidious types of injuries are those caused by a high pressure injection.

This happens when fluid, that is meant to be channeled through a high pressure injection tube, is accidently injected into a hand or limb. This could occur as the result of a faulty hydraulic hose, a break in an air pipe or an errant grease gun. The typical amount of pressure used by these types of machines can run in the range between 1000psi and 1500psi. Imagine that kind of pressure being injected into your body? That’s not an experience anyone would want to go through.

The Symptoms of a High Pressure Injection Injury

At first, a high pressure injection injury might feel like a minor bee sting or needle prick. The spot where the injury occurred may not even bleed. There could be some initial numbness, but often the person affected by the accident doesn’t feel anything. That doesn’t mean the damage hasn’t been done; furthermore, the pain and irritation may intensify later on. The real concern is not so much the damage to the skin, but what foreign elements could have been injected into the body at such a high volume.

The Treatment

A high pressure injection injury can be thought of as a “liquid bullet,” which can cause as much injury as a real bullet. This type of injury is easy to overlook; even if symptoms aren’t immediately present, a rapid response is key. Anyone who has felt that stinging or jabbing sensation, or knows they have suffered a high pressure injection injury, should immediately seek medical attention. Hopefully, the medical professionals in the area will be familiar with the proper treatment of these types of injuries.

The treatment will often require some type of surgery that will alleviate the pressure surrounding the wound. The injured may also require antibiotics to combat the effects of whatever was injected in to their body. These types of wounds should be taken very seriously. Left untreated, they can result in infection, disfigurement, amputation, and in extreme cases, death.

The Prevention

The obvious goal is to prevent these types of accidents from happening in the first place. That could be accomplished by immediately responding to any equipment or hose leak. This doesn’t mean checking that piece of equipment with your bare hands. Instead, allow for the proper maintenance personal to handle the situation. Only someone who has been certified to work on hydraulic systems should be attending to that type of equipment. When there is a leak in this type of machinery, proper isolation procedures need to be implemented.

It will help if mine operators become familiar with all the potential “hot zones” where these types of injuries could occur. It all comes down to constantly being observant on the job.

Is Thorium the Future of Mining?

thoriumIs Thorium the Future of Mining?

Canada is heavily reliant on hydro and nuclear electrical energy production to power our cities and industries. Being in the northern hemisphere also means that Canada experiences shortages of electrical power during certain months of the year, especially during the winter. This also makes it important for Canada to develop a secure source of energy which can continue to produce electrical energy despite climate changes, fuel availability or the season.

Since the seventies, nuclear power stations have been one of the most reliable power sources to produce electricity. However, recent research and studies being conducted on thorium reactors in India and China have provided a new and safer solution as a perfect alternative for nuclear power production plants.

The thorium reactor is set to deliver some huge benefits, ranging from costs to safety. Some of the major benefits are:

Thorium is a safer reactor material to use: Unlike uranium used with nuclear reactors, thorium has been proven to be a much safer reactor material to use. It cools down faster and its waste neutralizes in a considerably shorter period of time. Thorium is also safer to use when producing electrical energy, since simply breaking the liquid-fluoride flow will stop the entire reaction and result in a faster shut down. The waste material produced by thorium reactors also biodegrades much faster than nuclear reactor waste.

Thorium is more abundant and easier to mine: Unlike uranium, thorium is much more abundant and is easily mined in most countries across the globe. This makes it much easier for countries facing energy crises to develop thorium power stations; without needing to be dependent on certain nations to supply the thorium required for the reaction.

Thorium produces less hazardous waste material: A major drawback linked to nuclear reactors is the nuclear waste they produce, as well as the need for expensive nuclear waste management. The waste remains hazardous for thousands of years and this poses some major problems for humanity in the future. Thorium waste, on the other hand, is less hazardous and usually dissipates or is neutralized naturally over hundreds of years, making it much more manageable after use.

With China and India facing huge energy crises, it can only be expected that they will develop a technology to harness the energy from thorium. Canada has always been in the lead when it comes to clean energy development and mining. Therefore, finding an alternative to nuclear power stations is something that the Canadian government is pursuing.

A successful Thorium reactor development will have a major positive effect on the Canadian mining industry, as it will create new opportunities for exploration. It will also ensure that the country produces adequate electrical energy at low cost to power Canada and keep the country sustainable and attractive for investors in the future.

Mining Company Challenges

mining company challengesMining Company Challenges

There is no escaping the reality that mining is an extremely complex business. From exploration to processing, staffing, equipment management, and environmental policies that have to be dealt with on a daily basis, there are many challenges that mining companies face. Just when a mining operation gets up and running, it could be hit with a drop in commodity pricing. This type of unforeseeable economic issue can have a huge impact on a mine.

