Q&A with Ekkhart Matthies

How is a company like Weir Minerals helping mine operators prepare for the future while facing the challenges today?
As the pressures continue to build on the mining and aggregates industries, mine operators are pressed to identify solutions that maintain, or even, improve their bottom line. Some of the solutions are complicated, some are relatively easy. Many mines around the world are looking at their equipment and focusing on maximizing efficiency and productivity to get more with less.

Weir Minerals is continually identifying and developing options to lower operating costs and increase product efficiency for their customers. With extensive research and testing Weir Minerals engineers are involved in all phases of its product development cycle, leaving no room for error.

Weir Minerals is constantly expanding our product portfolio, we are more and more involved in the customer’s project planning at an early stage. This guarantees both parties that teamwork can optimize the process from a very early project stage. We should not forget that the ability of having local service networks helps the customer in maximizing the productivity of his plant and process.

Weir Minerals now offers Enduron crushers and screens, KHD HPGR’s and all the necessary associated equipment required for typical crushing and screening processes.

Adding these comminution capabilities to our traditional slurry handling products has positioned us well to help our customers throughout the entire mineral processing plant. The work of our world-class R&D and engineering teams will ensure we improve and expand our product portfolio even more in the years to come.

How has the total circuit design for new-build process plants changed in the last several years?
While the process itself has not changed much over the years, the importance of reliable equipment has steadily increased. As a result, we are seeing very focused ideas and process improvements. This is complex equipment that is run very hard. While a mine operator would prefer to have equipment service experts on site 24/7, it just isn’t realistic. Reliable equipment is important but so is a good service team to help in times of crisis.

What factors are driving change in the mining and aggregates industries?
The mining industry is facing a number of challenges, including:
■ Skilled workforce.
■ Water management.
■ Regulations.
■ Grade quality decline in mining.

All of those issues have driven higher operating costs, hurting the mining industry’s bottom line.

The impact is felt throughout the mining industry by having the ability to process high tonnages with equipment that is nearly 100 percent operational.

What role can technology play in helping the mining industry overcome these challenges?
Whether it is low-grade or high-grade ore being extracted from the earth, or construction aggregates, the focus has shifted to high-tonnage operations now. The common denominator is that all mine operations are migrating to higher output while lowering costs. As a result, there is even greater importance on integrated processing solutions or comminution packages, which addresses regional issues such as energy needs, skilled employees and the general logistics around the beneficiation process.

Research and development is very important these days and the industry needs to be willing to try “new technologies.” As a result, global partners, like Weir Minerals, need to focus listening to mine operators and changing how they introduce new products and services. We need to remain customer centric. At Weir Minerals, our research and development strategy is based around four key components:
■ Voice of the customer.
■ Collaboration between engineers and mine operators.
■ Expertise in product development.
■ A commitment to produce quality products that improve efficiency and safety.

What do we know now that we didn’t know 20 years ago when processing mills were designed and how does that impact the alternatives?
In the past, the mining industry didn’t have to worry about price pressure for energy, water and labor. In addition, the transformation to high volume production has increased the size of the equipment needed so electric motors were not that big either. This new environment has forced equipment manufacturers to change or be left behind. At Weir Minerals, we think that energy consumption will remain at the forefront of the discussion as the mining industry migrates towards “greener” technologies.

Do any of these alternatives represent significant changes?
Yes, but as mentioned before, the industry needs to accept new ideas and the machine suppliers need to work on R&D. In my eyes, this is a very big opportunity for customers who say: “Yes, I believe in that machine supplier and his ideas. Let me be the first to use a new technology.” The mining industry has to be willing to embrace new technology and establish some early adopters.

Can you talk about what products Weir Minerals offers in the comminution process?
Weir Minerals now offers jaw and cone crushers, HPGR, vibrating screens and ancillary equipment which is used in all stages of a typical crushing and screening process. With this comes the screening media in all kinds of rubber or polyurethane to provide excellent wear resistance. Pumps, hoses, valves and liners required in grinding circuits are also supplied.

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