A video has emerged of the conveyor belt fire at the Cape Lambert port facility last Thursday. It is believed that the fire originated from hot work during a shutdown at the Rio Tinto JV Robe River facility. The Robe River facility separates lumps and fines that are predominantly exported to China’s coastal and North China niche steel mills.
According to sources, it is believed that the incident resulted from hot slag landing on a moving conveyor belt during oxy-acetylene torch cutting. It has been reported that a contractor, had cut a range of bolts from above the belt area. The hot material appears to have made contact with the belt and initiated the fire.
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Hot work permits would typically aim to ensure that hot materials are physically prevented from contacting belt surfaces and other flammable materials during work. At this stage, sources say they are unsure of the point of ignition…but ‘theoretically this shouldn’t be able to occur during a shut if the policy is followed.’
One mining boiler maker told AMSJ that ‘There should have been a Fire Watch crew if they’re working near a belt anyway. Too much pressure from the boys on the job and pressure from management to get the job done.’
A Rio Tinto spokesperson said that “Emergency services responded to the incident and the fire was safely brought under control” They added “Importantly, no one was injured and we remain committed to ensuring the safety of our team during the recovery phase.”
The company also noted that operations at part of the facility have restarted, though impacted areas remain closed.
An investigation into the incident has commenced and it is expected that the learning outcomes from the event will be published a Rio Tinto spokesperson advised.
Force Majeure called
In the meantime, Rio has called a force majeure event notifying its’ customers that the event has caused disruption to its’ production activities.
“Rio Tinto is assessing the full impact of the damage and will do all it can to try and minimise disruption to our customers,” a Rio Tinto spokesman said in a statement.
The conveyor belt fire has not affected any shipments of Rio Tinto’s premium iron ore product, the “Pilbara blend”.
“The fire has had no impact on the shipping of all other Pilbara iron ore products,” the spokesman said.
Image: Rio Tinto supplied
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