In reaction to the changing dewatering needs of local mines, South African pumps rental company Integrated Pump Rental (IPR) is evolving its service offering towards a full dewatering solution by introducing a stainless steel range of mine water pumps, and dewatering products.
“There is a big emphasis on looking after the water [that mines] already have, whether it be purifying or reusing wastewater and process water to keep it turning through the plant. Process plants cannot operate without water, and this emphasises the value of water to the mining industry,” IPR MD Lee Vine stresses.
While he reiterates the importance of carefully monitoring process water ponds and managing the water balance at mines, key challenges in managing this water balance include the build-up of sediment or silt in the processing ponds. The ponds can spill over resulting in loss of water and damage to the environment. The pond liners are also at risk of being damaged when excavators remove the heavy slurry build-up.
To address these challenges, IPR is exploring a new business offering where the company will assess a mine’s processing pond, free of charge, and create a dredging programme, enabling “the mines to have clean water the whole year”, Vine illustrates.
The amount of sediment going back into the pond and the extent to which the mine’s minerals processing is effective depends on what type of sediment goes into the process water pond, Vine explains, emphasising that, while dredging or desilting need not be an onerous task, the solution must be fit for purpose.
Consequently, this water management programme can entail IPR’s assessing and cleaning the process pond once every six months or once a year, depending on the size of the pond or dam, and at a one-off cost, he enthuses.
Mines are also looking to draw less water from municipal sources, not only as a way of conserving water but also of lowering costs, Vine highlights.
IPR offers a range of solutions for different applications, with Vine emphasising that the company has the technical expertise and capability to select the most appropriate option.
Although Vine points out that each mine has different dredging needs, all processing ponds have liners. IPR’s dredgers do not have cutter heads that are used to agitate the slurry and will, therefore, not damage pond liners.
Rather, IPR uses water agitation to remove the slurry through the dredge head. “Whatever we agitate with water on the bottom of our dredge head is contained and goes straight out of the discharge line. We do not agitate the entire dam or create a milky sediment that spreads across the dam,” Vine stresses, noting that, subsequently, no fines are going through the process water pumps.
The dredging solution also considers safety, as “it is a one-person, remote-controlled operation from the side”, says Vine.
Further, he suggests using the SlurrySucker if a processing plant has to stay online. “We explain that it is a creepy crawly for lined ponds,” Vine quips. The SlurrySucker operates from the top of the water surface and sucks silt from the bottom of the processing pond.
Alternatively, if a mine can be taken offline, IPR offers the SlurryBlaster, a hydro mining solution that uses an external source of water to blast the slurry with hydro mining guns, after which the slurry is removed using IPR’s Grindex slurry pumps, he illustrates.
“We have a full team of field service technicians and pride ourselves on being solution providers. When assessing a project, we have all the equipment and accessories you need to complete the project – we bring our own equipment and, once the contract is done, we take our equipment and leave.”
IPR’s latest projects include the deployment of a SlurrySucker MAXI for the cleaning of a 150 m × 50 m × 3 m process water pond full of chrome deposits and silt at a chrome operation in Steelpoort, Mpumalanga.
The company is also involved in a processing dam cleaning project for a coal mine in the province. IPR has used hydro mining guns, diesel pumps and submersible pumps to clean the dam, as well as its full range of stainless steel equipment to mitigate the high acidic levels in the pH of the dam.
“There is no other way of controlling dewatering than having a well-executed dewatering system with quality pumps and systems. We are working towards being the number one rental solutions provider in Southern Africa,” Vine concludes.