The global disruption of supply chains has resulted in the local pumps industry having to increase stockholding to assist in mitigating production losses and increasing operational efficiency at mines.
The lead times of imported spare parts and finished products, as well as other aspects of the global mining equipment industry, have become unpredictable because of the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and a shortage of raw materials.
In addition, the ongoing delays in the offloading capabilities at South African ports have resulted in even longer delays when having to provide urgent support for mines.
“The ongoing need to improve mines’ operational efficiencies has required the pumps industry to continuously look at new ways of applying monitoring systems to prevent unexpected, catastrophic breakdowns that result in production losses,” says South African pumps importer and distributor AQS Liquid Transfer industrial sales manager Howard Jones.
In line with its overall goal to mitigate challenges for mining companies, AQS designed two steel-hulled pontoons for Harmony Gold Mining in Welkom. This was in conjunction with the local municipality to control the level of the Klippan dam. Pontoons were chosen because they do not require major civil works and can be easily re-located as dam levels fluctuate . Each pontoon pumps 756 m3/h of water to assist in lowering the water levels in a dam to prevent the flooding of a process plant.
The pontoons have 110 kW pump sets and are installed and anchored 30 m offshore. The design of these pontoons makes specialised priming systems obsolete and delivers water over 4.2 km, explains Jones.
AQS developed its range of pontoon products to address the growing need for cost-effective solutions for flood control, dewatering, process water and river water extraction.
These products are designed to float submersible pumps with a total mass of up to 800 kg using AQS’ standard modular floats.
“Bespoke designs are also part of our capability, enabling us to design, build, assemble and install systems that comply with specific safety regulations,” Jones says.
The pontoons can comprise electrically driven pump sets or diesel sets, allowing for their being supplied to remote areas of operation.
“After 18 years of continued support to the mining and industrial industries, AQS has developed a market offering that encompasses a range of products and services,” says AQS Liquid Transfer marketing manager Melani du Plessis.
The company’s holistic approach to water and fluid management has resulted in many benefits for clients, owing to a collaborative approach in assessing their needs, understanding their operational requirements and proposing a solution.
AQS also has a technical hub and repair facility in Pretoria ensuring ongoing technical support for clients to improve their production efficiencies, consequently resulting in better profitability for them, says Du Plessis.
AQS’ products in the mining industry mainly focus on submersible pumps, vertical spindle pumps, vertical multistage booster sets, air-operated double diaphragm pumps, gear pumps and peristaltic pumps.
These pumps are useful in applications such as underground dewatering, which is critical in ensuring seamless production and safe mining conditions. The supply of an air-operated double diaphragm, electrical-driven submersible pumps and large centrifugal pumps would be used based on specific requirements and site conditions.
“Underground pressure boosting is often required to supply water for drilling, dust suppression and various slurry transfer applications,” explains Jones.
Solar centrifugal and borehole applications are generally used in remote applications where there is no electrical grid or the pumps are critical for sustainable operations.
AQS also provides specialised pumping applications, including American multinational corporation NOV’s dewatering solutions and international technology group Andritz’s specialised dewatering systems.
AQS has been supporting the NOV range for several years, with supply into various markets. NOV manufactures Mono-progressing cavity pumps and parts, and has a product range suitable for the pumping of fluids in various sectors such as mining and minerals processing.
“The dewatering of mines using NOV’s EZstrip range of pumps on skid-mounted transfer tanks allows for the pump sets to be placed on the benches of an openpit mine to facilitate series pumping to overcome high-head applications over long pipeline distances,” explains Jones.
The skids can also be used underground in deep mines to accumulate water from various areas and pump it to the higher levels and, ultimately, out of the mine, he adds.
AQS has also been appointed as the Southern Africa agents for the supply and technical support of the Andritz product range.
“This product range is considered to be high quality and encompasses the need for specialist, high-end pumps,” says Jones.
Andritz’s heavy duty mining pump series is specially designed for the difficult conditions of mining.
“These pumps have been instrumental in the successful control of the acid mine drainage problems in the central basin region of Johannesburg,” he adds.
Andritz engineers developed a special, innovative design based on the encapsulation of the submersible motors. As a result, the internal pressure generated is higher than the external pressure, consequently preventing water from penetrating and attacking components inside the motor.
Andritz also has a large range of axially split pumps for bulk water supply and high-pressure horizontal multistage pumps for the dewatering of deep mines.