Gold Rush team Hits Pay Dirt with Screen Performance Evaluation

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The reality TV series Gold Rush is a ratings phenomenon for Discovery Channel. Now starting its seventh season, the series follows three mining teams as they search for gold in the Yukon and other rugged environments.

In most episodes, the men are beset by forces they can’t control—rain, snow, floods, cave-ins, medical emergencies, personality clashes and even bears. So when the 316 Mining team began having mechanical problems with its "Monster Red" wash plant in 2015, they turned to a sure thing: the Screen Performance Evaluation service from Polydeck Screen Corporation.

The team’s quarry and mining expert, Dave Turin, knew Polydeck was right for the job. He had specified Polydeck screen media on a different wash plant several seasons earlier, impressed by the longevity and throughput of the screens. His family’s quarry and paving business in Oregon also uses Polydeck media.

“I estimate it lasts 10 times longer than regular steel screen,” he says. “In the family business, we used to change screens every two weeks. Now with Polydeck, it’s only once or twice a year.”

To assess Monster Red’s problems, Polydeck specialist Mike Garrison went to the Klondike to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the wash plant. A 50-ton behemoth with a 38-foot sluice that processes 300 cubic yards of pay dirt an hour, Monster Red was literally shaking itself apart, causing components to break.

Garrison attached electronic instrumentation to the equipment to measure multiple aspects of operation, including screen speed, stroke and acceleration. The readings were downloaded into a proprietary software program for analysis—information that enabled Garrison to make recommendations to the team’s mechanics on how to fine-tune Monster Red. A key aspect of the solution was to adjust the counterweight segments in the vibrator assembly to reduce excessive energy.

The adjustments not only solved the mechanical issues, said Turin, “it increased throughput on our bottom deck by as much as 20 percent, and that was a factor in helping us get more gold.” In fact, the team recorded their largest haul of gold that season.

The dual benefit—solving problems and increasing efficiency—is no surprise to Polydeck’s Garrison, who has 42 years of mining experience and has evaluated more than 1,500 machines around the world. “Three-quarters of our visits begin with a mechanical problem,” he says, “but when we leave, the overall efficiency is usually significantly improved as well.”

Garrison says that very few machines used in mining operations perform optimally. “The machine and the media panels work as a system. Even though the screen media may be delivering at maximum capabilities, it may not be working in sync with the machine for that particular site application.”

That mismatch can lead to costly problems. For example, he says, a machine designed to operate at 3.5 Gs of acceleration might have an expected life of 50,000 hours. If acceleration averages 5 Gs, however, the useful life could be cut in half, significantly increasing operating costs.

“With a set-up that optimizes displacement and acceleration, the operator can increase throughput, while reducing downtime and operating costs,” says Garrison

The key to maximizing performance, he says, is to record machine operation electronically and get the facts. “If we can quantify it, we can resolve it,” says Garrison. He contrasts Polydeck’s scientific assessment with more "home-grown" methods, such as attaching paper to the side of a vibrating machine and using a pencil to trace an orbit in an effort to get a handle on movement issues.

After an assessment, customers receive a report that includes before-and-after readings on displacement and acceleration, as well as precise orbits, critical frequency graphs and supporting structure evaluations benchmarked against international standards for movement. And, most importantly, recommendations on how to adjust the machine and screen deck set-up to improve performance. Screening efficiency is affected by a multitude of factors, and it’s important to consider all of them to ensure a screening operation is as productive as possible.

Dave Turin is a believer. “I haven’t seen another company with as much experience in crushing and screening as Polydeck. Mike looked at our environment of operation and considered the whole process, from screens and conveyors to the sluice box and bottom deck. With his recommendations, we were able to fine-tune our equipment to improve throughput and make more money.”

The good news for other mining operators is that the Performance Evaluation Service conducted at Monster Red is available to all Polydeck customers. “The Gold Rush team is a great bunch of guys, but they didn’t get any special treatment,” says Garrison. “It’s the exact same service we’ll provide for any customer.”

You can learn more about ways to maximize screen efficiency at CONEXPO-CON/AGG in March 2017. Both Mike Garrison and Dave Turin (@grdozerdave) from Gold Rush will be featured speakers in the Polydeck education session Maximizing Screen Efficiency. Gold Rush airs Fridays at 9pm/8C on Discovery.

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