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7th BALKANMINE CONGRESS – Proceedings, Prijedor 2017

DOI: 10.7251/BMC170702141R



MDR Ltd., Ljubljana, Slovenia,


Different kinds of metal parts fall into the conveyor belts very frequently in the open pit coal mines.
Sometimes that causes damage to conveyor belts and other equipment, such as crashers. Newly
constructed metal detectors are capable to recognize different kinds of metal and their dimensions, as

Key words:Open pit mines, conveyor belts, metal parts, crashers, metal detectors

Conveyor belts are one of the most commonly used transport systems in industry. In open pit
mines, especially in Europe, conveyor belts are used for the transportation of coal and
excavated dirt. They operate as an integral element of the BTO or BTD systems. The
excavated dirt in coal mines is also being excavated with rotor excavators or bucket
excavators, transported with conveyor belts to the landfill, and then to the depositors. The coal
is also dug up with rotor excavators and bucket excavators, and then transported with
conveyor belts to the accepting point for the dug up coal. The conveyor belts are the most
expensive element of the BTO system, so it is necessary to protect them from damage, which
is very difficult in working conditions at open pit mines.
One of the most common types of damage is the intake of metal objects. Metal objects can be
dug up together with the material excavated with the excavator, and they can be part of the
construction of the mining equipment which, for some reason, falls off and finds itself on the
conveyor belt. Most commonly these are metal parts that have not been picked up after the
system haul and servicing, which then find themselves in the excavator's bucket together with
the excavated material. These are often the excavator cogs, pedals, wearing dredges and belts.
When it comes to coal systems, the transport of coal material ends up in the bunker of a
crushing plant or a similar plant.
Prior to being loaded into wagons, the coal is crushed in order to be prepared for combustion
in the Thermal Power Plant. The crushers are particularly sensitive to the intake of metal
objects, so that an integral part of this facility is the delivery of coal to the crusher and the
system of crusher protection. Besides the crusher in a crushing plant at the Thermal Power

7th BALKANMINE CONGRESS – Proceedings, Prijedor 2017

Plants, prior to its introduction into the boiler, the coal is also being crushed in mills. These
mills are very sensitive to the intake of metal objects and they also must be protected. The
practice of installing protective systems on open mines is such that the BTO systems are
generally not protected while the BTD systems as well as the crushers are protected against
metal objects falling onto the conveyor belt.
Protection against damage to equipment incurred by metal objects is done with magnetic
separators and with the help of metal detectors. Metal detectors are mainly used in two ways,
or as a stand-alone device which stops the conveyor belt when detects any metal parts, or acts
as an initiator of magnetic operation and magnet operation control. The principle of operation
of metal detectors is to register the deformation (strength) of the electromagnetic field.
Therefore, the metal detector has two basic elements: the transmitter of electromagnetic field
which emits a homogeneous field on one side of the conveyor belt and the electromagnetic
field receiver on the other side of the conveyor belt. The electromagnetic field extends
through the conveyor belt and the material which the conveyor belt transports. The metal
detector is adjusted so that the reference value of the received field is its normal value. If a
metal is found between the transmitter and the receiver of the electromagnetic field, there
occurs a deformation of the homogeneous field, which the detector "recognizes". That
information is then used either to stop the conveyor belt, or to turn on the full power of the
electromagnetic separator.

Figure 1. Metal Detectors Basic Scheme:

a) homogenous electromagnetic field
b) deformed electromagnetic field

The basic conditions for the operation of metal detectors are that the conveyor belt is made of
textile and that the influence of metal rollers and metal construction of the conveyor belt are
eliminated. The detector has the ability to adjust its sensitivity so that the size of the metal
object which stops the conveyor belt may be selected. Problems in the operation of the
detectors are such that that the light opening of the frame must be large enough to allow for
the passage of the largest pieces of coal dug by excavators. It is known that different
excavators deliver different sizes of the excavated coal. Those excavators are primarily bucket
excavators and dredge excavators. The pieces of coal dug with these excavators size up to 1
m. With rotary excavators, the size of coal pieces is considerably smaller and it is inversely
proportional to the cutting speed of the bucket wheel.

