With major aspirations to grow its business in an evolving mining industry, minerals processing expert Weir Minerals Africa has formally expanded its solutions.
This incorporates the effective processing, production and pumping of tailings, says process manager Hoosen Essack
The focus on tailings dam facilities, across the global mining industry, has over recent years become a bigger priority for mine operators who need to manage their environmental footprints to maintain their social license to operate.
Considering options to reduce the size of their tailings facilities while extracting great value from the resource before it is pumped/transported to the end destination are key areas that are now being considered.
Greater consideration to minimize water usage through recovery and reuse are essential for sustainable mining operations.
This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 10 2018
Weir Minerals Africa has subsequently positioned itself to provide a complete tailings solution which incorporates upfront test work to define suitable plant configurations, as well as the full array of equipment required for tailings applications.
These include thickeners, filters, dewatering screens, centrifuges, centrifugal and positive displacement pumps, conveyers, high pressure slurry valves, piping systems, rubber hoses and cyclones.
This service offering has been a focus for Weir since 2016 and with a solid base is now ready for roll-out across all regions globally.
The Weir Technical Centre (WTC) in Melbourne, Australia, established in 2016, is the global technical hub of tailings expertise for the company. It provides innovative and sustainable tailings and pipeline solutions for its customers worldwide.
“As a leader in pumping, an increased focus on tailings solutions is well aligned with our expertise, as this is a vital component in tailings management," explains Essack.
"We are able to supply mill circuit process solutions that will positively impact tailings-related pumping requirements.
"Increasing density and the consideration of reducing the volume of water in the material being pumped to the tailings facility is a key component of this process.
"Water conservation offers our customers significant financial and environmental benefits and is a focus area for us,” continues Essack,” together with power consumption, total cost of ownership and environmental impact”.
In further support of its tailings solutions focus, Weir Minerals Africa has boosted its internal expertise in this area with a newly established processing division, headed up by Essack and supported by an array of minerals processing experts.
They will leverage Weir’s (and the WTC’s) global knowledge base to ensure optimum process support to ensure solutions offer the highest operational efficiency.
This team is also overseeing the operation of a fully established pipe loop test facility which will aid in testing the ‘pumpability’ of tailings materials.
By testing materials and equipment, Weir Minerals Africa can fully understand the performance of the selected pumps when transporting solids, which provides important insight into pump performance, efficiency and predictive maintenance.
Mineral slurries vary in many ways; mineralogy, particle size distribution, solids concentration and chemistry, and thus each slurry behaves differently when in a pipe system.
Therefore, the relatively simple task of pilot test work is a very important activity, as it helps determine the best solution for our customers’ sites while reducing the overall design risk.
Weir Minerals Africa’s tailings solutions suite extends beyond its ability to design and deliver a process that equates to effective tailings management.
Initiated by the WTC, the company has also been looking at how to create value-add from tailings material that could significantly reduce the size of tailings facilities.
“The concept considers such tailings material as a resource and not a waste product.”
“The WTC has determined opportunities for mine sites to convert tailings into resourceful products,” highlights Essack.
By modifying the tailings and incorporating specific additives, the team has successfully created a number of by-products including concrete, shotcrete and support structures which can be used for a variety of infrastructure services such as road building or back-filling.
WTC has developed many alternative products from tailings.
From a 200 MPa tailings backfill integral to the innovative ‘drill-and-fill’ mining operations in South Africa, to 1 km of tailings based concrete road cast on a mine site to hold the weight of 30 t trucks that has been operational for over a year.
“This is a value proposition we want to offer the wider African market as well.”
Thanks to Weir Minerals Africa’s extensive branch network across Africa, the company is well positioned to offer ‘on-your-doorstep’ tailings management service delivery, maintain an extensive stock holding to support all product ranges to ensure maximum uptime and throughput from tailings operations, as well as first-class aftermarket support on tailings operations.
“We will also confirm the lowest total cost of ownership for tailings operations,” Essack notes.
“Ultimately, we are determined to build partnerships with our clients and want to build our business values on meeting the industry’s needs.
"We believe this focus and service offering will deliver on this objective which from an environmental perspective considers that today’s modern mining operating philosophy should start with the end in mind,” Essack concludes.