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oil sands mining & technology Synthetic ropes pulling more weight in oil sands mining uses by Lee Toop, Editor L ifting, pulling, towing – min- ing operations have many uses for wire ropes on machines and around the pit. Wire rope has been the standard for mining, including oil sands locations, for many years, and has generally served well in most conditions. However, wire rope tends to have limitations that have led to research into replacement options for mining use. The challenging environments that mines present make it hard to develop new ma- terials that can handle the same stresses that wire rope can stand up to. Mines use rope for a range of tasks that come with their own challenges. Trip ropes on electric shovels are damaged by heavy, abrasive materials and face fatigue from tension and bending. Tow ropes also put materials under tension and rub up against sharp edges. On draglines and shovels, more abrasion, fatigue and edges are faced. In many cases, operators will continue to use wire rope as it is a more familiar product. However, more options are com- ing on the market all the time that may provide cost savings over the overall life of the rope. “One big challenge in the oil sands, especially, is that different pieces of equipment either use wire rope or need it for recovery applications,” explained Isaac Rosenberg, technical sales manager with Samson Rope Technologies. “It can be something that they use for years, until new technology comes in and changes their perspective.” Dragline dump lines can be fitted with synthetic ropes, such as the one above, to reduce maintenance time and effort. Synthetic rope is doing just that, with new products proving it can handle many of the same roles that traditional wire rope has, while reducing weight and providing a number of benefits. Advancements in synthetic materials have made it possible to make stronger, longer-lasting synthetic ropes. In the case of Samson products, the company uses a material called Dyneema, which is made of an ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene. Dyneema fabrics are very strong, resistant to corrisve chemicals and are also lightweight. “Ropes made of Dyneema are the same strength as steel wire rope, except they are one-seventh the weight,” Rosen- berg explained. “They don't corrode like wire, either, and there are a range of types available for different uses.” On a mine site, there are many ways in which synthetic ropes can replace wire, Rosenberg said. It can be as simple as pulling a stuck haul vehicle out of the muck. “In the oil sands, it’s easy to get a vehicle stuck, and every minute that machine is stuck is worth dollars – a significant amount of dollars if it’s car- rying ore,” he said. “If you can save the recovery crew an hour of time, that saves MAGNETIC DRILL PILOT LIGHT From low light to no light, never worry about seeing where you are drilling again. 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Synthetic products can do the same job as wire rope, but only weigh 80 pounds instead of 300.” Draglines use significant lengths of wire rope. One of the shortest, and most changed, is the dump rope, which often needs to be swapped out once each week or two. “To change that rope, the user needs to take a boom truck out, pull the hardware, take a torch to it, and so forth,” Rosen- berg explained. “With a synthetic rope, many of the hazards in the replacement process are removed, and efficiencies added. Something that would take an hour or two can now take 15 minutes, and you don't need all the equipment.” Winch lines are used on many ma- chines and for various uses. Synthetics can be useful in those situations as well, Rosenberg said. “Most of the time, the winch or hoist that is doing the work is not just pick- ing up the payload, but also has to lift the weight of the wire rope,” he noted. “When you're talking about a three-inch rope, that's a lot of energy.” With synthetic rope in place of wire rope, the operator can reduce energy use required to do the lift – or increase the payload significantly. Lighter weight means synthetic rope can be kept with maintenance teams for quick replacement as well. Rosenberg pointed to electric shovel trip ropes as an example of a line that can be a main- tenance problem. When it needs to be repaired or replaced, maintenance teams need to wait for the rope to arrive at the shovel, while synthetic rope – which coils up tighter and more efficiently than wire rope – can be kept on the machine for quick changes. In addition, some synthetic ropes float – making them ideal for use on barge- mounted winches in tailings ponds. Overall, products such as Samson's AmSteel Blue and Saturn-12 ropes are easily swapped into mining applications. Convincing operators to change from the familiar wire products can be a challenge, however, especially when considering startup costs. “Life cycle can be a big factor. Some ropes last longer than others, which is important because synthetic rope can cost twice as much as wire rope as an initial cost,” Rosenberg said. “In these applications, we lay out the use of synthetics based on the overall total cost of operation, where users can save a good amount of money. That helps the operators understand the value, rather than just the bottom line cost of the product.” Synthetic rope can be changed into these various uses relatively easily, with minimal changes to end terminations and connections, but in general operators don't need to make any major adjust- ments to their processes. Samson Rope Technologies 2015-01-14 11:48 AM