The global shift in focus as to how mine operations can minimise their environmental footprint while improving productivity and complying with new regulations has brought about a need for increased sustainability in tailings processing.
In line with this, original-equipment manufacturer Weir Minerals Africa continues to develop and deploy various solutions, including the design of engineered-to-order (ETO) solutions, which is also expected to reduce total cost of ownership.
Among the ETO offerings are the innovative Warman mobile pumphouses, with a variety of pumping possibilities for intensive tailings applications, offering flexibility and cost and time savings.
Weir Minerals Africa product pumps manager Marnus Koorts says the mobile pumphouses reduce the need for civil engineering completely, are built off-site and provide operators with distinct advantages over traditional fixed-in-place designs, creating a more agile and cost-effective solution.
The mobile pumphouse is designed to relocate across the site using specifically engineered, military-style skid and “jack-and-roll” elements, with a three-point pump mounting system allowing the base and skid to act independently, thereby minimising the risk of pump and motor shaft misalignment during operation and the relocation process.
It incorporates an integral gland water supply system and a separate electronic house for power control and remote communication.
Traditionally, Koorts says, tailings lines will expand as the mine develops, starting with a tailings dam close to site and moved as it fills up.
“The tailings line you have today may not work tomorrow,” he says, noting that, while there is a need to establish a tailings line that lasts 40 years and beyond, only a small part of the capacity is generally required in the beginning.
“The nice thing about these mobile pumphouses is that you can just move them.”
Koorts also cites a case study of an undisclosed company that bought three modules, saving close to $10-million by using the pumphouses.
“That is a very significant saving which is particularly relevant as the site develops,” he comments. “As a plant matures and the tailings line grows, the ability to move the pumphouse is a major advantage, as is the option of adding pumps to the tailings line. This is a real benefit in terms of reducing initial capital expenditure (capex) costs.”
The module of the Weir Minerals mobile pumphouse can be built off site at a much lower cost than traditional, built-on-site pumphouses, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
This provides significant flexibility with regard to capex, as well as product life-cycle design.
“The reality is that the amount of flexibility and reduction of capex is just amazing. In addition, we can manufacture these much faster than the traditional alternatives.”
The design sets a new standard for tailings management applications.
The customer is provided with the tools to rapidly reconfigure a changing pumping network and move it to other sections of the tailings pond.
Meanwhile, Weir Minerals Africa continues to invest a significant amount on development and continuous product improvement, aligning with an organic shift from fixed products to more mobile applications.
Koorts cites products such as the Multiflo pump barges mounted with Warman SHW submersible slurry pumps that extract the target fluid tailings and Warman slurry pumps that boost recovered tails from the pond to drive the new tailings treatment process plant besides others. These assist in delivered optimised and sustainable results.
With increased scrutiny and pressure to improve the management of tailings, it is more important than ever to look at different methods to improve this process.
“When tailings are not properly managed, the results can have severe ramifications.”
Every mine site is different and subject to varying environmental, regulatory, capital and operating cost constraints, and with Weir Minerals Africa’s in-house engineering expertise, the company can work directly with customers to create customised, sustainable, fit-for-purpose solutions.