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How To Increase Sustainability In Mining Through Proactive Maintenance

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How To Increase Sustainability In Mining Through Proactive Maintenance

How To Increase Sustainability In Mining Through Proactive Maintenance

The United Nations presented the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015. At its core were 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a global development framework for the coming generations. With mining operations creating employment, profit, and economic growth in low-income countries, mining companies have a lead role in achieving the SDGs through using safer processes, producing less waste, and consuming fewer resources.

Given current technological advances, the tools exist to monitor, predict, and validate continuous mining process performance. With sufficient investment in proactive maintenance, the goals of energy conservation, safety, water conservation, and resource optimization are within our reach.

Proactive maintenance in operation

For proactive maintenance, a modern computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) uses the Industrial Internet of Things, sensors, and big data to provide data-driven condition-based predictions of asset performance. The real-time analysis targets critical assets and uses non-intrusive monitoring techniques to identify reliability issues impacting operating efficiency. This warning allows interventions to improve asset condition, reliability, and equipment uptime, well before failure.

How proactive maintenance affects sustainability

While cost and profit gains are often-cited metrics arising from proactive maintenance, the more tangible results are those that directly impact sustainability goals. Maximizing an asset’s life decreases resource use and waste production by reducing frequent equipment renewal.

Identifying sub-optimal equipment operation supports a more focused and immediate sustainability impact through energy conservation. With industrial pumps using almost 25% of the world’s energy, remote real-time power monitoring can identify oversized motors or undersized pumps. The potential energy savings from this knowledge alone are a significant and immediate contributor to SDG realization.

Factor in the safety and environmental impacts that accrue from occasional catastrophic pump failure, and the benefits from one targeted application of proactive maintenance become exponential. One multinational mining company uses prescriptive maintenance to monitor equipment in its metals refining process, receiving failure alerts 40-days before pump failure.

Similarly, pump performance and flow monitoring allow warnings of potential overflow or infiltration events, assisting with timely maintenance intervention and the prevention of environmental impacts.

Additional financial benefits

The argument against implementing sustainability initiatives is often a financial one. Admittedly, implementing proactive maintenance systems has a capital cost and can be disruptive. Yet, the return on investment is normally short, with long-term gains being increased asset life, reduced total cost-of-ownership (TCO), and improved operating margins.

The following three examples of large organizations implementing predictive maintenance illustrate the financial returns from such an investment.

  • A large European petrochemicals producer has transitioned to a data-driven maintenance approach by implementing a predictive analytics solution. Saving two days of shutdown per annum on each piece of equipment saves an estimated $1.8 million in downtime costs.
  • A refinery with a production capacity of 300,000 barrels per day predicts failures with significant lead-time. The new system reduces unplanned shutdowns by up to 10-days, increasing revenue by 1 to 3% and reducing operating costs by 1 to 5%.
  • A mining and metals company has invested heavily in a predictive analytics solution across 300 assets. The company estimates a full return on investment in under six months.

Mining’s social license to operate

Sustainability is otherwise known as Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria. Read any mining company’s website these days, and you’ll find a recognition of the importance ESG plays in their current and future operations, having become, in a true sense, an existential threat.

The recent Glasgow climate summit (COP26) in 2021 has highlighted increased pressure from investment companies for sustainable operations by mining companies. Societal expectations are shaping the flow and availability of investment funds, with one copper miner noting, “…particularly after Glasgow, I get inundated with questions about how green our energy is.”

Proactive maintenance is part of the solution

Mining companies have a role to play in helping meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through attention to the 17 SDGs. While proactive maintenance is not a solution in and of itself, it does provide considerable environmental benefit by increasing asset life, improving safety, reducing environmental impact, and optimizing energy use.

These factors alone are compelling arguments for its introduction. However, the advantages don’t stop at sustainability gains, with skilled proactive maintenance introduction offering a rapid ROI, increased revenues, and reduced operating costs. The opportunity to optimize our business, increase our profits, and impact global health and sustainability suggests mining companies should be taking a closer look at the benefits proactive maintenance has to offer.

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.

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