Revolutionising wire rope life in mine winding applications

Supplier: Nobles By: Ian Jongen
18 February, 2011

The life span of wire rope in Mine Winding is critically important, not only due to the high cost of materials, but more importantly the down time in production during a failure or changeover - saved mines in Australia millions of dollars.

A. Noble & Son Ltd. (Nobles) was appointed the exclusive Australian distributor of Casar Special Wire Ropes of Germany in the early 1980’s.

Casar had been manufacturing wire ropes since 1948 and from the very start was an innovator in wire rope technology. Casar was the first manufacturer to produce 8 strand wire ropes when 6 strand was the norm and later was the leader in developing plastic filled wire ropes and compacting.

Over the years Casar built up a reputation for producing wire ropes of the highest quality and to the most exacting specifications. Casar had built a reputation the world over for producing wire ropes with very high breaking loads, excellent rotation resistance and particularly long service life. Casar was and still is a premium wire rope at a premium price.

The addition of plastic impregnation to the wire rope, in constructions such as the 8 strand Turboplast, was quite revolutionary at the time and provided several benefits previously not available in wire rope technology. The plastic core provided a cushion between the outer strands and the inner core of the wire rope.

It also aided in retaining the lubrication in the core and providing a structural stability not available previously. These factors along with Casar’s specialised wire requirements and computer aided design enabled ropes such as Turboplast to achieve an extremely long service life.

When respected Australian wire rope and lifting equipment supplier Nobles and Casar got together in the early 1980’s there was a clear plan for Nobles to introduce these high technology premium Casar wire ropes to the Australian market.

Prior to this the Australian market was using traditional 6 strand wire ropes for general applications and 19 x 7 and 34 x 7 rotation resistant crane ropes. After initial success in the traditional crane rope market Nobles turned its focus to underground mine winding and the opportunities to use Casar ropes in these critical applications.

Nobles had been involved in the supply and service of these ropes for many years previously but in 1992 when the then Western Mining Corporation (now BHP Billiton) at Olympic Dam in South Australia had concerns about the rope life they were achieving on their winders they turned to Nobles for help.

WMC had previously used a number of traditional triangular strand ropes from various manufacturers but still struggled to achieve an acceptable rope life. The costly down time during rope change-outs was a major interruption to production.

Nobles, in consultation with Casar, suggested Turboplast in a world first for Casar in the critical mine winding application. The outright purchase price of the Turboplast was in excess of the ropes they had been using but the promise of extended rope life and less costly downtime was worth the extra investment.

The ropes performed exceptionally well achieving a service life of nearly five times the previous ropes. This initial set of ropes was fitted on the Whenan Shaft skip winder. After this success Robinson Shaft was also fitted with Casar ropes and the new Clark Shaft was fitted with Casar ropes from day one. BHP Billiton are still using Casar ropes at Olympic Dam to this day.

After the proven success at Olympic Dam, Mt Isa Mines and other mines were next on the agenda. The installation on the P49 winder achieved a then world record number of cycles for a double drum winder, which was in excess of 5.5 times the life achieved by previous ropes. Mt Isa has just removed the second set of ropes with another world record, achieving a further 25% rope life.

Casar is now well and truly the market leader in winder rope applications in Australia for metalliferous mines and boasts installations at all major metalliferous mines such as Olympic Dam, Mt Isa Mines, Cannington, Northparkes, Osborne, CSA, Perilya, Grasstrees and Telfer.

All mines have excellent results in regard to cycles achieved thus justifying the higher purchase price of these premium wire ropes. Add to this the need for less maintenance and the reduction in the number of rope changes required and the mine is still well and truly in front.

The rope change alone on a set of ropes can take up to 40 hours and if two or three rope changes can be eliminated this is a significant saving in terms of extra production (up to 120 extra hours). Most mines are using the Turboplast and Starplast constructions but each application is looked at on its merits and all operational factors are weighed up before a certain ropes construction is chosen.

Ropes are engineered to each application to ensure optimum rope performance as Casar often have up to four versions of the same rope construction. Even Powerplast, which is traditionally a non-rotating crane rope, has been used in one application.

Experts from Nobles and Casar also assist the mine with a maintenance program that is suited to each individual rope installation and encompasses NDT inspections and rope life monitoring. However the maintenance required on Casar ropes is far less than the traditional rope constructions previously used so critical maintenance personnel are freed up for other duties on the mine site.

At this point in time Nobles and Casar have found the niche mainly in metalliferrous mines where rope changes have generally been based on cycles achieved. Casar ropes are simply rated against other rope constructions on a straight cycles achieved comparison.

Coal Mines however tend to have a more time related mentality in regard to rope change outs and as such the extra cycles achieved by premium ropes are not necessarily as clear cut as their metalliferous counterparts.

Casar have expanded their experience with underground mines in Australia into other markets. They have about 25 installations in South Africa and further installations in Sweden and other countries. 

Casar’s Australian based Roger Smith – Senior Consultant, Casar High Tech Mining Ropes, has been heavily involved in the introduction and ongoing growth of Casar winder ropes in Australia. Before joining Casar in April 2010 Roger Smith worked for Nobles for more than 30 years and has extensive technical experience in a range of wire rope applications spanning across cranes and mining. 

Roger Smith states "Casar are not resting on our significant achievements to date and as the company has always done, it continues to innovate. The next generation of Casar mine winder ropes feature Kevlar cores and under laboratory conditions have achieved absolutely phenomenal results."

Smith continues: "The new Turbolite hybrid ropes have the potential to conservatively achieve cycles in excess of three times the current generation of Turboplast and Starplast ropes and also have the added benefit of significant weight reduction which could lead to higher payloads and increased production. The future for these ropes is extremely exciting and will once again revolutionise wire rope life in mine winding applications."

Nobles’ continues to stock and support Casar Special Wire Ropes in the Australian market and the company is celebrating its 100th year of operation in 2011.

Nobles’ now has 15 branches around Australia and is a leader in its field of wire rope and lifting equipment.

Nobles has an extensive range of lifting equipment products and related services and also represents a number of other world class manufacturers such as Nitchi (hoists from Japan), Van Beest (green pin shackles from the Netherlands), Technotex (synthetic slings from the Netherlands), DBI Sala (height safety equipment made in Australia and the US), DSR Corp (synthetic ropes from Korea), RUD (grade 100 chain slings and lifting and lashing points from Germany), Ingersoll Rand (air hoists and winches from the US) and The Crosby Group (wire rope terminations from the US).

The technically advanced Casar wire rope distributed by the highly experienced and respected A. Noble & Son Ltd. (Nobles) is a perfect partnership.