Maintenance the key to efficient HVAC on mining machines

LACK of attention to maintenance on heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems on mobile mining equipment such as dump trucks, excavators, dozers and drill rigs can cost mines dearly. This is the view of Brenton Spies, managing director of HVAC specialist Booyco Engineering, a company which has been a leader in its field for more than three decades.

“An HVAC system that is malfunctioning can result in a multi-million rand mining vehicle being taken out of service, resulting in hours of downtime and possibly hundreds of thousands of rands of lost production,” says Spies. “Modern health and safety laws in South Africa are very demanding and operators are entitled to stop work if ambient temperatures in the cab are too high or, for that matter, too low.”

Booyco Engineering has a track record of supplying and maintaining highly efficient HVAC systems for customers in the railways, defence and mining sectors. Its clients over the years have included Transnet, General Electric, Alsthom, Bombardier and, in the mining sector, Seriti’s New Vaal opencast coal mine. Booyco has supplied maintenance services continuously to New Vaal for more than two decades.

The company’s HVAC systems are locally designed and manufactured and are specifically designed for Africa’s rugged conditions. The units are assembled in Booyco Engineering’s 3 000 m2 Meadowdale premises in Germiston. “We outsource most of the fabrication but all design is undertaken by Booyco Engineering’s engineers and technicians at our premises using the latest software and specialised tools,” says Spies. 

According to Spies, the standard HVAC systems used on many off-road mining vehicles are unable to cope with the constant vibration, extreme temperatures and dust that are encountered in mining environments. “Our customised units are more expensive than these products but they are durable and can function for 20 years, or even longer, if maintained correctly,” says Spies. “By contrast, the life of standard units can be very short – no more than two or three years. Buying them is false economy.”

He points out that most ‘off-the-shelf’ HVAC systems are designed to cope with temperatures of around 35C. “This is fine if your machines are working in Europe but totally inadequate for mining areas, such as the Northern Cape, where temperatures can soar into the 40s,” he remarks. “Our HVAC systems are designed for ambient temperatures of up to 45C.”

He adds that Booyco Engineering has such confidence in its HVAC systems that it offers a five-year warranty to customers, which he says is ground-breaking. 

“We’ve been on many mines recently and what we’ve noticed is that very few of them are maintaining their HVAC systems,” he observes. “For the most part, they do not have any consistent maintenance programmes in place and they entrust their maintenance work to technicians who have no real understanding of HVAC and who certainly don’t have any in-depth understanding of the refrigeration cycle. At best, they will assign the task to one of their mechanics or auto-electricians, who they might send on a one or two-day refrigeration course.”

By contrast – Booyco Engineering’s technicians have been thoroughly trained by the company in every aspect of HVAC maintenance and are deployed on or close to customer sites throughout South Africa.

Spies says that Booyco Engineering can provide these services under a range of maintenance offerings, either long or short term, and is happy to negotiate appropriate arrangements with customers.