Process engineering company Consulmet has, over the last 10 years, cemented its position as a leading global expert in the diamond sector.
This can largely be attributed to the company’s forward-looking and confident stance on adopting new technologies to deliver improved operating economics and greater profits – an outcome which has delivered massive advantages to diamond miners in Africa and abroad, MD Derek Lahee tells Laura Cornish.
While the mining industry’s conservative nature has often seen it shy away from new and untested technologies, Consulmet has positioned itself as the bridge that connects conventional approaches with equipment and process innovations that have successfully seen operating mines improve their bottom lines.
This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 11 2018
“With a flexible team of process engineering experts, many of whom specialise in the diamond sector, we are able to recognise the benefits new technologies have to offer, embrace them fully and have proven many times over that they can be successfully incorporated into existing process plants,” says Lahee.
This position has been particularly beneficial to the diamond sector which has realised enormous benefits associated with technologies to improve diamond recovery – particularly for large stones thanks to X-Ray Transmission (XRT), bulk X-ray technology and waste sorting technology.
“XRT has only recently become a must-have technology in the field but is something we have been incorporating into our designs over the last 10 years. As such we have become true experts in understanding how this technology can deliver optimal results for our clients’ operations, even in harsh African conditions,” Lahee points out.
Further to this, the MD outlines that the company’s engineering methodology and flexible structure offers additional benefits to the diamond mining industry which in particular require cost effective, agile and fast solutions.
“We remain in favour of lump-sum turnkey projects which reduce client risk and is testimony to the confidence we have rooted in our skills and capabilities. And although we have grown substantially over the last decade (from a headcount of 20 to around 500 today of design/construction and operations), we have not brought unnecessary hierarchy into the organisation and so we are able to adapt quickly and deliver fast turnaround times.”
In maintaining its forward-looking model, the company has introduced its own in-house developed single particle X-Ray sorter, “superior” 3D modelling capabilities (at unparalleled industry speed) and even its own maintenance software programme which it designed for Lucara Diamond Corp.’s Karowe mine in Botswana.
“We are also looking at integrating near-infra red waste sorting technology into one of our current projects. Mechanical platforms have now reached the point where this technology can be implemented and we are confident this will reduce operating costs dramatically while enhancing the diamond recovery process further.”
2017 saw Consulmet install the first XRT machine into Angola for Lucapa Diamond which shortly thereafter saw the company recover a 404 carat stone.
“The success we have had with this application truly demonstrates how XRT technology can successfully be applied in remote environments.”
Last year also saw the company install XRTs into a Sierra Leone-based diamond operation, which enabled a reduction in the size of the DMS circuit. “The operation also recovered a 476 carat Type II A diamond through the XRT, further enforcing the XRT’s ability to operate in arduous conditions.
The projects are proof that we know how to engineer these machines into any processing application. We also provide operator training and operations contracts to manage these machines on our clients’ behalf.”
This year the company carries over a project it started in 2017 for Amulet Diamond Corporation which included delivering a 100 000 t bulk sample for its BK11 project following refurbishment of the onsite process plant.
The company hopes to take the project forward into commercial production with the incorporation of a log washer – an old technology but one that has potential on the back of improved construction materials and modern day practises.
“We are also delivering the full 150 tph plant for Lucapa’s Mothae project in Lesotho which has been customised for large stone recovery. This is a 10-month project and is on track to process first ore imminently.”
Looking forward, Lahee reveals the company is working on a number of potential new diamond projects across Africa from Namibia and Sierra Leone to Angola and the DRC as well as Australia.
Lahee concludes noting that the deployment of XRT technology could truly re-open/expand alluvial diamond mining opportunities along the Middle Orange River and hopes to be the catalyst that awakens the sector within the Northern Cape region.