Collaboration spawns new chute manufacturer
Variant Mining Technologies manufactures chutes, vibratory feeders and measuring boxes
A collaboration by two Sudbury area mining suppliers – Ionic Engineering and Carriere Industrial Supply – has given birth to a new company, Variant Mining Technologies, a manufacturer of chutes, vibratory feeders and measuring boxes.
Ionic Engineering specializes in automating resource refining processes and applying rugged, cutting-edge technology in heavy industrial environments, while Carriere Industrial Supply is a manufacturer, supplier and distributor of steel wear plate products, buckets and truck boxes.
The two companies partnered on the design and construction of a heavy-duty in-line loading chute at the request of Inco seven years ago, and the product was so well received that the company, now Vale, ordered 11 more.
“They needed a heavy-duty chute because the ore is so abrasive in Sudbury,” said Variant operations manager Ryan Karns. “The chutes wouldn’t last. They were changing them out every year because of the wear.”
The Variant chutes, which transfer ore from an ore pass to a haul truck, are built using three-quarter inch steel plates and two-inch, 500 Brinell steel liners.
Chutes take a lot of punishment, not only from the impact of the muck, but also as a result of the drilling and blasting of the ore that’s necessary when it oxidizes and solidifies, plugging up the interior.
“The walls and the liners of a standard chute would bow out,” said Karns. Variant’s heavy-duty chutes, by comparison, are “virtually blastproof.”
The chutes feature fail-safe hydraulic systems that prevent the discharge of ore in the event of a loss of power, and either pedestal, pendant or infrared remote control. The latter option allows haul truck operators to control the chute from the cab and view video of the loading on a dash-mounted monitor.
The chutes are able to load a 50-tonne truck in 30 seconds, said Karns.
Success with the heavy-duty chutes convinced the partners to add standard-duty units and arc gate chutes to the spinoff company’s product line.
“Things have been going great, and we’re continuing to grow,” said Karns. Aurico Gold has ordered a heavy-duty chute for its Young-Davidson Mine in Matachewan, 60 kilometres southeast of Kirkland Lake, while customers for other products include De Beers Canada, Kirkland Lake Gold and Cementation.
“Ontario ore is very abrasive and requires heavy-duty chutes, but De Beers’ Snap Lake diamond mine in the Northwest Territories doesn’t have that issue, so they have our hydraulic arc gate system, which has a lighter liner and is a more cost-effective solution for lower tonnage operations,” said Karns.
“One thing that we’re working on now is a hydraulic fail-safe arc gate that no one has ever done before. We’re working with Vale’s Coleman Mine to design a system that will include a safety latch system. It will be the first of its kind and will allow us to retrofit any arc gate.”
Hydraulic or pneumatic fail-safe systems are important, explained Karns, because a loss of power can cause the gate to open and bury a truck.
The company’s newest product is a vibratory feeder used for transferring muck into a crusher station or a belt. It reduces the size of the material, controls the flow rate through on-the-fly adjustments, can be pneumatically or hydraulically controlled and can transfer up to 1,000 tonnes an hour depending on material density.
“All of the decking and raw material is 100-grade material to help with the fatigue,” explained Karns. “We use a heavy-duty motor we developed with a company in the States with bearings that are twice the size of our competitors and a shaft that is about three times the size. “
These and other design features were incorporated to improve durability and reduce downtime.
With its broadened product lineup and growing reputation for innovation, the timing is perfect for the company to stand on its own and grow the business across North America and in other mining jurisdictions, said Karns.