Solving the problem of contaminates

18 April 2023
Mechanical devices for distributing lubricants

The article below appeared in the April 2023 issue of Australian Mining.

There is really no getting around it: mine sites, especially those in Australia, can be very dusty places. And although that dust can pose a considerable annoyance to those on-site, it can also wreak havoc on mining equipment.

This is something the team members at RETRA Fluid Handling Systems – or RETRA Group –know all too well, and that’s why they developed a product to solve it – the Lubestation.

“Controlling the contamination of lubricants at a mine site is essential because it can directly impact the reliability and lifespan of mining equipment,” RETRA Group sales manager Jay McEwen told Australian Mining.

“Contaminants in lubricants can cause excessive wear, corrosion and component failure, leading to unplanned downtime, increased maintenance costs and potentially unsafe working conditions.”

It is estimated that between 70–80 per cent of all hydraulic failures can be traced back to contaminated oil.

Lubestation modules are versatile products that can help to reduce the hydraulic failures experienced on-site, preventing cross-contamination and ensuring fresh fluids are being put into the equipment.

“The Lubestation houses all the required fluids for ongoing equipment maintenance in one relocatable package,” McEwen said.

“It has been designed with outdoor use in mind and is particularly suited for routine maintenance in harsh conditions, such as on an Australian mine site.”

Having a relocatable solution means the environment can always be controlled, which results in quality equipment that is free from contamination.

“Due to the enclosed weather-proof design, the Lubestation retains the quality of oil and other fluids at the exact specifications that the manufacturer intended,” McEwen said. “And it doesn’t stop at storage, either.

“All of our pumps and pipework are sourced from premium suppliers, and we include high-quality inline filters to give users peace of mind that nothing has snuck into their fluids.”

Tier 1 Australian miners and contractors have used lubestations since the mid-2000s, and RETRA Group has worked to evolve the products, as well as its own processes, throughout the years.

“We have a five-step process when working with all our customers: listen, collaborate, design, fabricate and handover,” McEwen said.

RETRA Group starts every project by listening to its customers’ goals and asking questions to understand the bigger picture.

“RETRA Group has built its reputation on speaking to people in the field,” McEwen said. “It’s an essential step in the process, as it allows us to understand the challenges and the client’s goals first-hand.

“Getting out to site and shaking hands is how we’ve been working since the ’80s. In the age of teleconferencing, it sets us apart and allows us to demonstrate to the client that we are committed to the ongoing health of their equipment and operations.”

After speaking with the client, the RETRA team will collaborate with experts from across the company.

“We’re firm believers in teamwork and a project team could include representatives from sales, engineering, procurement, operations and, if required, outside consultants,” McEwen said.

Once the project team has developed a plan, the process moves on to the design phase. This involves using the most up-to-date technology to design, draft, render, test and analyse the end product.

Once the customer signs off on the design, it’s time to fabricate.

“Our skilled and experienced specialists, including boilermakers, painters and electricians, are fully equipped to execute a project with accuracy and efficiency,” McEwen said.

Finally, the customer is invited to inspect the finished product and receives a comprehensive engineering report.

“This report certifies that your project has been built to meet the highest mine-spec standards, so you can have peace of mind knowing that your investment is safe and secure,” McEwen said.

Once the Lubestation is up and running at a site, mining operations can expect to experience myriad benefits.

“With the Lubestation, a miner’s equipment is working more productive hours and saving resources like money and manpower,” McEwen said.

“It also eliminates manual handling risks with intelligently positioned dispensing handpieces, and forklift access to every product container in the Lubestation, commonly a 1000L IBC or 205L drum, which are next to impossible to move by hand”.”

The modular design of the Lubestation means it can be added to existing infrastructure and is easy to transport across the country – or the world.

Additionally, the option to lease a Lubestation will be added to RETRA Group’s portfolio by the end of FY23.

“We’ve sold Lubestations around Australia and Papua New Guinea, and we’re currently exploring opportunities to venture into other major mining jurisdictions in Africa,” McEwen said.

“We are committed to completing projects on schedule, within budget, and to the highest ISO:9001 quality standards.”


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