Handling sticky material in mining and minerals processing plants can be a complex challenge. These materials can cause blockages, equipment wear and increased maintenance requirements, leading to reduced efficiency and increased operational costs.
This is according to Alwin Nienaber, Technical Director at Weba Chute Systems, who says that designing transfer points to effectively handle sticky materials is crucial for optimising material flow and minimising downtime. “There are a number of key design considerations for transfer points and it is for this reason that EPCM contractors and end-users should work closely with specialist companies who have the requisite expertise and legacy knowledge to deal with complicated materials transfer.”
An important consideration is material flow control, which Alwin explains is crucial to avoid blockages and build-up of sticky materials within chute systems.
“This is where chute geometry plays a significant role in handling sticky materials, with experience informing the design of a chute to minimise impact forces and reduce material degradation. Minimising is also important, which can be achieved through the use of wear-resistant materials such as ceramic tiles or rubber linings, and further extend the service life of transfer points while reducing maintenance requirements,” he explains.
Alwin says it is also important to control moisture levels when handling sticky materials. Excessive moisture can exacerbate the stickiness of materials, leading to increased build-up and blockages. Implementing moisture control strategies, such as proper drainage systems, dust suppression or material conditioning systems, helps maintain optimal moisture levels and improve material flow.
Material segregation and excessive particle size can also contribute to sticky material challenges at transfer points. This, he says, is where implementing strategies to minimise material segregation, such as proper stockpile management and the use of blending systems helps to maintain consistent material properties.
“Additionally, reducing particle size through controlled crushing or screening can improve material flow and reduce the stickiness of the material,” Alwin adds.
Viewing transfer points holistically should also include attention to other aspects in materials handling such as belt cleaning systems which are vital for preventing carryback and will also reduce material build-up at transfer points. Installing primary and secondary belt cleaners, along with belt tracking systems, can ensure that belts are free from sticky material carryback. This not only reduces the chances of blockages but also minimises belt wear and extends belt life.
“Implementing well-thought out design strategies from an experienced transfer point OEM certainly assists mining and minerals processing operations to optimise material flow, reduce equipment wear and maintenance requirements, ultimately improving overall efficiency and productivity,” Alwin concludes.