Does this mean that any startup mining company needs to throw in the towel? Not at all. In order to avoid a disruption in their operations they just need to be aware of how to tackle these issues head on.

The Mining Workforce Gap

A recent report issued by the Society For Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) found that by 2019, mining operations will need to find upwards of 80,000 new workers to take the place of the retiring workforce. Right now in the US, accredited universities are handing out degrees to around 140 mining engineers each year. To meet the employment demands of the future, those numbers need to hit around 300 engineers.

To fill these widening gaps, the mining industry has to step up its recruitment programs. Many high school graduates haven’t chosen a particular career path. These students are potentially suitable for mine employment, assuming the proper development and training is pursued. It may come down to a matter of providing more high schools and community colleges with the resources and information needed for these undecided grads to make an informed decision about joining the mining industry. If they have the facts about the rewards and benefits, it will be easier for them to make a decision about joining the family of mining operators.

The Water Supply Problem

Not many people outside of the mining industry realize how crucial water supplies are to the excavation process. The United States Geological Survey found that in 2005, up to 4,020 million gallons of water were being used every day in mining operations. How is this a challenge for mines? The first area of concern is availability. Just because a site is rich in ore doesn’t mean there will be easy access to water sources. There are several mining operations that compensate for water stress by utilizing seawater. However, this needs to be done with caution as the corrosive nature of seawater needs to be taken into account.

Even before the first tunnel can be dug, management needs to develop the proper simulation models for how they’ll gain access to water. This certainly can’t be an afterthought. Then, the challenge is to build a model of an interconnected system that deals with all the factors pertaining to water use. These include recycling, potable water, public supply, and process control. Also, there are the external issues, such as the impact of climate change on available water sources, which need to be factored in.

Finally, there are a slew of regulations around water supply issues that every mining operation has to contend with. Even when it seems everything has been sorted out, those regulations could change what would upend the models. That’s a lot to figure out.  


Confined Space Mining: Safety Tips

confined space miningConfined Space Mining: Safety Tips

It’s a known fact that mine work is among the most dangerous types of employment on the planet. Due to the volatility of underground mining, working in mineshafts is unpredictable, with potential hazards occurring on a daily basis.

Mineshafts require proper ventilation. The deeper the dig, the more chance for those ventilation lines to breakdown. Proper exit paths also need to be established, well in advance of any work beginning. Proper preparation and planning must be carried out. Furthermore, operators and management should apply caution at all levels of the mining process. In doing so, staff is contributing to the goal of their mining operations being consistently injury-free.

There are many official classifications for “confined space” in a mining operation. What is agreed upon is that a confined space will require safe oxygen ventilation and some level of airborne contaminant filtration. During the course of a shift, mining operators can work in many types of confined spaces; therefore, different types of awareness and protection are needed.

The first level of precaution should come in the form of proper signage. Once a space has been deemed as “confined,” it should be identified with a sign, lock or some other type of restricted access barrier. You don’t want workers wandering into a confined space that has been deemed dangerous without taking the necessary precautions. Furthermore, keeping unnecessary workers out of these areas will keep accidents at bay.

You may find it helpful to conduct your own ongoing field observations of any confined spaces you’re assigned to work in. There should be inspectors performing these tasks, but you’re well within your rights to do your own investigation. You should check that monitors are working properly and have recently been calibrated. This is especially vital for gas monitors. If the confined space requires mechanical ventilation, then oxygen levels should be constantly checked for variances. Before heading into a confined space for work, you’ll want to be informed about any additional resources, like water, that have been found in that zone. Additionally, you’ll need to inspect any type of equipment that might generate heat or gasses.

Finally, you need to insure that all communication devices are working properly. All of this might seem like a lot of work before your shift, but confined space safety is not something you want to take for granted.

Every confined space work area should have a security guard posted outside. This shouldn’t be looked upon as an “apprentice” position, but instead as a job that demands diligence. Has your patrol been properly trained? Have they been certified with any type of special training? Do they know how to react to an emergency?

Getting into a confined space for work is not as important as getting out of that space, should a rescue be required. When was the last time someone inspected all the rescue equipment? Has there been any evacuation drills conducted in the mine? Not only should you be aware of all of these elements, but everyone working at a mining operation needs to be certified for confined space work.

2014 Metal Prices: What does the year hold?

2014 metal prices2014 Metal Prices: What does the year hold?

