The mining industry’s key risks for 2018 include regulation, environmental concerns and operational challenges. Taking advantage of the latest advances in lubricant technology and analysis can smooth the ride.
The KPMG Australian Mining Risk Forecast for this year has identified six areas of high risk for the sector, over the three broad categories of social licence to operate, organisational and operational factors.
Among these factors were the industry’s impact on the environment; the increased pressures of regulatory measures such as higher mining royalties and taxes; operational challenges including uncertainty in estimates of reserves; accessibility of ore; and business interruptions due to ineffective asset management and control.
While many of these risks are influenced by external factors and global politics, using optimised lubricant technologies and analysis can maximise equipment efficiency, cut energy costs and help to reduce environmental impact, downtime and maintenance.
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1. Smaller environmental footprint
According to the KPMG report, one of the most significant risk areas for the mining sector is related to the environment. These risks include water contamination due to mining activities, and the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Choosing lubricants and greases with a long fluid life ‒ such as Mobil SHC™ Rarus Series for air compressors, or Mobil SHC™ Gear Series for gearing systems ‒ can help to reduce the amount of waste lubricant that a mine produces. Combined with robust procedures, this can reduce the risk of contamination through disposal.
Swapping to a lubricant that has been formulated to increase energy efficiency can also be a step in the right direction. For example, the Mobil DTE™ 10 Excel Series is designed to increase pump efficiency in hydraulic systems to reduce energy use, and the Mobil SHC™ 600 Series can reduce power consumption by up to 3.6 per cent compared to similar viscosity grade oils for gearing systems.
2. Productivity optimisation
Unplanned equipment downtime can raise the number of business interruptions for a mine and adversely affect productivity.
Lubricant analysis can help to reduce this risk by providing a proactive, predictive approach to maintenance. It works in a similar way to taking a blood sample in a medical checkup; monitoring the condition of your oils and greases is a health check for operations.
Traditionally, manual labelling and processing of oil samples has been a time consuming process, but technology advances have made it less arduous. For example, the Mobil Serv™ Lubricant Analysis service provides a ‘scan and go’ system that uses a smartphone interface to automate sample logging.
3. Reduced maintenance
Decreasing the amount of equipment maintenance and increasing equipment life can help to reduce risks to personnel safety and productivity.
One way of reducing the wear and tear on metal surfaces for heavy duty mining applications is using boundary lubricants such as graphite or molybdenum disulfide (moly), which ease friction under high loads without reacting with surface metal. One example of a moly-containing grease for mining operations is the Mobilgrease XHP™ Mine Series.
Gears and axles can also be subject to premature failures due to shocks and extreme loading. Lubricants formulated for these arduous conditions, such as Mobilube™ HD and Mobiline™ XFD 60, can help to keep these faults at bay for longer.
4. Improved safety
The KPMG report identified health and safety as a medium risk factor for the mining industry. Many of the dangers associated with mining stem from interactions between people and machinery. Choosing a lubricant that reduces maintenance requirements and breakdowns will mean that employees spend less time in potentially hazardous situations.
A lubricant with longer drain and lubrication intervals can also help to reduce risks to staff by lowering the number of times they need to carry out these maintenance tasks.
5. Lower costs
With tax and mining royalty increases on the horizon, cost savings delivered by using lubricants with the maximum life – which also reduce the costs of energy, maintenance and lost productivity – can make a difference to the industry’s bottom lines.