Héctor David Ruíz
Technical Manager for Northern Mexico
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Longer Lasting Steel Products Make Compelling Case

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 10:04

Q: Which products have enabled Astralloy to maintain its competitiveness in the Mexican mining industry?

A: Our company has always focused on product innovation above all. We are constantly diversifying our product line in order to enter into new markets. However, we began by manufacturing one product called Astralloy-V, which is an excellent steel plate. The Astralloy-V steel is composed of a special patented alloy which no other company may manufacture, and is up to 3.5 times stronger than the commodity steels made by our competitors. In order to compete with other steelmakers, we have also started to manufacture commodity steels, which are a lot more affordable due to their type of alloy composition, processing, and cooling methods. Yet, these products do not last as long as Astralloy-V. We also have magnesium, chrome, and nickel steels, and produce a special plate for deep oil wells used by PEMEX and other oil companies. Our plates have improved torque, they do not oxidize, and they do not break easily. Our steel is also used for special applications such as bolts and hubs. The characteristics of Astralloy-V increase the uptime of equipment, lower haulage time, and allow mining equipment to operate in relatively high humidity without problem. All of these factors represent considerable cost savings for mining companies. We aim to use our steel to create components that are prone to wear and tear, such as pump drives in mines, which are constantly subjected to friction.

Q: What are the applications for chrome steels within the mining industry?

A: We developed chrome welding for bimetallic plates, which makes steel plates last longer. This process is usually applied to make pipes that need to be buried, since the chemical composition of the steel prevents oxidation. These pipes are produced at temperatures of 800-900°C through induction heating. Simultaneously, we cool the pipes from the inside to create a hardness of 600HB (Brinell hardness). To provide a comparison, stainless steel has a hardness of 150HB and construction steel has a hardness of 250HB. This means that the pipes do not have to be constantly replaced. In South America, we created pipes that were used to transport minerals from the mines in the mountains to the ports. The minerals are transported in a pulp form, which causes a lot of friction on the pipe surface. The pipes that we develop wear out at a slower pace due to the steel that we use. Typically, only the lower half of our pipes wear out, which is why we perform thickness analyses. When this happens, we recommend customers turn the pipe around and make use of its upper half, which doubles the lifespan of the pipes

. Q: Which types of mining companies most commonly acquire your products?

A: The large-scale mining companies, such as Grupo Mexico, Fresnillo, Peñoles, and First Majestic, are the companies that invest most often in our advanced technology since they appreciate the benefit of using high-quality products. These companies are constantly looking for ways to reduce their cost per tonne of extracted material. Many of these are only now starting to improve their operating costs since the global prices of metals is forcing their hands. The only thing that companies can do is correct budget errors in order to create an efficient, cost-effective operation. There are processes such as hoisting that are constantly subjected to impact and abrasion. If the crusher, the hopper, or the cartridges, which are all interlocked for hoisting the material out of a mine, are not taken care of, they can break in three months’ time. By using Astralloy products, we guarantee that these hoisting components will last nine months.

Q: What is Astralloy’s planning and inventory strategy to cater to potential increases in demand for its products?

A: In the beginning of 2014, we prepared our budget for the year, outlining the production capacities of all the mines in the region. Many times, the mines themselves will send us information about the quantity of material that they will need for the year ahead. In this way, we can project the quantity of steel products that we will need for the next two years, in order to avoid a shortage of material. We also continue to communicate to our clients that there will be no cost increase for our products. Astralloy is constantly aiming to increase productivity at its plants so that it may produce steel plates at a lower cost, and in turn offer clients the same price, in spite of raising operational costs for the mining industry. We used to have 20 clients in the central northeast region of Mexico, but this has now risen to 60.