Steel wire ropes for mining projects

Correct selection, perfect performance

Conveyances are moving people and materials up and down in underground mining operations. Steel wire ropes are used for hoisting this critical equipment. Given their vital role, suitable products must be used for applications. Over and beyond, after installation and commission, the steel wire rope must be tested regularly to ensure that it is in perfect working condition. This is because steel rope failure can result in an accident.

Currently, the underground mining environment is a beehive of activity. Conveyances, draglines and scrapers are among numerous pieces of equipment that are being overexerted as mining companies increase production. Concurrently, there is an increase in demand for steel wire ropes used with this equipment.

Steel wire ropes are considered an alternative to chain ropes. Among others steel wire ropes are desired for several factors, commonly higher strength-to-weight ratio, rendering them easier to install and lighter. The steel wire configuration commonly used is six strands.

It is not surprising that, due to their unique features, steel wire ropes remain the tried and tested technique of suspending and moving a conveyance between operating levels in the shaft and surface.  Thus, it is critical to have robust steel wire ropes for this application and others as safety is paramount. This presents both challenges and opportunities for suppliers. And as for end-users, they need to be adequately informed in the specific products they need for their applications. Most importantly, after installation and commissioning, as a standard practice, there is a need for regular testing to ensure that the steel wire rope is in perfect working condition.

Steel wire ropes for mining projects

Opportunities and challenges for supplies

Currently, mining companies need a predictable supply chain that can meet their need for robust steel wire ropes and accessories at any time. For manufacturers/suppliers, the increasing demand presents both a challenge and an opportunity. It is a challenge, for it pushes them to pull out all the stops to produce innovative products. Of course, this can be an intricate task as every mine has unique needs. Ultimately, it requires mining companies to work closely with the client to develop the best possible solutions for various applications in the harsh mining environment.

Selecting wire ropes for duty

For end-users, there is little margin for error in the selection process. This calls for prudence in the procurement process. However, understandably, in a market awash with many steel wire rope brands, selecting a suitable product can be a convoluted process.

At first, it is paramount to evaluate particular characteristics required for the application, and later, to choose the rope possessing these qualities in the best combination.  Manufacturers produce information to help their end-users when selecting steel wire ropes. In general, the information calls for mining companies to consider the following factors when shopping around for suitable products.

Chiefly, these are: strength, fatigue and abrasion resistance, crushing resistance, resistance to rotation and the operating conditions and physical environment, over and above, and the kind of machinery used. At all times, mining companies must consult rope manufacturers to choose the most suitable rope. The rule of the thump is: Correct Selection, Perfect Output.

Coping with contemporary requirements

Changes in legislation have increased the obligation of mining companies to enhance safety. Advances in technology are enabling mining companies to cope with contemporary requirements in steel wire ropes. One of the ground breaking innovations is larger diameter ropes with higher breaking forces catering for increasing mining depths and heavier payloads.

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Wire rope testing

After the most suitable steel wire rope has been procured, installed and commissioned, it is important to ensure that it is in perfect working condition. In South Africa, the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) recommends that statutory testing be carried out every six months. The rope has to conform to the code of practice (SABS 0293, 1996).

Typically, in rope testing the following elements on the rope are evaluated: absolute breaking force, mechanical properties, modes of wire and strand failure, the extent of corrosive and abrasive damage, and the state of lubrication. Once the rope is tested, the information is captured in the rope-test database. Then, a certificate is issued to the mine indicating the rope’s general fitness for purpose.

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