Crude Ore Bin receives new lease on life

With strong winds, high temperatures and operational interactions delaying early progress, the Copper Crude Ore Bin now boasts a newly sheeted roof, anticipated to see out the life of the asset.

In 2019, during routine structural inspections, it was identified that the roof of the Copper Crude Ore Bin needed re-sheeting to ensure the ongoing safety of those working under and around the structure.

The Crude Ore Bin acts as a storage facility for mined ore ready for processing. Given the challenges involved in re-sheeting the roof of a structure which stands 35 metres tall, 85 metres long and with limited access, the task was awarded to a contracting company which specialises in height safety and rope access.

The team involved were all IRATA (Industrial Rope Access Trade Association) qualified rope technicians and capable of completing at heights rescue work. In planning for the job, rope rescue plans were developed in the unlikely event of an incident.

Dave Anderson, Superintendent for Planning and Assets, Mount Isa Copper Operations Maintenance, says due to the deteriorated condition of the roof, access in itself was challenging. Given this, the project was carefully and closely managed by Senior Mechanical Engineer, Ryan Nicholls and a detailed and thorough Risk Assessment was conducted with all relevant stakeholders.

"It was identified early that the job had to be carried out by replacing one sheet at a time, old for new, so that the contractors were always working on good footing," Dave says.

"It was important that we completed the job safely and that we structured our work to ensure as little impact as possible on the Copper mine operations and the Copper Concentrator operations below."

Two large scaffolds were erected to allow safe access to the roof and enable the movement of materials.

Monitoring and management methods were established to address wind speeds, which at times, were recorded up to 66 kilometres per hour on the roof.

"Safe progress on the job was heavily dependent on compatible weather conditions, meaning during periods of strong winds and extreme heat, work on the roof was suspended until safe progress could continue," says Dave.

"This was managed very effectively between Ryan and our contracted rope technicians."

Weather monitoring smartphone apps and alerts, and the HSEC Air Quality Control Centre's lightning monitoring system were used to monitor weather, which was supported by the team leader on the roof who remained vigilant to identify changes in weather conditions.

"The project was delayed in the early stages, with strong and inconsistent winds pulling up the task, however once the winds settled, the team were able to make real progress."

During these periods of 'tools down' the crew kept busy, carrying out prep work, moving sheets or completing other tasks on site where possible. Hot weather was also a consideration with the crew working in shifts, rotating crew members and taking regular breaks.

"It was a very high risk and challenging task from the outset and I'm pleased to say it was completed safely, with a very high level of team work, good communication and cooperation from all involved departments," Dave says.

The Crude Ore Bin is a shared asset between copper mining and processing operations, and a high traffic area for other departments working in the vicinity.

Fast facts

  • 550 x 5.2 metre long roof sheets installed
  • More than 7,000 screws were used to complete the project
  • More than 100 anchor points were set up for working at heights
  • Project was completed in 54 x 9-day shifts
  • Crews consisting of 5 rope access trained personnel (sourced from various states of Australia).