Bigger is Better at MINExpo 2012

Last week members of the Emerson metals and mining industry team were at the National Mining Association’s MINExpo 2012. At this event, two Emerson news items were shared, Emerson broadens online machinery monitoring to identify vibration issues on P&H mining shovels and Emerson introduces intrinsically safe vibration analyzer for data collection in hazardous environments.

Emerson’s Juan Carlos Bravo, a frequent guest blogger and MINExpo participant, provides his perspectives on new technologies introduced to the mining industry.

Emerson's Juan Carlos BravoMany in the mining industry have heard that investments are been postponed or reduced around the world. This did not seem to impact the attendance at the MINExpo 2012 conference. According to the organizers, the conference was 30% bigger than four years ago, with an attendance of about 50,000 people. It was huge! Take a look at some of the photos from the MINExpo Flickr page.

Not only was the attendance impressive, what it was more impressive is how large the mining equipment is getting. Caterpillar announced its new mining shovels able to hoist 120 short tons of ore. Joy Global went even bigger and announced its new 22 meters (72 feet) tall, 135-ton electric-powered shovel, which is expected to be available in about a year.

The reason for the equipment getting bigger is simple—companies are able to fill their biggest trucks more quickly. Joy’s shovel would do the job with just three scoops of material instead of the four needed with today’s largest shovels. This means fewer movements from the shovel operator, less probability of hitting a truck or causing an accident, and less time in moving the ore from the pit to the plant. In other words, it makes the whole operation more efficient and more cost effective.

But this increased capacity technology brings other challenges. With larger and fewer pieces of equipment, breakdown of one machine will be more disruptive to the mine operation. Therefore, the emphasis should be in preventing the failure of this equipment. This was noticeable by the questions and concerns that we had at the Emerson booth at the show.

Miners and original equipment manufacturers wanted to know more about reliability and how monitoring technology can help maintain uptime of this larger and more critical equipment. No doubt, this concern was widely shared.

Overall, it was a great show. New mining technology is proving that bigger might be better and also more economic.

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