Lihir embraces technology, innovation

Newcrest Lihir operation in the Namatanai district of New Ireland Province continues to drive improvement through innovative projects that enhance outputs and safety, reduce cost and promote an owner’s mindset.

One such project is the Semi-Autogenous Grinding (SAG) mills’ ball feeder project which significantly reflects Lihir’s Transformation 2 journey in reaching full potential.

Lihir’s Project & Engineering (P&E) team initiated the project in 2018 and collaborated with business partners Walz and CEQ. The aim of the project is to replace the current manual ball loading system used at the operation’s SAG mills with an automated ball loading system.

P&E Mechanical Projects Coordinator Shane Maxwell explained that the new loading system reflects Newcrest’s Safety and Sustainability, Operating Performance and Technology and Innovation pillars because it will make work easier and safer, increase productivity and provide an optimum ball charge to the grinding mills for increased ore processing tonnage.

“Loading steel balls into the grinding mills is also identified as a high risk lifting task within Newcrest’s Critical Control Management System. The new system eliminates this risk by providing operators with a safer way to do their work,” stated Maxwell.

In explaining how the new ball loading system works, P&E Project Manager Andrew Moulds said the new ball loader uses a magnet to pick up the heavy steel balls from the bin, transfers them across to a sloping launder and releases them to roll into the head of the feed conveyor. He added that each ball load is weighed and the number of lifts is then adjusted to meet the desired set point for best mill operation to an accuracy of 2 percent.

“With this new system, the machine does the heavy lifting previously done by loading operators. The design is similar to Telfer and Cadia (Newcrest sites) installations but with extra safety measures undertaken to ensure the balls don’t block in the loading bin and a computerised control to operate the system accurately and safely,” said Moulds.

“We’ve completed SAG mills in the Flotation Grade Operation grinding circuit and are now working on those located in the High Grade Operation grinding circuits. The project has received excellent cooperation from all teams involved; a testament of their commitment to Newcrest values of Working together, High performance and Innovation and Problem solving which are all part of our shared goals of zero incidents and delivering value to Newcrest,” he added.

(Lihir’s Projects & Engineering team with business partners, Walz & CEQ, celebrating their progress)

Press release