The South African mining industry’s expansion and adapting in line with global demands requires the pumps industry to expand accordingly by offering various and robust pumping solutions for versatile applications, says pumps distributor Vansan SA’s marketing coordinator Riëtte Kotzé.
Pumps are critical to ensuring the continuous operation of mines and the safety of employees. The industry is, therefore, continually adjusting to offer various pumping solutions for mines’ liquid-moving requirements.
During the past 18 months, importing goods has been unprecedentedly challenging, with a global shortage of raw materials also resulting in high manufacturing costs and a serious backlog in production, owing to Covid-19.
“Shipping costs on imports have become four times more expensive, owing to the shortage of supplies around the globe. All these challenges create uncertainty regarding the continuity of supply for the ‘lifeline products’, such as pumps, to mines.”
However, local manufacturing is a possible solution to some of the current and future key issues, such as supply chain disruptions, that the pumps industry faces. It can also increase job opportunities and develop the supply chain and allied ecosystem across the economy.
Once the challenges, such as skills development and high manufacturing costs, are resolved, key mining pumps can be manufactured locally with “world-class quality”, consequently providing uninterrupted supply for mining and, possibly, exports worldwide.
Kotzé notes that various factors need to be considered when selecting pumps for mining, such as the mine design, the type of impellers, solids handling sizes, head or flow requirements, as well as the pH level and type of water.
Additionally, voltage, cable sizes and the protection boxes of the pumps need to be considered, along with whether the pump requires an electric motor.
The pump requirements of most underground mines are much more complex than those of surface mines. Pumps with good credentials and fire-protected motors are widely used. Openpit mines mostly require pumps for dewatering or sludge transfer applications.
Further, the type of impeller depends on the type of liquid or solid being pumped. Open impellers are more common for slurry and solids applications because they are less likely to clog. Closed impellers are not suited to solids and are difficult to clean if clogged. Certain models of Vansan’s drainage pumps range are equipped with cutters in the impellers to process solids, explains Kotzé.
“To avoid the damage that low-pH mining water can cause, one should avoid
using cast iron or aluminium pumps,” she adds.
Cable sizes depend on the size and output of the motor, as well as the distance from the power source to the pump. As the kilowatts and distance increase, voltage drop needs to be considered for the correct cable size in square millimetres. Vansan can supply cable sizes of up to 120 mm2.
Protection boxes are important for all installations, and when it comes to capital products such as pumps, it plays a significant role in protecting the units. For larger pumps and booster sets, Vansan works with experts in the field of variable-speed drives and control panels to custom-build and uniquely design protection boxes as a solution for every project.
Technology is an integral part of Vansan’s research and development in its “constant drive for excellence”. The company’s offering continuously develops to generate the best possible life-cycle cost for miners, asserts Kotzé.
The pumping industry can also benefit from artificial intelligence (AI), she says.
Machine learning in AI can use the historical pump data to determine the most energy-efficient combinations of pumps and accessories, as well as the associated speeds, toachieve the necessary flow rate.
AI can also assist in saving significantly on operational expenditure in terms of water and wastewater applications, through predictive analysis in high-value or operative pumping installations for maintenance while optimising energy use in pumping applications.
“As it is the beginning of an era, we are quite excited to explore AI technology providers for possible partnerships,” enthuses Kotzé.
Vansan’s vertical turbine pump range has been used in various applications globally. The pumps have been installed in Southern African Development Community countries for mining applications, while high-volume vertical turbine pumps have been used for raw water transfer.
Vansan’s borehole pumps also use manufacturing materials such as stainless steel, cast iron and bronze, to suit various mining dewatering applications.
The company provides borehole pumps in sizes of 8, 10 and 12 inches, used mostly for dewatering in high-head applications with relatively high volume.
Vansan is committed to mining industry clients, providing a “highly credited backup service”. Its service and testing facility, in Rosslyn, Pretoria, is available for “around-the-clock breakdowns”, concludes Kotzé.