Process water ponds/dams may not be core to the functionality of an operation, but they are an important element of the greater mining process. As such, these ponds should be maintained on an ongoing basis, which requires regular desilting to prevent the build-up of slurry material.

Integrated Pump Rental’s (IPR) MD Lee Vine and rental development manager Steven du Toit talk to Gerard Peter about this topic in greater detail.

According to Vine, the aim of desilting a process pond is two-fold. Firstly, it is to increase water capacity and secondly, it is to recover valuable materials that may have unavoidably made their way into the ponds.

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN MINING REVIEW AFRICA ISSUE 3, 2021
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In recent times, IPR has noticed an increase in demand for its desilting services in order to improve the functionality of process ponds. “The typical trend we are observing however is that the large majority of ponds contain up to 90% slurry, reeds and debris. This puts a strain on mining operations which consequently have to manage reduced water storage. This in turn forces the mine to desilt their ponds under urgent circumstances to prevent environment-compromising spillage. In worst case scenarios we have seen companies invest in new ponds which is very costly, ” he explains.

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Vine adds that the demand for desilting is being driven by the need to push production levels. This increases the potential for thickener failures which further results in high amount of fines making their way to process ponds.

Furthermore, Du Toit points out that as South Africa approaches the winter period, cleaning up process ponds becomes of even greater importance. “Ponds need to be fully operational during the high rain season. “By desilting the ponds during winter, we can assure the mines that they have enough water storage capacity during the rainy summer months.”

One product that has proven to be highly effective for desilting operations is IPR’s SlurrySucker dredging unit. Designed and engineered by the company, the SlurrySucker is capable of extracting high slurry tonnages due to the design and engineering of the dredge head.

Portable and remotely operated, the SlurrySucker can be used without the need to shut down the mine or the process pond. Du Toit points out that the SlurrySucker has not only been designed to keep process ponds operating but has also been designed with safety and the environment in mind. “This innovation has zero risk of contaminating process water and because it is remotely operated, there is no risk to personnel either,” he states.

A solutions-driven company

Vine adds that while the SlurrySucker is capable of cleaning a fully silted process pond, the machine was built to be for maintenance as well. “The SlurrySucker should ideally be used as a dredging unit when the pond is 40% full of slurry and we basically skim the 2 m that is sitting at the bottom of the pond.

“While a small amount of silt is as a result of mining itself, the majority of silt in a pond is uncontrollable and is caused by rainfall or dust that sits in the V-drains, making the maintenance approach far easier in the long run to control,” he explains.

Currently, the company is working on the latest version of the SlurrySucker – Version 3. This updated product allows for hydromining and dredging to be conducted simultaneously via remote control from the side of a pond.

Important to note, IPR offers its clients the opportunity to buy or rent the SlurrySucker. Should a client choose the latter option, then IPR provides maintenance work to mine ponds once a year for cleaning purposes. However, whether a client chooses to own or rent any piece of IPR equipment, the company employs a full engineering team that assesses ponds on site – an application at no cost. In addition, IPR’s technical team offers full on-site training for all its clients.

In addition, IPR offers a range of solutions depending on application, from mobile diesel self priming units, electric self priming units, submersible electric dewatering units, mobile diesel slurry units, pump flotation devices, hose float devices, electrical panels and piping applications. The company is also the South African distributor for Sykes self-priming diesel driven pumps which are available for sale and rent.

It is this wide product offering along with ongoing customer service that Vine says makes IPR more than just a pump rental company. “We are a solutions provider company. We are there to assist and conduct maintenance when necessary. IPR does the servicing of all its own rental equipment and the advantage of this is that we are there on site ensuring that our equipment is working efficiently at all times,” he concludes.

Meeting the growing demand for dewatering services

Following the extensive rains in most regions of southern Africa, Vine points out that there has been a major increase in demand for rapid dewatering. “As such, we have increased our fleet by 30% to accommodate the huge demand all over South Africa for high flow units, contract dewatering units, our submersible units and all of our accessories for both underground and surface mining,” he explains.