Just from looking at an open-pit mine, it’s easy to see that mining requires a significant capital investment. Between expensive equipment and a specialized workforce, players in the mining game know that keeping maintenance costs under control is paramount. This year, we’ve seen several trends emerging in the international mining industry. The first step in staying competitive is knowing these trends. The next step is having cost-effective equipment that keeps your mine running.
Here are four emerging trends in the mining industry and how VFD cables will help you adapt to them.
What is a VFD cable?
Let’s start with the basics. Variable frequency drive (VFD) cables carry power to AC motors. Compared to single-speed motor control, a VFD typically offers superior performance in terms of motor control and cost effectiveness. VFD cables use larger, symmetrically wrapped grounding conductors, along with foil braid and/or copper tape shielding. These properties help reduce standing waves and harmonic noise, extending the life and reducing maintenance issues on the motor, cabling and drive. The grounding methods also prevent capacitive coupling, charging, and noise from affecting nearby electrical equipment.
Adapting to Automation
With advances in technology and robotics, mining is becoming more automated. This is offering the mining sector benefits like greater safety and improved productivity. Robotics, 3D imaging, sensors, teleoperated drilling solutions, and remote operating centers are all expected to provide simplicity and data-driven insights. VFD cables increase safety and reduce downtime compared to standard power cables. With VFDs, it’s easier to control the motor at varying speeds. Operators can accurately control load to a specific speed. As the mining industry moves towards increased automation, VFDs assure a reliable solution to prepare for future technologies.
In the last few years, the U.S. mining industry has seen trends towards mineral nationalism. American trade policies have shown a more nationalistic trend. One implication of increased reliance on national resources is that the U.S. could become vulnerable to commodity shortages. Mining companies with a consistent, reliable output will help reduce market volatility. VFD cables have better grounding and shielding than single-speed motor control, making them more reliable with more stable connections. Greater reliability also means less unplanned downtime. As the U.S. begins to rely more heavily on local commodities, consistent operations will contribute to a stable industry.
It’s a well-known fact that the mining industry has traditionally been a major fossil fuel energy user. To keep up with global demand, the mining sector is expanding into new and remote locations. Mining companies are facing increasing pressure from governments, communities and watchdog organizations to operate sustainably. One step towards reaching sustainability goals is to use systems that require less power. VFDs are more energy efficient than single-speed motor control. They can also reduce power draw when the motor starts up by slowly increasing the motor speed. This lowers electric utility demand charges. By making VFDs part of a sustainability program, the mining sector can take a step closer to reaching energy efficiency objectives.
Reducing Costs and Debt
In an industry with rising costs and increasing volatility in commodity prices, managing operating costs is a big priority. Because mining requires a large capital investment, mining companies typically hold a lot of debt. In fact, in 2014 mining companies held over $690 billion in net debt. A substantial amount of mining costs is contributed to energy management. VFDs save costs on energy management because they use less power for the same net output compared to single speed systems. Reducing expensive downtime is another benefit of these reliable cables. VFD systems also require less maintenance than other options, creating less wear and tear on motors, belts and other components. For mining companies already experiencing thinning margins, choosing the right cable can help cut energy costs, maintenance costs and downtime.
Planning for the Future
In the next few years, the mining sector is facing several big trends. By having the right equipment to handle these trends, mining companies will adapt to emerging challenges and stay profitable into the future.