The Advantages of Overland Conveyors vs. Mining Trucks
The debate of whether to use a fleet of trucks or overland conveyors to move millions of tons of aggregate is not a new one.
On the one hand, supporters of trucks say they are much cheaper than custom conveyor systems. However, when considering total long-term expenses, the advantages of an overland conveyor system justify the higher initial investment.
Read on to discover five major benefits a conveyor system offers over a fleet of mining trucks.
WHAT MAKES OVERLAND CONVEYORS BETTER THAN MINING TRUCKS?
Let’s uncover the operational and economic efficiencies that give overland conveyors an edge over fleet transportation when moving massive amounts of materials.
1. REDUCED ACCIDENTS
The average mining truck can weigh several hundred tons, with its tires measuring over twice the average adult’s height. Each truck requires approximately seven maintenance and operation workers to keep it running. The large number of people working in, on, and around the vehicle dramatically increases the risk of accidents.
Truck fleets also face numerous safety challenges when transporting materials such as rugged terrain, harsh weather conditions, and potential spilled loads. Conveyors can be built over very rough terrain, making the distance traveled not only shorter but also safer. You can even build them over railroads, rivers, and bridges.
2. MOVE MATERIAL FASTER WITH LESS DOWNTIME
Trucks are highly inefficient as they often have to wait in line to load up and then wait again to unload their materials. They consume additional fuel and experience wear and tear while deadheading on the return trip to the mine.
Conversely, conveyors run continuously with minimal overall downtime outside of regularly scheduled maintenance requirements. Conveyor systems can directly transport more material over a given distance in 24 hours compared to an entire fleet of trucks.
3. THE ABILITY TO GO ANYWHERE
Terrain challenges often hinder safe and efficient vehicle travel at mining sites. While trucks require well-maintained roads, conveyors do not and therefore can take a more direct path to the intended destination.
When it comes to conveyors, there’s also no need to maintain roads or clear off snow and ice in winter. As such, the material will reach the processing plant or loadout facility much faster.
4. DECREASED LABOR REQUIREMENTS
A modern conveyor belt system generally requires around half of the manpower needed to run a fleet of trucks. Recent technological advancements now allow for the remote monitoring of critical conveyor parts.
Labor strikes, shortages, sick days, and accidents can cause truck operations to slow to a crawl. Using conveyors over trucks lessens the number of workers required to ensure efficient and safe operations.
While self-driving cars may work well on city roads, the technology is still in its infancy regarding commercial mining applications. There’s also no guarantee that you can retrofit a fleet of older-generation trucks if and when the technology matures.
5. ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY
Mining haul trucks are enormous and consume vast volumes of diesel fuel, which is far from environmentally friendly. The mine location could risk violating existing or unforeseen future environmental regulations, especially in sensitive areas.
A Mining Industry Energy Bandwidth study by the U.S. Department of Energy found diesel equipment used in materials handling less efficient than electric equipment. Diesel transportation, like trucks, accounted for 211 trillion Btu per year, or 87% of total energy for materials handling. However, diesel systems operated at a low 30% efficiency.
In comparison, the study showed electric equipment like conveyors achieved up to 95% efficiency and comprised just 48 trillion Btu annually. Unlike diesel vehicles, electric systems produce no local exhaust emissions.
Conveyor systems also incorporate several internal safety features to securely hold materials on the belt during an emergency manual shutdown. Furthermore, they predominantly use electric power, thereby significantly reducing emissions and supporting a greener mining operation.
REAL-WORLD NUMBERS REVEAL MULTIPLE CONVEYOR BENEFITS
A case study of iron ore transport at a Brazilian mine demonstrated the notable advantages of using conveyors over trucks. Implementing a semi-mobile conveying solution reduced CO2 emissions by 29,376 tonnes annually or a 29% decrease from truck-only transport.
The fully mobile option lowered emissions even further by 50,654 tonnes per year, a 50% reduction. On a per tonne basis, conveyor operating costs were $0.24-$0.32, or 35-46% cheaper than truck costs of $0.37 per tonne.
Research shows that using conveyors to transport materials after in-pit crushing can significantly reduce costs and emissions compared to truck haulage. Installing semi-mobile or fully mobile crushers enabled shorter conveyor routes, improving efficiency.
Conveyors also provided steadier material flow and lower maintenance needs than the truck fleet. Overall, the data shows conveyors can be a more sustainable, economical option for mining operations.
THE CONVEYOR SYSTEM ADVANTAGE
Technology has improved the way we move ore and aggregate over long distances. Overland conveyor systems are more efficient, portable, and cost-effective than a fleet of mining trucks. The entire system can also quickly scale alongside your mining operations.
West River Conveyors has over 40 years of experience providing our customers with high-quality conveyors and equipment. Click the link below to learn how our systems and products can benefit your mining operation.