Elastomers Australia has developed a novel line of non-burning rubber screen media panels for the mining industry.
With both the NSW Resources Regulator and Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy reporting big increases in fire incidents over recent years, Elastomers Australia’s General Manager Business Solutions Pat Caputo reckons that one of the reasons is likely to be an increase in the use of some combustible materials by operators.
He agrees that “There are many benefits to using lighter weight plastics and rubber compounds for a broad range of applications across the industry. Screening, or the process of grading ore by particle size, is one such application. Screen media panels that contain various sized apertures to grade the ore are made of rubber or polyurethane compounds which perform well and are easy to handle.
“But these sorts of materials can also burn if they come into contact with an ignition source.”
It is that risk that has driven major mine operators around the country to investigate the development of fire retardant alternatives and resulted in Elastomers Australia delivering a solution that is ready for market.
“We were approached by an existing client who asked about potential solutions to the problem,” says Caputo.
“We’d already commenced research into fire retardant materials and with the assistance of the client we were able to fast-track development of a tailored screen media solution.
“After initial fire tests proved successful, we rolled the screen media out across a number of sites to test its wear and other performance capabilities, and the results have been very positive.
“Fortunately, the number of lost time injuries caused by fire remains low in the Australian mining sector, but the results of fire could be catastrophic and it is our duty to eliminate any such risks.
“Much of the mining industry’s approach to safety goes beyond compliance and seeks to achieve year-on-year improvement. While a key focus of safety management is people’s behaviour, the adoption of technology by operators also has a major part to play in reducing and ultimately eliminating risks.
“As far as we know, we are the first in the world to bring a viable fire-retardant screen media product to market,” Caputo concludes.
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