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ExamplesofGoodandBadChuteDesign

ExamplesofGoodandBadChuteDesign

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JonathanPageB.Sc.(MechEng)GCC.
Acknowledgements:TheBionicResearchInstitute,ChuteDesignConference1991
Anglo American Corporation have reviewed the design of chutes handling hard materials such as gold and
diamondores.
Thispaperprovidesuserfeedback.Currentchutedesignphilosophyisexplained,andexamplesofgoodandbad
chutedesigndiscussed.
Jonathan Page is Divisional Mechanical Engineer at Anglo American Corp. heading up the mechanical design
section. The section concentrates on materials handling, shaft conveyances, and high pressure piping and
pumping.

SYNOPSIS
ThispapergivesfeedbackfromtheAngloAmericanCorporationonchutedesignforhardmaterials(diamondand
goldores).Thecurrentdesignphilosophyisexplainedandexamplesofgoodandbadchutedesignsaregiven.
Great variability in the material characteristics can compromise the final chute design. Before design it is
essential to test the material characteristics. Where possible, final designs should be tested and optimised in
pilotplants.
Currentpracticestocombatwearproblemsaregiven.
1.INTRODUCTION
TheAngloAmericanCorporationofSouthAfricaLimitedadministersvariouscoal,diamondandgoldmines.
The bulk materials handling equipment that is common to all the mines includes belt conveyors, hoppers, silos,
feeders and chutes. Chutes are the linking pieces in the materials handling chain. They are the essential means
of guiding and directing materials between the various storage, transport and process items of equipment. Thus
chuteshaveacommonpurpose.
The Mechanical Engineering Department has developed optimum chute designs over the years. Such successful
designs have evolved on a trialanderror basis, where site modifications and the feedback of operating
experiencehavedirectedthework.
This paper will give practical examples of good and bad chute designs for hard materials (diamond and gold
ores).
2.PRINCIPLESOFCHUTEDESIGN
Therearefivebasicdesignobjectives:
toguidematerialontoaconveyorbelt,atthespeedofthebelt,inthedirectionofbelttravel.
toeliminatematerialspillage.
toenclosematerialdribbles.
toenclosematerialfromoperatingpersonnel.
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toeliminatedustliberation.
3.CURRENTDESIGNPHILOSOPHY
Chutes are transfer points in a materials handling plant. They often demand more attention and can be the
source of more downtime than the conveyors or equipment that precede or follow them. Ideally the chutes are
designed first, and then the plant equipment and structures are placed around them. This is sometimes not
possibleduetootherconstraints.Forexample,suchconstraintsarethepresenceofcriticalsupportingsteelwork,
space restrictions underground and existing plant where modifications are required. As a result, chutes may
sufferandthefinaldesigncanbeacompromise(Fig1showshownottodesignachute).
The nature and characteristics of the equipment before and after the chute are clearly defined. If a conveyor
belt,whatisthebeltwidth,beltspeed,loadedImaterialprofile,materialtrajectory?Whatistheheightthrough
whichthematerialmustfall?Doesthematerialhaveasingleflowpath,oraretherealternativeflowpaths?

Fig1:Hownotto
3.1MaterialCharacteristics
Although chutes have a common purpose, they have to accommodate a wide variety of material characteristics.
Minerals are found distributed in many different geological areas. In addition, each geological deposit often
containsmaterialswithdifferentproperties.
There are two types of diamond deposits: a volcanic pipe and an alluvial deposit (along river paths and
coastlines). In volcanic pipes, material near the surface is weathered and produces a high proportion of fines.
Deeper underground, the material becomes harder and less weathered. However, this material weathers quickly
andproducesfinesduetocrushingandprocessingstagestowardsthesmallersizeranges.
Gold mines are usually at considerable depth. The rock is dense, hard and abrasive. However, there are a few
opencastgoldmineswherethematerialcharacteristicsaresignificantlydifferent.
Therefore,thereisavariationinmaterialcharacteristics:
betweendiamondandgoldores
betweenoresindifferentdeposits
betweenoresduringthelifeofamine.
Materialcharacteristicscanchangefromseasontoseason,orevendaytoday,onthesamemine.
Chutes are designed for the worst possible conditions and material characteristics. It is essential to derive by
testing the material characteristics such as size distribution, maximum lump size, moisture content, angle of
reposeetc.Forchangingconditions,thespectrumofcharacteristicsisrequired.
3.2PilotPlants
Pilot plants or sample plants are useful, not only to the extractive metallurgist and plant operator, but also to
the chute designer. Such plants enable chute designs to be tested and optimised on the actual material to be
handled.
Chute design sometimes needs to be finely tuned to the material being transferred. It is often found that only
minorsitemodificationsarerequiredtoturnaproblemchuteintoasuccessfulone.
3.3OperatingMines
It is essential to get feedback from operating mines on what does not work and what was done to rectify the
problems.Otherwise,previouslyinadequatedesigndrawingsarecopiedforfutureprojects,thusperpetuatingthe
problems.

