In the month in which Vale turns 75, the Vale Institute of Technology (ITV) has prepared a series of special articles to present some initiatives that are contributing to the construction of future mining.

One of the targets of ITV’s research is the reduction of Vale’s operational costs by means of innovation, such as the projects developed by the Tribology team of the Vale Institute of Technology in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais.
With the purpose of reducing the cost of ball mills, the Tribology area is developing the Tecnobolas project, in partnership with the Institute for Technological Research of the State of São Paulo (IPT) and Vale’s iron ore processing area in Itabira.
The ball mills are used to mill the ore by impact and rubbing action. They are made of high-cost alloy elements, taking into account that the chromium is the most important element among them. Vale currently uses 100 thousand tons of balls, of various materials, in all its facilities, which are one of the most costly items in ore milling operations.
According to the Full Researcher of the Tribology area, Amilton Sinatora, one of the main goals of the project is to achieve the production of low-cost pig-iron balls (produced by Vale’s company, Tecnored) and lower chrome content.
Currently, smelted balls have been tested at IPT, with contents of 4.7 and 10% of chromium for milling in Itabira, in a pilot scale mill.
“What is needed is to have a ball of greater durability and that this ball maintains the same milling efficiency, in addition to having a lower production cost than the current one”, he said.
Learn more about the project:

Welds of Rails

Another project that is being developed by the Tribology area is the Aluminothermic Welding of Rails, which aims to establish the best conditions for the welding process. The aluminothermic welds are used in the assembly of rails and in maintenance operations. Vale annually performs thousands of processes of this type, hence the importance of the project.

Created in partnership with the Federal University of Juiz de Fora, the project is part of the Cátedra Roda Trilho’s research initiative, which involves Vale and the universities of São Paulo (USP, which is the anchor institution), Pará (UFPA), Espírito Santo (UFES), Minas Gerais (UFJF), Campinas (State University of Campinas) and the Medellín campus of the National University of Colombia (as a collaborating institution).


As a result of the project, a course on welding for professionals of the Carajás Railroad (EFC) was carried out and the processes of aluminothermic welding were reviewed. A planning of experiments was also done with the EFC team, delimiting the conditions of operation of the railroad, such as carbon content of the rails and spacing between rails in the welding. “We seek to have a quality of welding that allows a greater durability of the welds. The prospect for the future is that we can determine changes in welding materials that will be demanded by Vale in an area of operation as critical as the railroad”, said Sinatora.