Fluor, through its South African office has consistently undertaken at least one major diamond project across every year since 2008.

This is a reflection that Fluor South Africa is a leading expert in diamond mining in the region.

The company is now in the process of finalising a solution for Gem Diamonds’ Letšeng mine in Lesotho which will greatly improve the mine’s operating efficiency and diamond recovery, Fluor technical process manager, Etienne Bredell tells Laura Cornish.

Fluor (SA) technical process manager Etienne Bredell

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 11 2018

On the back of project work executed for various global diamond miners including Debswana, Rio Tinto and now Gem Diamonds’ Lesotho-based operating entity Letšeng Diamonds, Fluor has continued to demonstrate its solid technical capability and understanding of the dynamics which drive successful, profitable diamond projects and operations delivery across Africa.

“I believe our depth of knowledge, diamond specific process engineering capabilities and understanding of the delicate balance between revenue, grade and operating cost is what truly distinguishes us in the sector,” says Bredell.

The process team’s extensive background in diamonds – many of the team members have worked for major diamond companies – brings an unparalleled depth of knowledge to the table.

The experienced Fluor team has built a broad network of relationships which keep the project teams closely connected with the diamond mining industry.

Bredell for example worked for a large mining company for 15 years where he managed production sections for eight years and thereafter became the manager of the company’s mineral processing specialists, supporting the needs from mining operations as well as for projects.

A gem

Fluor was recently awarded the Letšeng Diamonds contract to develop a solutions-based prefeasibility study that will enhance the recovery of large diamonds for the Letšeng diamond mine.

The study, which is due to be completed by yea rend, follows Fluor’s identification of a number of design options which could deliver on this objective.

“Working alongside the client we have now narrowed these options to one and aim to build a business case (which excludes the benefits of reduction in diamond damage) around this solution,” Bredell explains.

For now, he confirms that the solution will be designed to enable large diamond recovery early in the process plant through modifying the liberation circuit and incorporating XRT (X-ray transmission) technology.

The project will aim to:

• develop a large diamond recovery circuit;
• reduce potential diamond damage;
• improve on current operating costs; and
• improve overall diamond recovery.

Following conclusion of the study and business case, Fluor will look to support Letšeng Diamonds in developing a bankable feasibility study for the project as well as supporting the process to identify funding options.

Understanding diamond trends

The ongoing success Fluor has achieved within the diamond sector is also a reflection of the company’s ability to stay abreast of new technologies in the market that have become critical to the economic viability of diamond projects in today’s market – from liberation in the early comminution steps to technologies such as high pressure roll crushers (HPRCs), X-ray fluorescence (XRF) for fines recovery and XRT in diamond bulk sorting.

The introduction of de-gritting and paste thickening processes is also growing in popularity as an option to reduce net water consumption at mines struggling to operate in drought-stricken areas.

Looking ahead, Bredell reveals that XRT technology will likely extend technology applications to handle smaller particle size fractions below 4 mm.

If successful, this will offer further opportunity to reduce operating costs related to traditional DMS circuits in the diamond industry.

“Our drive is always to deliver options that offer substantial savings and in so doing improve the business case for mines – making unviable projects feasible and marginal mines profitable.”

The relevance of modularity

Fluor has invested substantially in refining and ‘polishing’ its modular design expertise and has solutions that range from first generation to fully equipped and functioning third generation facilities, depending on clients’ needs.

“Modular process plants are ideal for remote regions as they offer a wide variety of benefits from significantly reducing construction time on site to improving safety. This approach offers better control and certainty during the construction phase and aims to eliminate challenges around skills shortages as most of the technical work is completed in well-equipped off site fabrication facilities.”

Industry trends include the extended use of custom-engineered eHouses that incorporate ergonomically designed MV and LV switchgear.

Through using the selected partnerships it has established in the industry, the company is able to offer additional value-add technical engineering expertise to its client base in this field.

Fluor’s modular offering also bears testimony to the emphasis it places on catering to the small and mid-tier diamond market, in addition to large-scale players.

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