The Mining Industry's Fight Against Corrosion
Maintaining existing mining assets is less expensive than replacing them once corrosion has reached inoperable levels.
The mining industry is undergoing a restructuring of sorts. With the big boom of the past over — and an uncertain but slow growth predicted — there are some changes to be made at the individual company level to ensure maximum production and profit along with continued growth. Since the mining industry can vary greatly from country to country, not all predictions will accurately reflect the immediate geographical location of a company. Overall, the mining industry is looking at a predicted 2% growth rate for 2015-2020. This could mean that an area that wasn’t showing any growth may now be seeing improvement in the next year or two as the mining economy builds momentum.
Keeping Mining Equipment Functioning
To fully capitalize on this growth trend, being prepared and having the equipment ready to go at a fully operational level is imperative. If the company is experiencing growth, keeping equipment running smoothly will also help keep production moving at a good pace and eliminate that as a possible delay.
One of the biggest and most costly reasons for equipment to go non-functional or mining production to stop is corrosion. Mining is not the only big industry looking at this persistent factor of operating machinery; the U.S. Navy has also had to factor it into the design and maintenance of its fleet. (For more this story, read Mega Rust: Navy Trends in Shipbuilding & Corrosion Control.)
Corrosion Control in the Mining Industry
Because there are many factors that cause corrosion — mostly environment dependent — there are also several methods of corrosion control. Since the effects of corrosion in the mining industry can, in the worst case scenario, affect far more than the company’s equipment or bottom line (e.g., a contamination of the area around the mining site), it is imperative that the industry maintain its efforts to stay on top of the issue.
The most popular methods of corrosion control are designed to prevent or reduce the likelihood of corrosion of the equipment. Linings or a coating, a cost-friendly and effective method of control, protects surfaces from the elements that will cause corrosion.
Corrosion inhibitors will work on certain metals and can be environment-specific to reduce the corrosion rate. This method provides many other benefits besides corrosion control, as it also can prolong equipment life, improve the appearance, stop heat loss and prevent failures.
New Advancements in Corrosion Control
Implementing yet another corrosion control method won’t provide a benefit to any existing equipment unless the equipment is being repaired in such a way that involves the replacement of deteriorated structures or parts. However, choosing corrosion resistant material could go a long way towards combating corrosion with the lowest aftermarket cost. (See Your Guide to Corrosion-Resistant Metals for some suggestions.) Newer equipment made from special alloys, stainless steel or plastic will be able to handle environments that are prone to corrosion far better than the old equipment.
With the advancement of technology, there have been comparable advances in corrosion control. One such advancement is the development of a new, easy to apply lining that is formulated to reduce the downtime of mining equipment and has been shown to stop corrosion, not just delay it. The new lining is made of a chemically bonded phosphate ceramic (CBPC) that, rather than laying over the surface of the substrate like traditional linings or coatings, bonds with the substrate. This induces a slight oxidation that has (so far) improved the corrosion control reaction. The corrosion layer is protected from the elements and external factors by a ceramic layer that is available in two different temperature selections. There is some preparation involved for the equipment before it can be treated with this lining, but the downtime is minimal and the benefits far outweigh the cost.
Corrosion Control Efforts for Idle Equipment
Beyond the operating equipment, corrosion control is also a factor when storing mining equipment. When the equipment is not in use there are fewer eyes on it to recognize the signs of corrosion and enact control measures. Special considerations that need to be considered include the length of storage, the storage environment (climate-controlled is ideal but not always cost-effective or practical) and the type of material the equipment is made of. Designing a plan based on those factors will give the greatest chance of successful corrosion control so that operations can be resumed when needed, rather than waiting for equipment to be made ready. (For more on this topic read Temporary Corrosion Protection During Storage, Transportation and Handling.)
While corrosion control may seem like an added expense in a slightly unstable industry, the expense is well warranted and may save money in the long run. Corrosion treatment is far cheaper than replacing equipment, job losses from not having the equipment, accidents from faulty equipment, or having to run payroll while repairs are underway. With the 2% growth rate that is predicted for 2015-2020, maintaining equipment in an operational state is a sound business decision as more work comes in.
Treating corrosion also reduces the wait time for new equipment because the manufacturing side of the mining industry has slowed, which results in increased wait times for new machinery. By maintaining existing assets, companies can continue without delay to maintain their profitability — something appreciated by employees, company owners, shareholders and investors.
Allocating a Budget for Corrosion Prevention
If done correctly, corrosion treatment and control can simply be a reallocation within an existing budget. Instead of spending money on new equipment or repairs caused by corrosion, the money can be spent on corrosion procedures. As with all new equipment, there may be higher expenses at first, but they will shortly pay for themselves.
In the long run, what seems like a huge inconvenience and expense may end up helping the mining industry. By becoming more conscious of corrosion and taking steps to prevent or stop it, companies are becoming more environmentally friendly, thus allowing them to continue operating. It also speaks to reducing the waste produced by each company by maintaining existing assets rather than replaced them once corrosion has reached inoperable levels.
It is incredibly hard to predict the future of any industry in today’s changing economic environment; however, given the industry’s recent slump it is encouraging that changes within the mining industry are fueling a modestly higher growth rate.