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3.4ErectionandMaintenance
Undergroundchutesareconstructedofboltedpanelsinmanageablebodypanelsizes.
Surface chutes are fabricated from longer, welded, box sections. However due attention is paid to access to
linersanderectionbetweenfloorsofabuilding.
Chutes must be easy to assemble and install. They must be effective in their job and require minimal
maintenance.Wearresistantlinersmustbecosteffective,strategicallyplacedandbeeasilychanged.
4.PARAMETERSOFCHUTEDESIGN
The following parameters are used to differentiate between good and bad designs. In the future, the aim is to
producedesignguidelinesforuseasanofficestandard.
4.1ChuteAngles
The angle of repose for dry, runofmine gold ore is generally taken to be 38. The optimum chute angle in this
casehasbeenfoundtobe5055.Angleslessthanthisareavoided.Thesameangleistruefordry,runofmine
diamondore,e.g.kimberlite.However,theinclusionoflargeamountsoffines,togetherwithwater,rendersthe
prediction of repose somewhat difficult. In mudrush situations, the surcharge angle can be 0. This is, however,
anexceptionalconditionandisnotusedasadesigncase.
In diamond plants, a chute angle of 45 is only acceptable in final recovery and sort house areas where the
materialiscrushed,washed,sizedand"guaranteed"tobedry.
Chutes with valley angle geometries need careful attention. In a chute with two adjacent 55 plates, the valley
angle will be 45. Hence there is the danger of material buildup in the valleys. The valley angle is increased
accordingly,ordesignedout,e.g.inaverticalsidedchute.
Inachuteextendedtocarrythefinesfrombeltcleaners,anglesinexcessof700arerequiredtopreventbuild
up of the often sticky, wet, fine material that is removed from the belt. The fines (or slimes) that stick to the
belt have effectively no angle of repose they hang upside down. Thus if there is any buildup on the chute
plates,itwillrapidlyleadtoblockagesorspillage(Fig2).

Fig2:Chuteangles
4.2ConveyorHeadChutes
The trajectory of material flowing from the head pulley of a conveyor belt is predictable. Trajectories are
sensitive to belt speed, material load profile, size distribution and moisture content. The trajectory is estimated
from the centre of area of the material profile. If the belt line is taken, the discharged material will impact the
headchutehoodhigherupthanpredicted.Oncethetrajectoryisdetermined,thechutehoodisdesignedaround
thematerialflowpath(Fig3).
Conveyor belt capacities are often subject to change in the life of a process plant. Changing throughput
requirements will most likely produce changing belt speeds. Trajectories and the resultant impact zones will
change.Thustheeffectsonheadchutedesignareassessed(Fig4).
Inspection access covers are located out of the material impact zone or flow path. Cover plates are sized and
hingedsothatamancaneasilyopenthem.Onceopened,theymustnotfallbackwiththepossibilityofinjuries
(Fig5).

Fig3:Incorrecttrajectory

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Fig4:Onemethodtocaterforvaryingloading/speed

