Mining is an around-the-clock operation where employee safety and zero downtime are critical requirements. It is imperative that one maximizes efficiency and minimizes the risk of damage to equipment or injury to personnel by using mine site lighting solutions that are able to operate under harsh environments.
The challenges faced includes vibration, dust, heat, heavy rains, and long running times; all of which affect the performance and life span of the illumination of lighting solutions whether mobile or fixed. Operating in these conditions can often lead to premature failure, causing production downtime during maintenance or replacement.
African Mining Brief speaks to David Stanford, Business Line Manager Portable Energy Division on the importance of finding a lighting solution that could not only withstand the tough conditions on site, but could also provide adequate illumination for safe working conditions.
There are several options available on the market, and these are dependent on the clients’ needs, for instance the lighting should be designed based on the client’s specifications, style of beam and the illumination required. From mechanical to hydraulic lighting towers, from halogen to LED lighting towers, all are designed to improve productivity and safety to both mine personal and equipment.
As the technology continues to evolve some lighting towers are being customized through remote monitoring, skid mounting, air cooled engine, water cooled, single and tandem axles, auto start/ stop, extra-low voltage at 24 v, instant start-up LED lights as well as approximately 250 hours of run time with low fuel burn rate.
“In order to ensure enhanced control and protection, the light towers are now equipped with metallic enclosure with wide service doors and an electrical cubicle, a vertically extendable mast that rotates 360 degrees to illuminate large areas, stabilisation legs, an on-road undercarriage and heavy-duty construction for demanding environments”, explains David Stanford.
Efficient lighting solutions for mining operations
Stanford argues that light towers should be carefully designed such that it is extremely easy to position in any desired location to obtain optimal work area lighting. The LED lighting tower offers a wide range of benefits over traditional lighting solutions, such as: energy-efficiency; better light coverage; long, useful operating lifespan; resistance to impacts; immunity to vibration; low surface temperature as well as producing pure, flicker-free white light with high colour rendering properties.
In addition, the flicker-free white lighting solutions create safe, productive and comfortable working environments. LED light tower solutions offer cost effective solution to help ensure operations continue safely and without interruption throughout the calendar year.
It is important to always read the engine service and operator’s manual as well as any warning labels on the machine before operating a light tower. Light towers need many of the same maintenance considerations as other mobile equipment
However, if they are operated properly, light towers are mature enough product that they shouldn’t require more than regular engine service and routine inspections.
While diesel-powered light towers require periodic maintenance, solar powered light towers are nearly maintenance free- though they are more expensive upfront.
Diesel- powered light towers if they incorporate ease-of-maintenance features, such as side panels and flip-open top panels for easy access to the engine and components, field maintenance is more likely to get done.
As part of maintenance, transportation is also critical- the more you tow the light tower the higher the chance the element will break. It is important that the machine is secure when being towed- safety pins are in outriggers to prevent sliding during towing and that safety chains are also connected.
In addition to proper maintenance plan, proper setup and use is also critical to the life of the tower as well keeping light towers running smoothly.
LED bulbs offer a number of advantages- such as being more reliable and not susceptible to damage when compared to the traditional bulbs. It also offers energy savings, for instance 70% savings on the fuel cost because of the power required.
Mining industry is facing a number of challenges such as labour unrest, skills shortage, and commodity prices going down, therefore benefits offered by LED bulbs are critical as every cent saved is important, as well as keeping the mines running longer and safer.