Targeted Coatings Increase Mining Equipment DurabilityWed, 10/21/2015 - 18:34
Few companies can boast a heritage that stretches back to the end of American Civil War. Sherwin-Williams, the paints and coatings manufacturer, is one of those that can, and is preparing to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2016. Its rich history and success is the ongoing legacy of joint founders and pioneers of their time, Henry Sherwin and Edwin Williams. They became forces for change, founding an industry and assisting in the ignition of the industrial age through discovery, invention, and innovation. The SherwinWilliams logo proudly brandishes the phrase “Cover the Earth”, highlighting the company’s goal to continue the worldwide expansion of its paint empire. This ambition is well on its way to realization, both geographically and industrially speaking, with the company already providing products and services in numerous countries and industries, resulting in USD$10.19 billion total net sales in 2013.
Leonardo Maldonado, Mining Business Development Manager of Sherwin-Williams, has been at the frontline of the company’s mining efforts in Mexico since 2012. This makes him uniquely positioned to understand the many benefits that the company’s products can provide to the industry, particularly in times of deficit. “During lucrative times, it is common for companies to simply dispose of inoperative equipment and replace it with brand new items,” reveals Maldonado. “Right now, things are different. Mining companies are constantly looking for ways to prolong the lifespan of their equipment. Our products can ensure the increased endurance of mining equipment, saving both time and money on lengthy, expensive repair procedures.”
In Mexico, Maldonado lists epoxy coatings and polyurethane as being the most popular products in Sherwin-Williams’ portfolio. This is due to the protective requirements for machinery operating in dusty environments. The most common product sold is Macropoxy 646, a fast cure epoxy used to protect the exterior of steel structures, columns, roofs, tanks, and pipes. Among Sherwin-Williams’ new products, stands Novolac 325, which can resist both chemical erosion and temperatures of up to 200oC, further expanding its range of solutions. “The new technologies that we provide to the mining industry are designed to solve problems related to corrosion caused by temperature, abrasion, chemicals, and harsh mining environments,” states Maldonado. “Protection against chemicals such as sulfuric acid and cyanide is essential. Many of these chemicals are contained in immersion tanks and can create vapors which are very aggressive toward steel and concrete. Our products can make mining equipment last for much longer by reducing these risks
Although Sherwin-Williams’ products can all be applied very quickly, as opposed to rubber coatings that take much longer to implement, rubber still represents the company’s biggest competitive threat in the market. The company has addressed this threat by developing EnviroLastic AR425, a polyurea which can replace rubber inside flotation cells. “Rubber has to be vulcanized, which forms joints when the pieces are connected,” explains Maldonado. “Since the flotation cells create movement, the momentum can cause a rubber joint to separate, delaying or hindering the mineral separation process. Polyurea has the advantage of being a spray, meaning it can be applied homogeneously and does not create any joints. The drying only takes one minute so it can also save time, and it is very resistant to the abrasion caused by the movement of minerals and particles.” The only limitation of the polyurea and the advantage of rubber lining is the pH levels that these materials can tolerate. Currently, polyurea can only resist pH levels between three and ten. If the solutions to be managed have pH levels outside that range, then rubber is the best option. “We are currently testing an extremely versatile product that will be cheaper than rubber and will be able to resist chemicals that drop into the acid pH range, with an aim to release it soon,” he adds. “To put it into perspective, it can sometimes take five to six days to cover one flotation cell with rubber. With this new product, it will only take a day or two. You can even apply it when the structures are already built, as opposed to rubber which has to be applied in sections. We foresee that it will be a future star product for mining.”
The production of coatings and epoxies for mining equipment comes with its own set of challenges. As mentioned before, mining involves a broad range of abrasive and aggressive chemicals, harsh environmental conditions, and geographically dependent circumstances. Sherwin-Williams therefore specializes in formulating products specifically designed to operate in these variable settings. “At our R&D center in Cleveland, Ohio, we have 1,500 chemists working on new products and resins for each particular requirement of mining environments,” says Maldonado.
This variety of products is necessary due to how different climatic conditions affect the coatings. For instance, a product developed for the Australian market might not fit the requirements in Mexico. “Zinc-rich primers need humidity to cure, whereas the Macropoxy 100 is designed for very cold environments,” elaborates Maldonado. “If customers in Mexico want these products, we have to convince them that they may not work in Sonora, for example, because it is too dry and hot. This can be a struggle, especially when the desired product is not suitable for a specific situation.” To combat this issue, Maldonado has been tasked with ensuring that mines in Mexico are fully assessed before companies are advised about the best solution to use. Maldonado lists Peñoles, Grupo Mexico, and ICA Fluor as customers, while describing the commercial relationship between his company and its clients. “Mining companies usually hire an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) company which we then work with to supply the goods. Once the EPC purchases our products, it will then apply them within the customers’ mines. Baja Mining was another big client; we acquired this account during 2012 and worked with them on their project El Boleo for about 18 months.”