Why Unscheduled Works Provide A Challenge For underground Mining Maintenance


There can be no denying that maintenance is a crucial part of any sort of mining operation, big or small. In fact, mine maintenance teams all over the world are judged and measured on their ability to ensure the availability of machinery, minimal breakdowns and to stay within their annual budgets. They achieve this through planning, scheduling and ongoing monitoring. The teams that manage to achieve each of these goals are lauded above all others and the teams that aren’t are harshly criticized by their peers.


It is becoming clear, however, that mine maintenance is a task that is impossible to ever perfect. This is actually due to several causes, including the inability to foresee all sorts of equipment failure and the inability to foresee all emergency repair works. Even so, convincing operations and productions managers to limit their productivity whilst you carry out works that will prevent repairs and emergencies can be quite a challenge. This is especially true if resource prices are hitting record highs and the whole team is under the pump.


Fabrico Barros, the Reliability Processing Superintendent at BHP Billiton Iron Ore, has noted that there are a number of important steps that your maintenance team can take to help smooth the way. These steps include:

  • Quantifying the risk to the mine if production does not stop;
  • Demonstrating the contingency planning that you have prepared so far;
  • Quantifying the reasons that the equipment needs this level of care;
  • Proving that the downtime now will generate long term value for the business; and
  • Minimising the downtime using appropriate planning techniques, the correct tools and appropriately skilled people.


Unfortunately, unscheduled mine maintenance will occur when your other systems have failed (such as your team’s predictive maintenance approach, your RCM programme, human error or even using equipment above its stated capability). Even though we can predict which machines and areas will soon need attention, this is not a foolproof method. Human error is something that will occur in any industry and regardless of any precautions that have been taken; it is, sometimes, inevitable.


So, how do we get around these issues and undertake the work needed? Gerard Wood, the General Manager of underground Mining Asset Services at The Bluefield Group, says “unscheduled maintenance usually exhibits itself by shutting the plant down without having to convince anyone. The problem is to convince the boss that the plant needs to be shutdown more often for scheduled maintenance and to avoid the unscheduled event. Having a detailed knowledge of the plant and being able to articulate the details is what convinces the boss.”


The best practices in mine maintenance, then, seem to come down to good inter-departmental communication and teamwork (or, at least, an understanding that the work needs to be completed). It is important to understand that key performance indicators (KPIs) and day to day priorities may be different for the maintenance, production and operations teams but that they all need to work together in order to reach your long-term goals – to keep operations running efficiently, effectively and as productively as possible.


Author Bio: Matt Walsh is the owner of Walsh Equipment, who loves to shares his view on the topic related to his business like Industrial equipments, plant maintenance, paver repairs, fabrication, sandblasting and etc.



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