Anglo American is one of the world’s largest mining enterprises. In 2008, the company purchased the Minas-Rio project for mining iron ore in Brazil. Consisting of a mine, a beneficiation plant, a filtration plant, a pipeline spanning more than 325 miles and a port where iron ore is shipped, the $8.8 billion investment included hundreds of assets. To ensure asset availability, Anglo American employed several key strategies, such as reliability-centered maintenance (RCM), failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA), predictive techniques (oil analysis, vibration and thermography), and online monitoring (vibration and temperature). However, perhaps most important was the implementation of a well-designed lubrication program. This program has resulted in significant financial gains and was chosen to receive the 2015 John R. Battle Award by the International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML) for excellence in machinery lubrication.

The Journey

At the Minas-Rio mine, lubricants, refrigerants and fuels are constantly in contact with sensitive asset components. Anglo American determined that efficient management of the contamination and cleanliness levels of these fluids could lead to improved equipment performance, optimized component life cycles, increased asset availability and reduced maintenance costs. The challenge would be to keep the fluids clean, cool and dry in order to obtain these benefits.

When a structured plan was created, it focused on three elements: the people, equipment and methods. The first stage started in October 2013 and included implementation of a training program for personnel on best practices as well as selection of an oil analysis laboratory. Specifications were developed to ensure proper receipt, storage, handling, filtering, measuring and application of lubricants. To prevent contamination by the external environment, vents, quick couplers, sampling valves, etc., were also utilized.

The second phase of the plan began in April 2015. It involved creating procedures for the management of clean fluids, writing specifications for the oil analysis lab, installing shielding devices, commissioning the tanking station, mapping application opportunities for special and synthetic lubricants, and conducting an audit of the “clean fluids” practices.

In addition, between 2015 and 2016, several training classes were held for Minas-Rio personnel. These classes resulted in the ICML certification of 20 employees as a Level I Machine Lubrication Technician or Machine Lubricant Analyst. Additional training classes are scheduled for 2017.

The third stage was recently launched and is scheduled to be completed in December 2017. This phase will see full operation of the oil analysis lab, development of the training program with leaders and lubricators, embedded filtering to increase the productivity of lubrication teams, improvement in safety conditions, maintenance of fluid cleanliness levels in critical equipment, continuity of audit processes and continuous improvement initiatives.

The Results

So far, the lubrication program has generated considerable cost savings thanks to reduced lubricant consumption, extended oil changes and avoided acquisitions due to oil filtering activities. The certification program has been essential in the cultural change process, placing Minas-Rio in a prominent position nationally and in the mining industry. The clean fluids initiative is in the assessment process and may soon be used as a reference within the company and on a worldwide basis. This year will be extremely important for the mine in consolidating its practices, continuing to develop its culture and measuring tangible gains in reduced maintenance costs and increased asset reliability.