Conveyor system generates green energy to power mine and feed Jamaica's electricity grid
JAMAICA & NEW YORK - Alcoa (NYSE: AA) Jamalco Operations, using a sustainable transport system, has reached a milestone: hauling 10 million tons of bauxite from its Mount Oliphant mine to the rail station, where it is loaded for shipping to the company's Clarendon alumina refinery. The record was achieved in less than two years using a Rope Conveyor (RopeCon®) system, a 2.11 mile (3.4 kilometer) cable conveyor system that moves bauxite through mountainous terrain. Mount Oliphant has an elevation of 843 feet (257 meters).
"The RopeCon system is the only one in the Alcoa network, and we selected it primarily because of its sustainability features," said Jerome Maxwell, managing director of Jamalco.
In addition to transporting bauxite, the system itself generates approximately 1,200 kW of braking (green) energy per hour, which is used to power the mine and is also fed back into Jamaica's power network. Alcoa has saved approximately $1.5 million in energy costs, since it began operating the conveyor system in 2007.
RopeCon consists of a belt with corrugated side walls and integrated wheel sets running on fixed track ropes guided over 11 tower structures. It is driven by two AC induction motors. As the conveying system is loaded with bauxite and begins its decent, the drives begin operating in continuous braking (regeneration) mode, generating the electrical power.
In addition to providing an alternative energy source, the system provides environmental benefits. The long distance conveyor operates mid-air, minimizing space requirements and easily crosses obstacles on the ground. It is quiet, dust-free and has a small footprint, using less land than road transport. "Switching to the RopeCon system saves 1,200 truck journeys a day along with the associated emissions of CO2, noise, and fine dust," said Maxwell.
Maxwell applauded the Jamalco production and maintenance teams for working assiduously to accomplishing the bauxite milestone and for their commitment in ensuring the system is available to get the job done. "It is definitely a reliable solution for transporting bauxite whenever you have to cross steep terrain."
Alcoa is the managing partner in Jamalco, in a 55/45 percent ownership with the Government of Jamaica. Jamalco mines bauxite and refines it into alumina, the basic feedstock for producing aluminum. In 2010, Jamalco produced 1.34 million metric tons of alumina, primarily exported to North America. In addition, Jamalco and Alcoa Foundation invested US$340,943 in programs to improve quality of life, bringing total investment in the nation to more than US$1.5 million between 2004 and 2010.
Alcoa is the world's leading producer of primary and fabricated aluminum, as well as the world's largest miner of bauxite and refiner of alumina. In addition to inventing the modern-day aluminum industry, Alcoa innovation has been behind major milestones in the aerospace, automotive, packaging, building and construction, commercial transportation, consumer electronics and industrial markets over the past 120 years. Among the solutions Alcoa markets are flat-rolled products, hard alloy extrusions, and forgings, as well as Alcoa® wheels, fastening systems, precision and investment castings, and building systems in addition to its expertise in other light metals such as titanium and nickel-based super alloys. Sustainability is an integral part of Alcoa's operating practices and the product design and engineering it provides to customers. Alcoa has been a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for nine consecutive years and approximately 75 percent of all of the aluminum ever produced since 1888 is still in active use today. Alcoa employs approximately 59,000 people in 31 countries across the world. More information can be found at www.alcoa.com.