Process equipment and mine dewatering equipment supplier Weir Minerals Africa is performing tailings testwork at a major South African platinum mine to develop a turnkey thickened tailings solution.
Weir Minerals Africa process manager Hoosen Essack states that the local miner has shown interest in a comprehensive alternate tailings solution.
Essack states that the testwork at the local mine aims to develop a solution to the mine’s “specific tailings pain-points”, while proactively addressing its social licence to operate.
The solution will address all aspects of tailings treatment, including safety, by improving the quality of tailings delivered to the tailings storage facility (TSF). The dam’s stability will be optimised by filling it with a sturdier product that will set quickly, mitigating the risk of dam failure, a persistent risk associated with TSFs. The solution also allows for the immediate recovery and reuse of a significant amount of water, thereby contributing to reduced operating costs and, in the process, being environmentally astute.
“With the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) more determined to address environmental concerns and enforce stricter legislation, local mining houses need to be more conscious, innovative and forward thinking regarding their tailings,” stresses Essack.
He advocates that finding more environment-friendly methods of disposing mine tailings is fast becoming non-negotiable in South Africa and globally. He adds that, with the DMR’s refusing to allocate additional land to mines for lean tailings disposal, it is becoming critical that current tailings facilities operate as efficiently and safely as possible.
Essack comments that Weir Minerals has enhanced its global tailings solutions capability considerably through the establishment of the Weir Technical Centre (WTC), which has become the company’s global hub for tailings expertise.
“The WTC facility – which was opened in 2016 – provides innovative and sustainable tailings and pipeline solutions for Weir Minerals’ customers worldwide.”
He adds that, through research and development (R&D) conducted at the facility, the company provides holistic tailings solutions for miners that allows them to focus on plant operation, production and recoveries, as opposed to tailings management and methodology.
Essack points out that TSF operation is difficult; failures are a constant threat and they have a negative impact on a mining company’s social licence to operate. Consequently, an efficient tailings management system is a necessity and integral to company operations from an environmental and a safety perspective. Weir Minerals works tirelessly to mitigate risk for mining companies through conducting pilot-plant testwork of customer’s processes and using equipment similar to what would ultimately be installed on site.
“Typically, dewatering tailings are hydraulically moved using centrifugal and positive displacement pumps, and this is where Weir Minerals’ expertise comes to the fore. The company has more than 140 years of engineering expertise and continues to advance its pumping technology. With an extensive pumps range, and more than 100 engineers worldwide focusing on pump design and new product development, our highly efficient pumps are constantly being enhanced.”
Weir Minerals designs and manufactures a range of products that specialise in the transport of tailings, including GEHO positive displacement pumps designed to transport tailings over long distances; the horizontal and vertical Warman slurry pumps range designed specifically for heavy-duty slurry applications such as the handling of tailings slurries; and its Multiflo mine dewatering pumps range including pontoons for pit, shaft and TSF water recovery applications.
Essack states that Weir Minerals Africa will partner with local mining houses to further develop tailings solutions that are suited to the unique challenges that local tailings facilities face.
He mentions that all Weir Minerals’ tailings products and solutions are supported by continuous advanced research and an in-house test capability such as those available at the WTC. The company assists with tailings disposal and transport, backfilling, and the conversion of tailings into reusable resources.