Codelco is currently the world’s largest copper producing company with the largest known reserves. Codelco’s operations comprise seven mining divisions, one smelter (Ventanas) and one refinery, with its headquarters located in the city of Santiago. The long-term relationship between Metso and Codelco began more than 90 years ago when the first Metso mill was supplied to their operations in Sewell, Chile. Today, Codelco has Metso equipment installed and producing at their multiple mine sites.
Codelco Andina is located in the Aconcagua – more specifically in the Rio Blanco valley – 3,000 meters above sea level. The Andina division is currently exploiting minerals at two different sites: Rio Blanco, which is an underground mine, and South, which is an open pit mine. The current combined production at the two mine sites is estimated at 220,000 tons of fine copper concentrates and 5,000 tons of molybdenum annually.
Challenge: A crusher supplied more than 35 years ago and installed underground
Finding a solution to the challenge of balancing availability versus cost suddenly became a top priority when Codelco’s 7ft Symons™ crusher with spring system, installed in 1970, started to cause bottlenecks in the mining process. As a result of the mine’s relationship with Metso, the customer trusted that Metso would be able to propose a cost-effective solution to upgrade the machine and improve its productivity. The goal was to renew the crusher to “as-new” condition and to produce at rates seen in Metso’s next-generation models.
According to Eduardo Morín, Codelco Andina’s Process Engineer Specialist and Project Manager: “When an organization identifies a problem but fails to come up with a solution, it can create an environment of routine complacency with the losses – for example, when looking at low utilization rates and high maintenance costs of an underperforming machine. The successful cooperation between Metso and Codelco while carrying out the upgrade on the Symons crusher is a perfect example of how innovation and creativity are the key to solving routine problems.”
To avoid deviations and overruns during implementation, the objectives were outlined and agreed with the customer:
- Increase mechanical availability of their Symons 7ft crusher, aiming to achieve advanced bowl adjustment control automation capabilities.
- Provide greater security and minimize risk exposure by replacing the springs system with hydraulic cylinders.
With these clear goals established, Metso began to map out a plan at the end of November 2015 by running coordination meetings to identify the new design components that were needed and what changes were required on existing components.
The Metso solution: A cost-effective package to automate bowl adjustment
The challenge was accepted by Metso and Codelco, despite the complexity level presented in this project. The proposed package involved new structural and hydraulic components matching existing crusher components with some modifications. It also included a new programmable logic controller (PLC) driven hydraulic power unit with Ethernet communication capabilities to allow remote operation and connectivity to the most advanced automation systems. The goal of the upgrades was to allow faster bowl adjustment removal times and add a remote monitoring capability.
Expectations exceeded with soaring equipment availability
The upgraded crusher was commissioned in April 2016, with extensive testing and a thorough check of all parameters taking place during the 4 weeks following start-up. While installation and testing took place, the performance of recommended liners was also evaluated in order to meet the customer requirements for throughput and size reduction.
Once the crusher was back online and producing, the results presented by the upgraded crusher fully matched customer expectations:
- Availability soared by 23% due to easier maintenance, from the previous 65% to 88%.
- Average throughput increased by about 10%, from the previous 301 tons per hour to 336 tph.
Satisfaction with the improved crusher is reflected by the personal evaluation of Codelco Andina’s Process Engineer Specialist and Project Manager, Eduardo Morín: “In addition to increasing the start-up coefficient, the crusher now enables a better product quality. But the most visible benefit is the clear satisfaction of our employees, since they feel like they’ve finally been heard after we found a solution to the long-term recurring atollos (jams),” stated Eduardo while also enumerating the reliability and safety benefits.
“In the past when a jam happened, it used to take around 36 hours to be cleaned. In addition, the machine used to demand a full disassemble, exposing the workers to a controlled risk. Nowadays we just need to push a switch and in less than 5 minutes the machine is cleaned,” concluded Maintenance Chief, Pablo Rivera.