Conveyors, Transfers, Chutes, Dust Control & Environment, Equipment & Technology, Mining and Heavy Industries

Conveyor spillage contractor launches telescopic raking machine

Oreclean, a company that specialises in cleaning spillage from under conveyors, has launched an innovative device called the Telescopic Raking Machine (TRM) which has been trialled at FMG’s Christmas Creek operation. Charles Macdonald reports.

Spillage is a perennial problem for conveyor operators with the problem starting with carry-back on belts from wet product, particularly fines. While belt scrapers and plough scrapers remove this carry-back, often in the process they deposit it underneath the conveyor in mounds that are expensive and problematic to remove.

Currently, impacted sites – at mines, process plants and terminals – gravitate to three traditional methods of spillage clean-up: using a fixed rake on a Bobcat or telehandler; using specialised low profile cleaning machines; or using pressurised water to wash spillage towards industrial scale vacuum hoses.

Matt Langley, general manager of Oreclean, the creator of the Telescopic Raking Machine (TRM), sees drawbacks with each of the three traditional methods, based on his extensive experience on sites.

Accessing two parallel conveyors at a transfer station would require a long fixed rake. However, in such a scenario, in trying to position the rake while on the move, Bobcats and telehandlers are inherently unstable.

“We observed quite a lot of plant damage watching other people do that,” explained Langley. “Misaligning belts, and tearing earth straps off of frame legs, damaging the studs on concrete footings and disturbing concrete footings on frame legs.

“We also observed quite a few things in the vacuum recovery space, as well. Watching people lay on wooden pallets in the mud under conveyor belts trying to hold on to 12 inch vacuum hoses from very big and powerful trucks and using an awful lot of water.”

Langley has his doubts about some of the new micro cleaning machines, too. Of one, he said:

“The operator is standing in the elements; controls are not fully proportional; there’s pretty poor visibility of where the machine is tracking and it’s not particularly durable. I spoke to one user who worked one hard for two weeks, after which it was ready for the scrapheap.”

Langley started with initial concept sketches for the TRM in May 2014, quickly moving to production of a prototype in June 2014.


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The impetus to his development of the machine was extensive first-hand experience of sites with conveyors, where he saw inadequate responses to spillage.

Langley founded contracting business the Longfield Group in 2009, with one company doing civils and concrete contracting and another mechanical and electrical. He spent a lot of time on sites belonging to FMG and BHP Billiton.

“The machine is based on observations from working on those sites and having to work around spillage and do shutdown-related work around spillage,” he said.

Langley sold his interest in the Longfield Group in April 2014, at which point he established Oreclean.

The TRM is built around a standard Bobcat E50 five tonne hydraulic excavator.


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Possibly its most eye catching feature is the telescopic boom, which, fully extended, can reach 5.8 metres. In operation, the machine recovers material from under and around conveyors, depositing it in a windrow parallel to the belt. This material is then recovered by a skid steer loader or small front end loader.

Underpinning the machine is some clever technology with a sophisticated system of cameras and screens allowing an operator vision where line of sight from the cabin is not possible.

“Our operator sits with excellent visibility and is aided by cameras and screens,” said Langley. “He sits on an air suspension seat in an air conditioned cabin. He’s capable of doing day or night work and it’s quite intuitive for somebody who’s already a decent excavator operator to achieve really impressive dexterity, although there are subtle differences to get used to.”

The TRM’s first real test was in a trial at FMG’s Christmas Creek operation in August 2014.

Till then, FMG had opted for a mixture of the traditional clean-up methods. For example, at Port Hedland the company used vacuum recovery, with multiple sucker trucks operating 12 hours a day. Christmas Creek used a combination of fixed rakes on skid-steer loaders and tele-handlers.

Langley judges the Christmas Creek trial a great success. “They were ecstatic with the results,” he said. “At most of the site no-one had ever seen the formation level because of the amount of spillage during commissioning. In many spots no-one’s ever been able to get it back to formation level as we did. As I understand it that was five or six year’s spillage gone in one day.”

FMG elected to have the TRM work with a spotter, although Langley says other sites are happy without one.

“It’s up to the site,” he said. “We’re offering the service and as the contractor we have to work within a site’s rules. We’ve operated at several sites without dedicated spotters without any issues.”


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While Oreclean’s business model is to act as a contractor, the company is open to other possible arrangements.

“We’re a spillage mitigation contractor,” said Langley. “This machine is the centrepiece of our fleet of equipment. We’re mainly a contracting company although we have been in negotiations with a major miner about doing a fully maintained lease with the machines.”

With the mining industry in the doldrums and purse strings tights, Oreclean is not finding the going easy. Based in Welshpool in Perth, the company has directed most of its efforts to date to the moribund iron ore sector. However, the company intends to broaden its marketing effort and is optimistic about East coast opportunities, particularly in the coal sector.

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