Atlas Copco compressors perform under polar conditions at Norwegian mine
Wilrijk, Belgium, March 2014. Winter temperatures at Norway’s remote Sydvaranger iron ore mine can plunge to –35°C. To keep things moving the mine relies on air dryers, oil-injected rotary screw compressors and oil-free compressors from Atlas Copco. Sydvaranger had three main reasons for choosing Atlas Copco as their supplier: “reliability, life-cycle cost and energy efficiency”.
Einar Berg, senior mining advisor knows everything worth knowing about the open pits and the quality of the ore and the rock. “The weather conditions are the biggest challenge for mining in the area,” he says. “The summers are bright and warm, but in the winter we can have temperatures as low as –35 degrees.”
Atlas Copco has delivered air dryers, oil-injected rotary screw compressors and oil-free compressors to the mine. “We could immediately see that the extreme temperature conditions required a reliable choice of air dryers,” says Rune Mjørud Hansen, District Manager for Atlas Copco Compressor Technique Scandinavia. “Sydvaranger Gruve has chosen BD-dryers for their plant which gives them clean and dry air with a guaranteed dew point of at least - 40°C. Compressed air is the heart of the production and if the air freezes production is brought to a halt.”
The mine’s active pit, Bjørnevatn, is located only two kilometers from the border with Russia. Coarsely crushed ore is transported on an eight kilometre long railway track – the most northerly railroad in Europe – down to Kirkenes. Here it undergoes further milling and separating and is turned into the concentrate that is shipped to smelting plants in Asia or Europe.
“What some consider a remote location may be an advantage for others,” says Berg. The first commercial cargo ever to go through the Northern Sea route was iron ore from Sydvaranger on the way to China in 2010. That route saves 40% on time, fuel and emissions compared to a conventional route.
“You can look at the price tag or you can look at the total cost,” says Mentyjærvi. “We decided to invest in quality. We have previous experience from earlier production in the mine and know that we can trust equipment from Atlas Copco, and that access to spare parts is good.”
Energy efficiency has become increasingly important within the mining industry. There is also an energy shortage. “The closure of the mine in 1996 created a surplus of electricity in the area that was then used for other business,” says Mentyjærvi. “When the mine was rehabilitated we had to build up a new supply chain, but the access to electricity isn’t unlimited and this has put extra focus on using energy efficient equipment.”
Hansen points out that while compressors are not the biggest consumers of energy at Sydvaranger Gruve, minimizing operational costs leads to superior productivity. “Low pressure drop and dynamic control with dew point dependent switching was essential,” he says. “With our frequency controlled, oil-free compressor ZR400VSD, which provides precise pressure control, it’s not unusual to have energy savings of up to 35%.”
Sydvaranger Gruve has a 24-hour service contract with Atlas Copco and 20 staff are based on-site, conducting maintenance, service and repairs on the drill rig equipment. Einar Berg says the arrangement works well. “We have daily meetings where we plan and adjust the maintenance to the production,” he says. “That gives an appreciated flexibility and there have been very few problems.” Atlas Copco has also delivered lighting sets and several different types of drill and top hammer rigs to Sydvaranger.
Fact Box Sydvaranger Gruve AS
The export of magnetite iron ore concentrate from Sydvaranger started in 1910, following the opening of the mine in 1906. Close to 200 million tonnes of crude ore was produced until a decline in demand and low prices forced the mine to close down in 1996. The mine, along with the railway and production facilities, was then rehabilitated between 2007 and 2009. Sydvaranger Gruve AS is a subsidiary of the Australian-based Northern Iron Ltd, with the Norwegian Tschudi Shipping Company the largest owner. Today Sydvaranger operates an open-pit mine at Bjørnevatn and hauls the ore along a private railway line to Kirkenes for processing and shipping. The company has over 400 employees and uses more than 100 contractors. Production in 2012 was 2 million tonnes of concentrate and the company expects to reach its rated capacity of 2.8 million tonnes per year in 2013. The working plan is to double the capacity by 2017.
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Atlas Copco is a world-leading provider of sustainable productivity solutions. The Group serves customers with innovative compressors, vacuum solutions and air treatment systems, construction and mining equipment, power tools and assembly systems. Atlas Copco develops products and service focused on productivity, energy efficiency, safety and ergonomics. The company was founded in 1873, is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and has a global reach spanning more than 180 countries. In 2013, Atlas Copco had revenues of BSEK 84 (BEUR 9.7) and more than 40 000 employees.
Atlas Copco’s Compressor Technique business area provides industrial compressors, vacuum solutions, gas and process compressors and expanders, air and gas treatment equipment and air management systems. The business area has a global service network and innovates for sustainable productivity in the manufacturing, oil and gas, and process industries. Principal product development and manufacturing units are located in Belgium, Germany, the United States, China and India.