Underground mining has come a long way since the early days of brawny miners burrowing tunnels through rock with pickaxes and shovels. Nowadays, mining companies use sophisticated, heavy-duty equipment, software and communication tools to ensure safety during the development of mine shafts.
FLSmidth has an extensive history in the design, manufacture and supply of robust and reliable mine shaft systems and equipment. This depth of engineering experience goes back more than 75 years to when Vecor was established in South Africa. That company was acquired by Fuller FLSmidth Engineering (FFE) in 1997, and a year later it acquired GEC Winder Mechanicals, which had references dating all the way back to the early 1900s. Bringing us into the present, Vecor technology has continued as a dominating player in underground mining—and has been part of the now FLSmidth parent brand since 2010.
In 2007, FLSmidth took over Dorr-Oliver Eimco, which, although predominantly a minerals processing operation with separation technologies, included the Dorr-Oliver® mine shaft equipment business. This was complementary to the South African hoisting business and gave FLSmidth a global footprint in the underground mining environment.
Part of the mine shaft systems offerings from FLSmidth are the mine hoist technologies, which are overseen and executed from our global technology center located in Johannesburg. The FLSmidth design team has pioneered and perfected many hoisting configurations, including both drum and friction hoists. In the field of deep-level hoisting, we have designed, manufactured and supplied more Blair multi-rope (BMR) hoists than any other hoist supplier. We’re also the first company to successfully supply a hoist operating over a single winding depth in excess of 3,000 meters.
“The focus on large-diameter hoisting in previous years was dictated by the depth of shafts in the South African market, and that being predominantly in the local gold mining industry,” said Terence Osborn, FLSmidth’s Sales & Marketing Manager, Minerals, Sub-Saharan Africa. “However, the exposure to a wider global customer base operating shallower shafts necessitated a more tailored small-hoist offering,”
These shallow shaft requirements now coming from a more global demand gave the South African team an opportunity to research and develop a smaller hoist design. Leveraging from decades of experience—and after an intensive 18 months—the project culminated in the release of an optimized small hoist range suitable for shallower shafts.
The team developed a parametric model across a standard range of hoists, from 1.6 meters in diameter up to 4.3 meters in diameter at standard increments. Extensive use was made of software programs, including FEA, as well as best-practice benchmarking. This facilitated the formulation of a parametric model that can be either up- or down-scaled to accommodate specific application requirements.
“This methodology dramatically reduces engineering time and allows better responsiveness to customer requests for design, engineering, and supply of winders in the standard hoist range,” Osborn said.
A primary objective was to develop a matrix of products and subcomponents that would allow greater standardization.
“This standardization of auxiliary components within the hoist range has several major advantages for customers,” Osborn explained. “First and foremost, it allows the engineering period for new hoists to be significantly shortened, which means lead times are reduced with accompanying cost reductions—both from a component cost perspective and time.”
During the R&D process, a major focus was on sourcing high-quality subcomponents that are readily available—an approach that has ensured further cost reductions. This commonality of parts is of benefit to both the customer and FLSmidth as inventories can be optimized by both parties, leading to reductions in working capital.
This optimized small-hoist technology was used in an early engineering contract for the auxiliary winder for the Ivanplats Platreef Project No.2 shaft, in South Africa. The new technology allowed for a reduction in the weight of the actual winder. These hoisting solutions have also taken into consideration skid-mounted arrangements, which allow the hoist to be lifted into position in a single piece and significantly reduce onsite work and risk.
FLSmidth has an installed reference base of more than 440 double-drum hoists, 100 single-drum hoists, 60 Koepe winders, and 45 BMR hoists. Approximately 600 of these hoists have a drum diameter greater than 4 meters, which was determined by the depth of the shaft and the type of payloads being hoisted within the shaft.
CONTACT: Terence Osborn