Metso Insights Blog Mining and metals blog How to deliver optimized results from your feeder hoppers
Sep 7, 2021

How to deliver optimized results from your feeder hoppers

Sean Mee
Sean Mee
Senior Manager, Technical Support
Coarse ore stockpile (COS) feeders are the core of many hard rock mining operations. They ensure continuity of product feed to the processing plant. When it comes to maintaining the COS feeder hoppers, it’s often a delicate balancing act between pushing the asset to its optimal limit and driving it beyond operational effective parameters.
Rotable hoppers delivered to site ready for install
Rotable hoppers delivered to site ready for install

Optimizing wear life in your hoppers

Over the years there have been many developments in our industry to extend the wear life of the COS feeder assets in order to maximize the hopper’s overall performance. Despite this continual development, most operations struggle to achieve maximum utilization. This is due to limited visibility on the current liner condition, combined with the long maintenance durations normally associated with these assets.

Inspecting your assets

Maintenance of the feeder hoppers is limited as much as possible to minimize the high run down and ramp up time, as well as associated downtime costs. Accurately forecasting the asset’s wear life has long been a challenge within the mining industry and has often led to premature removal of wear linings or even damage to the asset when overextended.

As the asset is buried and the bulk of the chute is often embedded in concrete, forecast planning has been limited to external ultrasonic testing and under spile bar inspections. These restrictions mean that high wear areas are inaccessible, with assumptions of liner life based on accessible area readings which may not be a true reflection of the actual wear. The task of manually inspecting under spile bars is something that every site seeks to avoid due to the high-risk environment and nature of the inspection. To date, there have been limited inspection strategies that can give a full degree of confidence in the forecasted life of the asset.

Maintaining your assets

Maintaining the COS feeder hoppers can have a sizable impact on a site’s profitability and safety exposure. COS feeder hoppers are typically on the critical path of any maintenance exercise and this comes with a range of challenges. It is vital to ensure the best utilization of the hopper without jeopardising the operational effectiveness of the feeder and associated assets.

When it comes to in-situ hopper relining, this generally includes the installation of customized wear packages. However, typical operations often have two or more feeders under a stockpile, so this approach leads to long duration work fronts in the critical path of the shutdown. Any unforeseen delays can have a dramatic impact on completing the shutdown within the allotted time frame. Since traditional maintenance programmes for COS feeder hoppers are often scheduled years apart, this leads to large body of work, which is often a full strip and re-line of the asset. Other associated works also lack full asset visibility and can include parent metal repairs, surface protection and other emergent tasks – all of which can heavily extend the shutdown duration.

Customized packages

For many years, Metso Outotec has worked with sites on customized maintenance strategies and wear packages for COS feeder hoppers. With a comprehensive range of products, materials and backed by in-depth site experience and technical knowledge, we are able to offer customized solutions for any application. One example is the WearSense™ wear monitoring system which enables accurate forecasting and predictability, therefore ensuring the best utilization of the asset with minimal wear material wastage, irrespective of the wear life required.

Here we discuss three options, which can be used separately or bundled, to forecast and deliver optimal wear in chute liners.

1. Predicting the wear life of your assets – WearSense

The WearSense system provides fully remote wear monitoring via wireless probes and a fully integrated support system. The system monitors the wear in chute liners and provides real-time information (via a secure web portal) on remaining material thickness and an estimate on remaining liner life.

The system is also customizable to generate wear reports per asset, complete with email alerts and automated report distribution. The WearSense platform can be tailored to suit any number of installation methods from integrated fasteners, custom lengths, low profile sensors and can be integrated into most wear materials.

The system is renowned for its reliability and accuracy at sites, with the probes ensuring aligned wear measurements to the liners’ surface. Combining WearSense with Metso Outotec’s know how in asset wear, the probes are optimally located, delivering high confidence in a site’s maintenance forecasting as well as optimal utilization of the asset.

Wear probes monitoring assets with real time accuracy
Wear probes monitoring assets with real time accuracy

2. Critical path maintenance – the rotable hopper

Some of the challenges experienced in COS feeder hopper maintenance include duration, safety, pre-planning and execution. Incorporating a rotable feeder hopper strategy allows for simplified and safe lift-in/lift-out maintenance of the COS feeders.

Metso Outotec rotable hoppers are custom designed to a site’s parent asset requirements. The hoppers use a range of support mechanisms, from self-supporting beam section mounting, through to low profile internal tab support systems. Each rotable hopper is designed to support a site’s maintenance strategy, taking into account factors such as required wear life, shutdown durations and preference for full or partial relines. Options range from heavy-duty reusable tubs to enable continuous rotation through to light weight, lower-cost, single-use structures.

A rotable strategy allows for a simple lift-in/lift-out process post the first installation, therefore not only greatly reducing the scope of work in subsequent maintenance shutdowns but also reducing safety exposures to the maintenance team. A rotable strategy ensures minimized run down and ramp up, allowing for closer alignment to the shutdown durations of other critical path assets and increasing overall production up-time.

Hopper lined with customized, zoned, anti-wash wear package
Hopper lined with customized, zoned, anti-wash wear package

3. Customized wear liner design

The choice nowadays in wear liner materials and designs is vast, so it is important to work with a partner with the relevant experience, know-how and portfolio. Metso Outotec liner options, for example, include rubber, metallic, ceramic, polyurethane and polyethylene, which all have their strengths – and sometimes the best results can be achieved by combining several materials in the same application. Some of our bespoke design options include transition ledges, rear wall ledge boxing and harmonized liner package design to ensure even utilization. Whether this is a wear package to suit a three or a ten year duration, Metso Outotec collaborates closely with our customer to deliver the best utilization of the wear material.

Combined result

Our wear lining solutions are designed to deliver results in stockpile management. Depending on site needs and objectives, solutions can include: visibility via WearSense, ease of execution through a rotable strategy and products and knowledge to provide an optimal wear package. Metso Outotec is your trusted partner to instil confidence in your critical path maintenance strategy.

Online wear monitoring
WearSense™ is a wireless online wear monitoring system. It can be fitted to any metallic or ceramic liners independent of attachment systems. It monitors wear in real time and tells you when to change liners.
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Wear lining solutions
Installed in chutes, spouts, hoppers, transfer points and other applications subjected to wear, wear linings protect the assets
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