Availability service guarantees the delivery of valves to Terrafame mine in six hours

Availability service is a service format developed by Neles to guarantee that the client receives the necessary components within the required timeframe. Based on its agreement, Terrafame’s multi-mineral mine in Sotkamo gets new valves delivered within six hours.

CHAPTER ONE More reliability and availability with availability service

“The agreement makes our maintenance work easier in many ways. It improves the reliability of our mining operations, enables more accurate prediction of workloads, and reduces the need to keep an internal back-up valve stock,” said Chief Maintenance Officer Matti Rautiainen from Terrafame Oy.

“Neles is well known in Finland for its valve maintenance expertise, which has also become apparent in the execution of the agreement we signed last summer. We aim to extend the service to butterfly valves in addition to the ball valves and segment valves currently covered,” he added.

 

The agreement makes our maintenance work easier in many ways. It improves the reliability of our mining operations, enables more accurate prediction of workloads, and reduces the need to keep an internal back-up valve stock.
Matti Rautiainen, Chief Maintenance Officer, Terrafame

CHAPTER TWO A mine of 10,000 valves

Its name meaning “land of famine”, Terrafame uses bioleaching to produce its most important metals – nickel, zinc, copper and cobalt – from low-grade ore that must be quarried in volumes of millions of tons. The valves play a central role in the process at the stage where natural bacteria have separated the metals from the ore into the process solution.

“There are thousands of valves in the mine as a whole. The metals production plant, which is a major maintenance target, has about 1,000 valves. Of these, 15–20% are from Neles; 20–30% of the actuators and 50% of positioners also come from Neles,” Matti Rautiainen estimated.

In a nutshell, the goal of Terrafame maintenance is to always choose the right valve for each purpose. Factors that must be considered include the temperature and pH value of the metal solution as well as the robustness, availability and lifecycle cost of the valve.

“Before agreeing on the availability service with Neles, we had a lot of complete valve packages dusting away on the mine’s balance sheet for years. Now we can order even single valve components from the Kemi service center, which greatly improves our cost efficiency,” Rautiainen said.

 

Before agreeing on the availability service with Neles, we had a lot of complete valve packages dusting away on the mine’s balance sheet for years. Now we can order even single valve components from the Kemi service center, which greatly improves our cost efficiency.
Matti Rautiainen, Chief Maintenance Officer, Terrafame
Overall utilization rate
91%
for the entire metal production plant process

CHAPTER THREE Closer to 100% availability

The Terrafame mine operates 24/7 throughout the year, working to keep maintenance outages to a minimum. At the moment, the metal production plant has a main outage in May and a shorter one in the fall. In the future, the aim is to have only one outage per year.

“We have set a goal to achieve an overall utilization rate of 96% for the entire metal production plant process. Right now it’s around 91%,” Rautiainen said.

“The operating reliability of valves will also improve when we can, for example, replace a problematic valve with a better, more robust alternative from Neles’ product range.”

Thousands of valves

CHAPTER FOUR Mine operations restored, investment in battery chemicals plant underway

Four years ago, Terrafame faced two options: shut down the mine or start developing operations. With great motivation, the Terrafame people took the second option and got busy: since then, the turnover has nearly doubled, the volume of quarried ore has increased to nearly 18 million metric tons, and the mine has reached and passed the break-even point.

The improved working atmosphere has also resulted in better occupational safety. Hazardous situations are carefully recorded, and regular safety walks are organized. As a result, lost time incidents per one million working hours have been reduced to less than five.

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“The ramp-up of mine operations is now approaching completion, and we are turning to new projects, such as the battery chemicals plant, that will increase our degree of processing. The project will mean the addition of 150 new jobs on top of our current 650 employees. We are also looking for 25 new multi-skilled employees to complement our 170-strong maintenance team,” Rautiainen said. The growth will not stop there. Terrafame’s new mining permit application aims at producing annual volumes of 37,000 metric tons of concentrated nickel, 80,000 tons of zinc, 5,000 tons of copper and 1,500 tons of cobalt. The 250 metric tons of uranium, also contained in the same ore, is to be recovered.
Matti Rautiainen
Matti Rautiainen

CHAPTER FIVE Idea: shared valve warehouse for all the manufacturers

Terrafame now buys valves from 3–4 manufacturers and receives them from different warehouses. Chief Maintenance Officer Matti Rautiainen would like to see all manufacturers using a shared valve warehouse:

“A joint warehouse could be operated, for example, at Neles’ service center in Kemi. We could then get all the valves that we need, regardless of the manufacturer, from the same service point.”

“A shared warehouse would benefit all operators, not just us. We have nearly ten years of successful cooperation with Neles behind us, and we also want to apply the same model to other parts of a strong supplier network that is based on agreements that span several years. This way, our suppliers are able to invest in good services, and we, in turn, are able to invest in our own preventive maintenance development,” Rautiainen concludes.

Find out more about valves for mining and minerals processing

This article has been up-dated in July 2020, due to company name change into Neles.

Valves for the mining industry
Valves for the mining industry

Reliable flow control for demanding environments

Neles’ range of valves for the mining industry covers all process phases, from the transport of ground ore slurry to dewatering. The Neles name is connected to strong experience, a solid service culture and reliability. We offer a wide range of equipment for the mining industry – from top crushing technology to robust and reliable valve solutions. Neles and Jamesbury valves are designed to withstand demanding media, such as abrasive slurries and corrosive chemicals.

Slurry transport - Separation - Increased value of the end product - Dewatering

Reliable slurry transport is at the core of a concentration plant’s operations, guaranteeing a smooth process flow. Neles’ valves offer high reliability even in the demanding conditions created by corrosive slurry. Valves are an important part of various classification and separation processes, including hydrocyclones and froth flotation cells. When the valves function without problems, our clients can focus on overall process optimization.

Neles’ valves are designed for demanding applications, such as pressure treatment in autoclaves and other hydrometallurgical processes, including solvent extraction and electrolysis. All mine operators want to minimize the use of water. The valves used in pressure filters, in-line strainers and thickeners are reliable with easy maintenance and low total costs.