If the coming year follows the mining trends of 2013, then the industry is in for a bumpy ride. The final numbers are being crunched from last year’s Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index and they paint a bleak picture. The 22 commodities that make up the core of the index dropped in value by 9.6% in the last year. This is the third year in a row in which these markets posted a loss. Over at Standard & Poor (S&P), their review of the 24 raw material that make up the GSCI Spot Index posted a 2.2% drop in price value. Although by most measurements that is low, it also represents the fifth straight year of losses.

Consider some of these specific commodity postings:

  • Corn dropped 40% in value, despite a record US harvest;
  • Gold fell 28% in value;
  • Silver lost 36% of its value.

Add it all up and the total loss across the entire commodities markets was close to $88 billion. It didn’t help that investors took out $36.3 billion from these markets. Ironically, the S&P 500 posted its biggest increase since 1997. It was up 29.6% for 2013. As for the Dow Industrial Index, it too is consecutively posting record high numbers.

What does all of this mean for mining companies this year? Not many financial experts are expecting gold to rebound, unless there is some sort of global crisis that could trigger a rush on the market. The same can be said for silver prices, which have remained stagnant throughout all of last year.

In the coming months, all eyes will once again be on China to see how their economic slowdown might impact global supply and demand trends. Down in South America, indications are that there will be an overflow of copper and iron ore commodities.

The same can be said for Australia’s iron ore industry. Look for gains in those sectors by the end of 2014. The supply and demand for raw steel ingredients is probably what contributed to iron ore putting up a strong finish of $134 per ton. That is up from a low of $110 per ton, the rate at the midpoint of 2013.

The nickel market is looking like it might actually up production to 2m tons by 2015. That’s a significant increase from the 1.4m tons that were produced in 2007. Of course, if Indonesia goes through with a ban on ore exports, the entire nickel industry could be upended.

Recent mine closures could help improve the prospects of the zinc, lead and tin industries. The hope is that the demand in developed markets will also be a contributing factor to increase the value in those sectors. Thanks to new vehicle design in certain European markets, there could be significant gains posted for platinum group metals.

It certainly looks positive for Canadian miners, however, the market volatility will change the way companies do business if they want to be profitable. Indications that inflation, volatile commodity prices and decreased productivity (especially with the talent crunch) levels are just some of the challenges mining firms will continue to face in the next year. Waiting out the volatility won’t help, rather pursuing innovation will help both juniors and big companies handle a challenging 2014.


2014 Mining Industry Outlook

 2014 mining industry outlook2014 Mining Industry Outlook: Prospects Look Bleak 

A review of last year’s operations and a peak into the future have some experts predicting a bleak 2014 for the Canadian mining industry. This news is especially hard when you consider that Canada’s mining operations are the bedrock of its natural resource based economy. The challenge that many companies are facing comes down to the matter of capital.

A report from Reuters, released last summer, indicated that 839 mining companies on Canada’s TSX Venture Exchange were coming up short on the potential to invest in new projects due to limited cash on hand. In fact, most of these operations were found to have less than $500,000 in liquidity. That is not going to help growth in the local economy.

Experts and analysts cite flat commodity prices as the main culprit for this bleak outlook. There is also a direct link to the strength of the U.S. dollar. Ironically, a strong U.S. dollar, when paired with weak growth rates in demand, can cause commodity prices to plummet.

Consider the plight of an ounce of gold. After reaching record highs, the precious metal has dipped down by around $450 per ounce since the beginning of last year. These kinds of commodity price swings are proving to be a challenge for mining operations to price out their M&A business.

Beyond the pricing issues, corporate financing has also taken a hit in these sluggish economic times. When investors are hesitant to get on board with a project, a ripple effect is triggered which sends “jitters” throughout the industry. There are some mining companies which could opt to use their own stock to purchase claims and expand. However, the result would be shareholders taking a direct hit when it is time to issue dividends. That is not an outcome that shareholders want to embrace.

Due to these factors, industry analysts predict that more companies will take the merger plunge as a way to stay afloat. This would be an option for companies who are on par with each other, yet would benefit from combining their finances. Across boardrooms, there are efforts to divest from a company’s asset portfolio in an attempt to reduce further financial risk. In other words, there will be a lot of “shedding of dead weight.”

Then there is the issue of acceptance that mining companies need to contend with. More and more municipalities are turning away from mining. As recent at last year, Cliffs Natural Resources pulled the plug on a major operation along Ontario’s Ring of Fire. This was after they had already sunk over $500 million in to the project. The reason cited was the lack of interest in developing the infrastructure needed to make this operation feasible. If governments aren’t going to support new mining operations, then they simply cannot exist.

On many levels, this could be a year of “survival of the fittest.” If mining operations can weather these financial upheavals, they stand a better chance to come out stronger when the economy begins moving in the right direction. All of this being said, the industry would like nothing more than to prove these analyses wrong.