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Safety and productivity in the task of splicing cable conveyor belt

Faena: Spence Mine

Deadline 03/08/2023

Closing Time 4:00 pm

Context Spence is a copper mine located in the Antofagasta Region, Chile. It is an open-pit mine with a production of copper cathodes and concentrate, which in 2022 reached 245 thousand metric tons of fine copper (ktmf Cu). For ore handling between the different processes (crushing, stockpiling, milling, stacking), different conveyor belts are used, mainly steel cable belts with widths ranging from 48″ to 72″. When a cable conveyor belt is cut, it must be spliced to restore its functionality, a task that is performed manually with a focus on worker safety. In general, the task of splicing cable conveyor belts includes: belt preparation, cutting and removal of cover, cable preparation (removal of rubber and cable polishing), installation of new cover, cable positioning, filling with rubber and vulcanization. As indicated above, during the splicing work the personnel will be exposed to high physical stress and risk of cuts due to contact with sharp objects and/or tools, among others.

We seek to identify technological solutions that will allow the splicing of cable conveyor belts in a safe and efficient manner. The proposed solutions are expected to address some of the technological areas described below: complementary tools or mechanized / automated / remote-controlled systems.

  • Must be flexible, capable of handling different types and sizes of conveyor belts. Width between 48″ to 72″.
  • It must avoid the intervention of people during the execution of the task. It is desirable an operation without direct participation of people.
  • It should not significantly modify the plant infrastructure or interfere with other maintenance activities in the area during installation or execution of the task.
  • It must have heavy duty characteristics given the aggressive conditions of the environment (particulate material, humidity, material projection, low visibility).
  • It must have a degree of technological maturity equal to or higher than TRL 4 (advanced conceptual development).

Currently, the task of splicing cable conveyor belts is carried out manually by a specialized crew of workers exposed to different types of risks and long-term interventions.

  • Exposure of workers to demanding environmental conditions and occupational health and safety risks.
  • Long-term interventions that determine, in many cases, production plans.

Every time a belt is cut or changed.

Manually, with workers equipped with personal protective equipment and specialized tools, complying with BHP’s operational and safety procedures and current labor regulations.

  • Reduced risk exposure of workers during maintenance tasks.
  • Facilitate the execution of the task of splicing cable straps.
  • Reduced plant stoppage time

No technologies have been tested.

Excluded solutions The following will not be considered in the background evaluation process:

  • Assessments, consultancies or engineering studies.
  • Major modifications to existing infrastructure or process design conditions.
  • Solutions for splicing of fabric or textile belts.
  • Spence Mine.
  • Process involved: material handling from primary crushing to stockpiling.
  • Work areas: Cathode maintenance.