Fig5:Locationofinspectionplates
Effective belt cleaning is a "must" for any conveyor belt. However. The removed material has to be efficiently
transferredawayfromthebeltcleaner.Insomecases,abeltcleanerperformsthedutyofasecondarydischarge
device. Snub pulleys behind head pulleys produce dribbles which should be suitably handled. Thus. not
insignificant volumes of material must be combined with the main stream. Steeper chute angles are important
here as mentioned earlier. Such belt cleaners and dribble chutes are often in a most inaccessible area and
thereforetendtobeneglected.Sufficientaccessisconsideredatthedesignstageofaheadchute.Alternatively.
theremovedmaterialcanbehandledseparatelyandnotcombinedwiththemainstream.
On a safety aspect, the sides of ahead chute enclosing ahead and snub pulley should be extended backwards
sufficientlytocoverallpossiblenippointsonthebelt.
4.3ChuteWidths
Chute widths are usually designed to suit the piece of mechanical equipment that follows the chute.
Nevertheless, chutes are designed to a minimum width of three times the maximum expected lump size. For
example, for a 300 mm lump size, the chute should be 900 mm 1 m square. Ideally, facilities are used to
remove rogue material from a materials handling system as early as possible. In runofmine ore, such rogue
material,consistingofoutsizerockslabs,trampiron,timber,etc.,wouldeasilychokeaproperlydesignedchute.
Another important consideration is the volumetric flow rate of the material. Once the chute is sized for the
largestlumps,itisalsosizedforthevolumetobehandled.
4.4ChangesInFlowDirection
Whereoneconveyortransferstoanotherconveyor,theeasiestconfigurationforthechuteiswhentheconveyors
areinlinewitheachother.Conveyorsat900toeachotherinvolvechuteworkthatismorecomplexbutcanbe
achieved without many problems. A common rule of thumb is to provide twice the belt width as vertical height
for inline transfers, and 3,5 to 4 times belt width for 90 transfers. This generally allows sufficient height to
enclosedribbles,etc.
Most problems are encountered when conveyors are at a small acute angle. Such small changes of direction
involveawkwardchutegeometrieswheretherecouldberestrictionstotheflowofmaterialandproblemsofbuild
upofmaterialonshallowplateangles.Thecaptureofdribblesalsobecomesdifficult,sincethescrapingareais
generallyaboveopenspace(Fig6).

Fig6:Conveyorsatasmallacuteangle
As a general conveyor design principle, the material should be in constant uniform motion, not intermittent
loading.Chutesperformbetterunderuniformflowconditions.
4.5DeadBoxes
Dead boxes have proved beneficial in gold ore situations where the material is relatively dry .Dead boxes are
used to take the direct impact of material discharged from a conveyor into ahead chute. Other useful
applications are in long chutes or high chutes where the momentum of falling material must be broken before
reaching the lower conveyor belt. Changes of direction are also accomplished in this manner.. Once dead boxes
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arefilled,theyformtheidealdeflectionplateorimpactwearplate,wherethe"plate"hardnessisequaltothat
ofthefeedmaterial(Figs7and8).

Fig7:Typicaldeadbox

Fig8:Cascadechute
In diamond plants, dead boxes are avoided for runofmine kimberlite conditions because of the high clay and
moisture contents. However, they may be used later in the plant where the material is sized and washed, and
thenonlywithcarefulconsiderationineachdesigncase.
In general, dead boxes are avoided where the material is very fine, wet or sticky. Here the dead boxes are not
self cleaning, due to the absence of large particles to give a scouring effect, and the fine material will build up
andcauseblockages.
4.6ConveyorFeedChutes

Fig9:TypicalLanglaagtechutedimensions
TheLanglaagtechuteisawellknownconfigurationthroughouttheSouthAfricanminingindustry.Thischutewas
originally intended for runofmine ore situations to get the fines to flow. Standard dimensions, related to belt
width, have been developed as a guide (Fig 9) .Where a number of Langlaagte chutes feed a single conveyor
belt,everychuteexceptthefirstoneisdesignedeitherhigherorpivotedupoutofthewaywhennotinuse.
Theundersideofthefeedchuteskirtsshouldrise,inthedirectionofbelttravel,toamaximumof50mmabove
thebelt.Chutesshouldbepositionedataminimumdistanceinfrontofthetailpulleyofaconveyorbelt.Thisis
toavoidthetransitiondistancewherebelttroughingisnotideal(Fig10).

Fig10:Feedchuteaftertransitiondistance
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Radial doors are used successfully in chutes under ore passes or silos. Apart from primary on/off feed control,
they perform an effective mudrush control function. (Langlaagte chutes are ineffective against mudrushes).
Radial doors suffer from the possibility of jamming when closed. The normal air cylinder used to open the door
can be enhanced by adding a knocker arm between the cylinder rod and the door. Thus the door can be closed
withfullforce,openedwithreducedforce,orhammeredopen(Fig11).

Figure11:Radialdoorwithknocker
4.7FlapperGates
Flopper gates are used when one conveyor is required to feed either of two discharge points. Thus a bifurcating
chute arrangement is required where each flow path must satisfy the general chute design guidelines. A critical
area is the hinge of the gate which should be placed above the apex of the double chute. Thus the gate is self
cleaningandrocktraps,whichcouldjamthegate,areavoided(Fig12).

