Seamless service agreement secures safety and certainty of mine assets over 5 years

A five-year service support agreement for mine hoists across Glencore Queensland Metals sites, brings long-term experience with the customer and advanced digital services.

In underground mining, hoists (also known as winders) are used to raise and lower conveyances (ore, workers and equipment) up and down the shaft, typically operating 24/7 and are critical to ensuring safety of mining workforces and viability of operations. In an industry where 12-month service contracts are the norm, Glencore Queensland Metals recently signed an innovative five-year support agreement with ABB Process Industries to ensure the reliability of seven ABB hoists across three mine sites in north-west Queensland.

Zinc, lead, silver and copper are extracted from Mount Isa Mines and  George Fisher Mine, owned by Glencore Queensland Metals and copper and gold are extracted from Ernest Henry Mine, owned by Evolution Mining (Evolution Mining, a long-term partner in Ernest Henry Mine this year fully acquired the asset, but it is still captured under the ABB support agreement). And the hoists, which raise and lower their cargo to depths of up to one kilometer, have been acquired over time and are at different stages in their technical lifecycles.

“These mine hoists are lifting up to 28 tonnes every two to three minutes,” says Brian McDonald, Service Sales Engineer for ABB Process Industries and architect of the arrangement who, together with the service team, has built trust and a reputation for excellence and responsiveness over years working with Glencore. “They’re impressive feats of engineering in themselves, and if the hoists stop working, mine productivity quickly grinds to a halt, so it’s critical that these assets constantly work to their considerable capacity and specifications.”

He adds, “We have long been servicing individual machines for Glencore. The new contract enables a more streamlined approach over five years.”

Inside the winder

Elevating the level of service in stages

Brian initially segued the previous as-needed break-fix responses, technical support and legislatively required inspection services provided by ABB at George Fisher Mine into a single-year service agreement. Satisfaction with the arrangement, and the customer’s desire to ensure long-term certainty in activity planning and financial outcomes led to Brian working with Glencore to establish a five-year support agreement for George Fisher Mine alongside annual support agreements for the other mines.

Ultimately, the five-year contract has now been wrapped around all hoist assets across the three mines, which significantly reduces the complexity of the mine owners’ engagement with ABB Process Automation. Brian makes the agreement sound effortless: “We sat down together and co-wrote the scope of work, and ABB was able to suggest beneficial, complementary services to be included.” Glencore and ABB worked through the legal complexities of defining the long-term agreement and the result is a sophisticated, collaborative partnership that drives value for both organisations.

In addition to mandated safety audits, ABB Process Industries is now providing the mining group with advanced services. These include monitoring the performance of the hoists’ control systems, and developing digital fingerprints for each machine that allow preemptive tailored maintenance to maintain the equipment in “as commissioned condition” — thus ensuring optimal operation of the hoist system.

Expanded scope for end-to-end operational enhancement

Under the contract, the customer can access 24/7 technical support from a dedicated service team operating either onsite or remotely. And via the MyABB portal, hoist operators can ‘self-serve’, by consulting comprehensive online manuals for key hoist components.

Where ad hoc technical support or repairs are required, a pre-paid ResourceBank of service hours allows work to take place without the mine operator having to organise additional purchase orders — “Necessary works will just flow,” says Brian.

The service contract is overseen by a dedicated contract manager responsible for the scheduling of resources, quality monitoring, reporting, co-ordination with site personnel for ABB service work, and tracking of works in progress or completed.

Another feature of the agreement provides Glencore with access to ABB Automation Sentinel, lifecycle-management software for the hoist control systems. It ensures constant updating of each system to the latest software versions, automatically runs performance checks, provides access to data on performance over time, and installs tested Microsoft security updates, and virus protection.

Among the benefits of Automation Sentinel are enhanced software functionality, predictability of budgeting for running the hoists, and improved availability, performance and reliability of the hoist control systems.

In this remote region, some two-and-a-half hours’ flight from Brisbane, keeping a supply of spare parts is essential. Under the new long-term agreement a combined spare-parts inventory can now be optimised to serve all three mine sites for the greatest cost effectiveness and relevance to the Glencore Queensland Metals mine-hoist fleet centred around Mount Isa, which is one of the most concentrated installed bases of ABB hoist systems in the world.

Asset succession planning for mining into the future

With that in mind, the new five-year systems support agreement also provides the continuity that enables ABB to most effectively allocate human resources to the three mine sites. The resulting consistent engagement between mine teams and ABB will facilitate discussion and assistance with materials handling, process control and succession planning for the fleet.

Such engagement with ABB as the original equipment manufacturer will ensure the hoist assets are operating “as they are designed and intended to operate”, says Brian. And importantly, remote monitoring and data collection will document “where each hoist sits from a lifecycle perspective”, he adds, “allowing ABB to present upgrade paths so that the mines are never left with limited or obsolete equipment that’s difficult to support or repair. Instead, we can collaboratively drive a planned evolution program that supports the future profitability of the mines.”

The long-term support agreement provides Glencore the security of partnering with a multinational corporation with a large Australian team experienced in delivering ground-breaking, functional safety systems, many of which have been developed in Australia for Australian mine conditions and standards.

Brian says the strength of ABB services rests on the performance over years of ABB’s engineering and operational team — “They’re the ones on the ground dovetailing the comprehensive range of service and support capabilities ABB has to offer with their experience of the customer’s requirements, and cost-effectively implementing them to maintain our technology at its best.”

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Wendy McWilliam

I am a marketing manager, with more than 17 years of professional experience. I am best known for the implementation of engaging, data-driven and marketing automated strategies across many industries, while establishing high performing teams to meet organisational objectives. I am an innovative thinker and implore to learn more outside of any organisation. As such, I thrive in open and progressive cultures and teams which is imperative during the times during and post a pandemic.
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