They call Tony Beets “the Viking,” and as his nickname suggests, the veteran gold miner is a tough, determined character for whom failure is not an option. A willingness to work hard has led to decades of success for Beets, who has been mining in Canada’s Yukon Territory since 1984 after relocating from his family’s farm in the Netherlands in search of better work opportunities. Beets now runs Tamarack Inc., a company that controls some of the largest mining claims in the Klondike region. Believing a return to the old-school dredge method of mining could help him sluice more dirt—and find more gold—at a lower cost per ounce, Beets purchased a 75-year-old dredge for $1 million.
A VERSATILE SOLUTION
While the dredge is successfully up and running at its new site, the crew encounters maintenance and repair needs on an almost daily basis. That’s just part of life when mining with large equipment on a demanding 24/7 schedule to take advantage of the short mining season in the Yukon.
To help the crew complete the varied repair and maintenance needs, Beets mounted a Big Blue 800 engine-driven welder/generator on the dredge. Because the dredge is floating on water, it’s difficult to run lines across the pond for machines such as welders and air compressors. Having one machine that covers welding, power generation, and compressed air requirements reduces the need to have a separate air compressor or generator on the dredge and gives the team flexibility.
Two welding operators can use the machine at 400 amps each (the machine offers 800 amps for a single welding operator), or a crew member can power grinders or use the air compressor for carbon arc gouging while another operator is welding.
“The biggest advantage is the combination of air and welding—having that in one machine—and the amount of power that it’s got,” Beets says. “That’s the only machine on deck. The Big Blue is going to do all the work on that dredge.”
Beets and his crew do some stick welding but mostly perform flux-cored welding using Miller SuitCase® X-TREME™ wire feeders.
“We use the SuitCase wire feeders a lot,” Beets says. “Stick welding is nice, but those days are pretty well over. We use the self-shielded flux-cored welding so we don’t have to worry about shielding gas in the wind.”
They often run two leads off the Big Blue 800 so multiple operators can weld at one time.
“If there’s only two of them on board and something happens at night, then both of them can weld,” Beets says. “It’s never faltered. It hasn’t given us one problem of any kind.”
The Big Blue 800 Duo Air Pak also includes an Ingersoll Rand industrial rotary screw air compressor with 30,000-hour life expectancy, which Beets and his team frequently use for air tools and carbon arc gouging where they might run up to 5/8-inch carbons.
“It’s just handy to have two in one. That machine puts out way more power than we’d ever need. It has no troubles handling whatever you stick to it,” Beets says. “The welder is doing his thing, and it doesn’t take air away from anything else, like when you air arc or blow off the deck. With that Big Blue, you’ve got all the possibilities.”
The welder/generator also provides up to 27,000 watts of generator power, so the crew can power lights and tools, such as grinders or a submersible pump on the dredge.
RELIABLE AND EASY TO USE
To keep the 24/7 mining schedule, the dredge typically runs with a two- or three-person crew that work 12-hour shifts. Every crew member needs to be able to weld, gouge, and perform the tasks that are necessary—whenever a repair or maintenance need occurs. Having a machine that is easy to use and maintain is critical in this type of operation.
Beets also uses Miller welders and equipment on his large Paradise Hill claim—about 12 miles of ground where his crew runs heavy equipment and machinery for placer mining. His crews also use Arc Armor® protective gear, including helmets, jackets, and welding gloves.
“It made the boys pretty happy to see all of that gear,” Beets says.
Beets likes the durability of the equipment and safety gear, and has been a Miller user for decades.
“The engines are proven, and the welders are proven,” Beets says. “I’ve had them things for 30 years and you know what, they never gave me any troubles.”
CRITICAL TO SUCCESS
With the gold dredge running on its new site, Beets has big plans for ramping up the mining season with the dredge—and for adding more dredges to his fleet. He expects the dredge method will allow him to extend the mining season by several months, despite the challenging winter conditions in the Yukon.
“That dredge has worked better than expected. I never thought it would fail—that was never an option to me—but it does more yardage than I thought it would at a lot less cost than I thought it would,” Beets says. ■
For More Information: For more information about Miller® products to assist you in your projects, visit www.millerwelds.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions – June 2016
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