As mining companies’ tailings facilities continue to be scrutinised by regulators and non-governmental organisations, Weir Minerals Africa Process Manager, Hoosen Essack, has talked up the need for tailored tailings solutions for the future.
Combined with the stringent accountability that mine operators have to local communities, tailings management is now a significant consideration, with processing requirements and technology changing rapidly. Traditionally involved in the pumping of tailings, at Weir Minerals we have extended our expertise into this area to encompass the entire tailings process. From dewatering to transport, disposal, and the conversion of tailings into a resource, we can provide customers with an end-to-end tailings and pipeline solution.
This holistic, solutions-based approach to tailings management strengthens our relationship with customers and adds value to their operation beyond pumping. In light of water conservation, operational sustainability and safe deposition of tailings, it’s important that we invest in this area to help solve crucial issues within the mining sector.
Our extension into the tailings processing field means we are now involved in the production of the material, as opposed to simply transporting it. Through extensive consultation, site visits and audits, our team ascertains the customer’s objectives and recommends a complete, optimal solution to meet their needs, which can include dewatering equipment, piping, pumps, valves and instrumentation.
This seamless approach is a departure from the traditional industry practice of sourcing components from multiple suppliers, which are challenging to integrate. Our extensive research and development capabilities means we can provide a wide spectrum of tailings management options not limited by a particular type of technology or equipment.
This involves assessing the variations in capital and operating expenditure along with the overall and long-term benefits of each, providing a truly customised solution. Prior to implementation, rigorous testing and trials are conducted to assess viability and performance ahead of final selection, detailed design and engineering, delivery and commissioning. Another key benefit to customers is the ability to transform tailings into products, which can safely be used by the mine, such as road construction material. This involves dewatering of tailings, in which we have extensive expertise.
Dewatering involves removing liquid from waste slurry so that the remaining solids can be deposited in a tailings storage facility or returned to the site from which it was mined as backfill. There are several dewatering methods to render waste slurry to differing degrees of dryness, ready for transport from the plant to the deposition site. Any liquid recovered through dewatering is returned for reuse in the process.
We can provide a variety of processing systems inclusive of equipment and infrastructure to achieve the final tailings product that is required by the customer, from thickening to create a paste, or applying a filter to produce a product which can be dry deposited. As tailings management evolves, the industry is moving towards the latter for increased safety and stability, and in the process maximising water recovery.
As mine operators become more vigilant in managing their tailings, new processing technology is continually developed, including at the Weir Technical Centre in Australia. Innovative, uniquely tailored solutions incorporating high performance equipment and a global service footprint means we are leading the industry in making tailings more sustainable. Ideally, this will lead to a future where tailings related hazards are a thing of the past.