7th BALKANMINE CONGRESS – Proceedings, Prijedor 2017

However, large chunks of coal sometimes occur with these excavators, as well, and that is
when the first cut is being dug. Because of this, the light opening of the frame is often very
large, which weakens the magnetic field, i.e. the sensitivity of the device. One of the
alternative solutions is the installation of a device in the form of a trough of a conveyor belt,
and such a form of device allows the passage of pieces of any size. However, such
configurations do not have a homogeneous magnetic field, so their sensitivity is variable
along the depth of the trough of the conveyor belt.

Figure 2. Metal Detector Open Configuration – Open System

The disadvantages of the devices that were used earlier were that they could not detect long
thin metal objects. They also could not distinguish the types of metal that the metal objects
were made of. Today, with the advancement of technological solutions, these two problems
have been solved. The problem of distinguishing the type of metal from which the metal
objects are made was solved by analyzing the response of metal to the emission of the
electromagnetic field. Each type of metal has its own phase response, so the type of metal can
be determine by knowing its phase characteristics. The amplitude depends on the type and
size of the metal.

Figure 3. Phase Diagram of Various Metals

Nowadays, it is also possible to detect long and thin metal objects, and while at it, their length
can also be measured. When working independently, metal detectors have the role to stop the
conveyor belt in the event that a metal object is being dropped onto the conveyor belt, and to
mark the place where such object is located, and such a method of operation requires the
delay and engagement of the operator in finding and taking out the metal object.

7th BALKANMINE CONGRESS – Proceedings, Prijedor 2017

There is a technical solution where the metal detector is used to activate the full power of the
magnetic separator. In this solution, the installation of two metal detectors is applied: one to
turn on the magnetic separator which stands in front of the magnet and the other behind the
magnet which controls the performance of the magnetic separator.
The second detector stops the conveyor belt if for some reason the magnetic separator has not
extracted and separated the metal object (non-ferromagnetic metals - stainless steel,
manganese,...). Magnetic separators are essentially very strong electromagnets which in
addition to separating a metal object from the conveyor belt, extract and eject the object in the
trash bin using the conveyor belt. Since electromagnets are very powerful devices that
consume a lot of electricity when in full operation mode, when idle, they are usually held in a
"standby mode" regime. Switching the magnet on and off, as well as its very operation, leads
to its heating, which is why it often involves the introduction of the forced cooling, which
further complicates the construction.
Nowadays, there are electronic devices for easy commands, by turning the magnet on and off.
In addition, the isolation of the conductors with glass insulators enabled significantly higher
operating temperatures of the device. The new solutions allow for easier operation, and the
possibility of much more frequent switching on and off.

Figure 4. Basic Scheme of Electromagnetic Separator Operation:

1. Conveyor belt with the material
2. Electromagnet
3. Conveyor belt for transport of the removed metal
4. Removed metal

Figure 5. Basic Scheme of Electromagnetic Separator and Metal Detectors Operation:

1. Metal detector for turning on the electromagnetic separator
2. Electromagnetic separator
3. Metal detector for turning off the conveyor belt
4. Conveyor belt

7th BALKANMINE CONGRESS – Proceedings, Prijedor 2017

When it comes to fast conveyor belts, the magnetic separator is placed above the unloading
drum in the direction of the conveyor belt movement. Then the magnetic separator is above
the material that floats, and in this state it is much easier to extract metal objects than when
they are in the trough of the conveyor belt and trapped and enclosed with pieces of coal. The
disadvantage of this position is that when two conveyor belts are in the axis or approximately
to it, the unloading of metal objects from the magnet must be performed over some steep
plane. If the conveyor belts are at an angle of approximately 90° there are no problems in the
unloading of the separated metal objects. Such a configuration has the best effects. If a control
magnetic detector is placed in this configuration, it will be on the next conveyor belt and it
will stop it.

Figure 6. Magnetic separator placed above the unloading conveyor belt that is in axis

Figure 7. Magnetic separator placed above two unloading conveyor belts at 90° angle

7th BALKANMINE CONGRESS – Proceedings, Prijedor 2017


Although metal detectors and electromagnetic separators represent a relatively high

investment, they can be reimbursed even at the first detection or elimination of the
ferromagnetic foreign object. Metal foreign object can namely damage the conveyor belt or
the technological equipment, and any such damage is associated with high costs, both due to
production cessation and the cost of repair itself. Correct choice and installation of separators
and detectors is essential for smooth and optimal operation and protection of production.