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Smarter mining key amid current market conditions

RYAN FITZPATRICK The trend at the moment is about reducing total cost of ownership

THE SUSTAINABILITY FACTOR Enduron high-pressure grinding rolls is a crushing solution with low energy consumption and substantially reduced water consumption

DIVERSE PORTFOLIO The Multiflo dewatering pumps, pontoons and barges are part of Weir Minerals’ diverse product portfolio which covers the entire flow sheet from extraction to mineral processing and beneficiation

23rd February 2024

By: Tracy Hancock

Creamer Media Contributing Editor

     

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Despite the boon of improved uranium demand, overall, depressed commodity prices and costly operating conditions are emphasising the need for Namibian mining companies to ensure that they mine a lot smarter, and more efficiently and sustainably.

“We believe that our solutions meet that criteria. The trend at the moment is about reducing total cost of ownership (TCO), says mining equipment solutions provider Weir Minerals Africa Southern African Development Community regional manager Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The company understands the needs of the Namibian mining market, having been active in the country since the 1980s, with its first office opened in Swakopmund in 1992. Weir Minerals moved to a new facility in 2007, expanding to include a sales department, service centre and warehouse. That same year, the company established an office in Rosh Pinah, in the south of Namibia, expanding the facility to include a sales department and warehouse in 2012.

Over the past ten to 15 years, Weir Minerals has also acquired numerous solutions, such as Linatex premium rubber products in 2010, Enduron high-pressure grinding rolls (HPGR) and screens in 2013, Trio crushing equipment in 2014 and Delta Industrial valves in 2015. Weir Minerals has also been developing digital solutions since 2018 to facilitate equipment and process optimisation.

“We were predominantly a slurry pump manufacturer and many of our Namibian customers still have this perception. However, now we offer a diverse portfolio of processing equipment, which includes our Trio crushers and Enduron HPGRs and screens, Warman slurry pumps, Multiflo dewatering pumps, pontoons and barges, and our Cavex hydrocyclone range, as well as mill linings, valves and rubber products, covering the entire flow sheet from extraction to mineral processing and beneficiation.

“We deliver an end-to-end solution from problem diagnosis through to design, manufacture and installation, as well as offer after-sales service support. Our engineering services can troubleshoot any operational problem and offer innovative plant optimisation solutions for greenfield and brownfield operations,” emphasises Fitzpatrick.

The company’s philosophy is to deliver superior-quality equipment. It needs to last longer, and help customers achieve a lower TCO, he emphasises.

Working closely with its manufacturing and product development teams, Weir Minerals’ material science team develops new materials that provide customers with better performance. These new materials are continuously being tested across various operating conditions and applications, with three-dimensional scanning and forensic analysis performed on wear profiles to determine wear rates.

“This results in a broad variety of materials of construction, which we can then correctly select to ensure that our equipment runs optimally, and at a lower TCO,” adds Fitzpatrick.

Electricity and water are two significant cost drivers when mining in Namibia, which is the most arid country in Southern Africa.

“To reduce the cost of mining overall, we need to look at all initiatives to ensure that we drive down operating costs. Therefore, it is very important to ensure that the products that we design and manufacture are a lot more energy efficient and easily upgradable.

“Within our Warman pumps range, we are actually developing and designing interchangeable internal hydraulic wet-end components that are more efficient where energy and water consumption are concerned,” elaborates Fitzpatrick.

The company stays up to date with the evolving needs and trends in the Namibian mining industry through constant engagement with its customers to establish strategic relationships.

“We want to really understand our customers’ key performance indicators – what makes them successful. This ensures that the engineered solutions we propose create real value for their organisations,” he highlights.

Renewed Demand

Fitzpatrick says the uranium price has been depressed over the past 11 years following the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, in Japan. Owing to a decline in demand, many Namibian uranium mining operations went into care and maintenance and retrenched staff.

“However, over the last two years, we have started to see a slight uptick in the commodity price, as demand improves on the back of future nuclear plant developments. Consequently, some of our customers are expected to restart uranium production this year, with a few significant projects on the horizon. Depending on regulatory decisions, we should see them come online pretty soon.”

Weir Minerals is also excited about developments in Namibia involving gold and battery metals.

“There's a lot of hype around lithium. One of our customers is exploring; however, again, developments in this area are contingent on the regulatory environment. In Zimbabwe, regulatory changes are necessitating in- country beneficiation to prevent the export of raw materials.”

Fitzpatrick says the sense is that the Namibian government will take a similar stance, presenting Weir Minerals Africa with the opportunity to supply local processing plants.

Giving Back

To ensure that the Namibian mining industry has the talent and skills at hand to be successful, Weir Minerals collaborates with the Namibian Institute for Mining and Technology (NIMT) on an apprenticeship programme. This provides the company with a continuous supply of apprentices

.

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

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