Fig12:Flopperpivotaboveapex
4.8Construction
Underground chutes have to be transported in confined shaft compartments and narrow haulages. Installation
sites are often constricted because of the low headroom and the presence of the conveyor structure. Hence
construction should be by means of bolted body panels of manageable sizes. Body plates are generally 6mm to
10 mm thick with 70 mm x 70 mm x 8 mm angle stiffeners. Side plates are bolted to the body by angle
construction,withtheconnectionsinshearwherepossible.Thetopcoverisextendedoverthesidesandisbolted
down.
Surfacechutesaremadefromlonger/tallerboxsectionsweldedtogether,withdueattentiontolineraccessand
erectionneeds.
TheconstructionmaterialisstructuralsteeltoSABS1431Grade300WA.
Adequate access is required by the operating and maintenance staff on the mine. Access is an important
consideration in chute design and the associated structural steelwork. Lifting beams are designed for the
replacementofliners,andtheremovalofboltedpanelsinmaintenanceoperations.Henceinspectionaccessand
maintenanceaccessareimportantconsiderations.
4.9LiningMaterials
Sidelinersaregenerally12mmto16mmthickandextendupto3timesthedepthofmaterialflowtocaterfor
surges.Bottomlinersareupto25mmthick.Linerplatesaresizedforamaximummassof30kgeach,sothat
replacementinconfinedspacesiseasier.Deadboxeshavelipliners.
Quenched and tempered steel plate, with hardnesses of BHN 400 or BHN 500, is increasingly used for liner
material. In high wear applications, these materials are most cost effective in terms of price and life, with
thinnerplatesizesspecified.However,projectengineersmaychoosemildsteelforlowerwearapplications.

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Fig13:AcrosslinerailmatANDFig14:Inlinerailmat
Incertaincircumstances,railmatshavebeenusedonthebottomchuteplates.Thus,horizontalrowsofrailsare
boltedtothechuteplateat900tothedirectionofflow,formingabedofdeadboxes.Alternativelytherailsare
setinlinewiththeflowtoallowselfcleaning(Figs13and14).
DiamondorefinesanddribbleshavebeenfoundtomovemoreeffectivelyonPTFElinerssuchas'ISOLIDUR"or
"VESCONITE",Thistypeoflinerisnoteffectiveinhighimpactareas.
4.10DeDusting

Fig15:Dustextraction
Fordrydiamondoresespecially,transferchutesarededusted.Here,chutesareenclosedwithadustextraction
system applied preferably after the transfer point to the belt. Chute skirt plates have rubber seals to stop too
much false air entering the chute. The rubber seal should not be made from old conveyor belting, as the
resultant seal is ineffective. The proportions of the chute and skirts are generally dictated by the dedusting
requirements,suchasairvolumeandpickupvelocity(Fig15).
In general, feed chute skirt widths are two thirds of projected belt width, not two thirds of actual belt width as
wascommonpractice.
The skirt seals are seen as seals and not as a means of containing the material on the belt. There are cases
where the skirts are terminated too high above the belt, resulting in long, floppy seals. These very easily flop
over the edge of the belt, making effective belt training impossible. This is generally the case when the skirts
are too wide as well. The long skirts are also subject to material loading, which increases the resistance to
motionoftheconveyor,addingtopowerandtension,andacceleratingtheconveyorbelttopcoverwear(Fig16)

Fig16:Skirtseals
When dedusting is not required e.g. on gold mines with wet materials, there is no need for rubber skirt seals.
Unnecessary skirt seals wear out the belt top cover and add to frictional resistances. It is better to redesign the
skirtsthemselvesinthisinstance.
5.CONCLUSIONS
Optimum chute designs have been developed over the years. Such successful designs have evolved on a trial
anderrorbasis,wheresitemodificationsandthefeedbackofoperatingexperiencehavedirectedthework.
Great variability in the material characteristics can compromise the final chute design. Before design it is
essential to test the material characteristics. Where possible, final designs should be tested and optimised in
pilotplants.
6.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
TheauthorwouldliketothanktheAngloAmericanCorporationofSouthAfricaLimitedforpermissiontopublish
thispaper.ThanksarealsoduetocolleaguesintheMechanicalEngineeringDepartmentwhohavecontributedto
thispaperinmanyways.

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