Ellton conveyor minimises Hunter Valley truck movements for Rio

THE Ellton Group has finished constructing a 2km overland coal conveyor, while a skyline stacker conveyor system has eliminated the need for heavy trucks to transfer coal from another loadout facility during peak production at Rio Tinto Coal’s Hunter Valley operations.
Ellton conveyor minimises Hunter Valley truck movements for Rio Ellton conveyor minimises Hunter Valley truck movements for Rio Ellton conveyor minimises Hunter Valley truck movements for Rio Ellton conveyor minimises Hunter Valley truck movements for Rio Ellton conveyor minimises Hunter Valley truck movements for Rio

Ellton's innovative conveyor and skyline gantry system at Rio Tinto Coal's Hunter Valley operations

Lou Caruana

The system combines engineering innovation and efficiency with built-in safety and environmental excellence, Ellton Group managing director Mark Elliott said.

“One of the many unique aspects of the design was the complete incorporation of an existing skyline gantry system contained within the new structure,” he said.

“The old gantry had a tripper running through it. We built our new, higher-capacity structure around the existing tripper gantry, running the conveyor in the opposite direction but sharing a radically improved and strengthened structure that easily and safely handles higher conveyor loadings but is designed to minimize additional mass and wind loadings.

“I think one of things that impressed Rio Tinto was that we didn’t attempt to impose standard solutions on their unique technical and site issues.”

The 1400mm belt conveyor system is rated at 2400TH and driven by ground-mounted Bonfiglioli Power Pack drives.

Elliott said the conveyor design overcame numerous environmental and structural challenges because it traversed reclaimed and subsidence-prone land to deliver high volumes of coal to an existing stockpile facility. The cost-efficient design that incorporated recycled previous structures, and was delivered safely and within budget.

Working in consultation with Rio Tinto Coal operations staff and their consultants, Ellton developed numerous options that made good use of existing infrastructure while observing rigorous safety and environmental standards, Elliott said.

The benefit of this innovative approach was seen in the way in which Ellton repaired and strengthened existing trestles and piers to withstand new loads, for example, providing a solution for less than half their expected price, he said.

“That’s the sort of thing you can do as a younger, nimble and innovative supplier,” Elliott said.

“While we have had plenty of experience, particularly in the Hunter Valley, we are not bound to old ways of doing things or regimented thinking that says we have to tear down everything that’s already there and start again. As a company committed to efficiency, sustainability and minimising the impact on the environment, I think Rio Tinto were impressed by our close attention to their wishes.

“We certainly had to submit a very competitive tender and pass thorough scrutiny of our credentials and experience, but I believe one of our winning edges was the ability introduce fresh thinking to issues facing mine operators.”

Examples of design, safety and environmental initiatives introduced on the project include safe and efficient design of the trestle structures carrying the overland conveyor above extensive areas of reclaimed and previously mined land that is prone to subsidence.

The solution included trestle structures and roof sections that were not only structurally independent of each other, but also independently adjustable in three dimensions if and when issues arise.

The project also displayed sound economics as well as a focus on environmental results meant that maximum utilisation of existing infrastructure was a prime objective. However, wanting to incorporate existing structures in the final design that were not originally rated for the revised duty was only part of the design challenge, Elliott said.

The upgrade works had to occur whilst the existing plant continued to operate, so the new design had to be suitable for construction in and around equipment that could not be stopped or demolished.

Bonfiglioli Power Packs were custom engineered in Australia for Ellton, Elliott said.

“The drives were specified by Bonfiglioli business development manager Kris Jaryn, with whom we have worked well before,” Elliott said.

“He is a proven performer and Bonfiglioli is a respected supplier that gave us what we needed, when we needed it to provide on-time performance.”