Agrimin has awarded Royal IHC the front end engineering and design (FEED) contract to provide automated wet harvesting equipment for the Mackay potash project in Western Australia.
Wet harvesting is currently used at the world’s largest sulphate of potash (SOP) operations and IHC is the world leader in the design and manufacture of dredging systems for wet harvesting solutions, according to Agrimin.
The Mackay potash project has been designed to use automated wet harvesters to collect and transfer raw potash salts from the solar evaporation ponds directly to the processing plant in slurry form. Inclusion of the wet harvesting technique in the definitive feasibility study (DFS) was supported by critical field data generated from Agrimin’s pilot pond operations between October 2018 and June 2020, the company said.
Application of the wet harvesting technique can provide significant operating benefits to Mackay potash project, including:
- Significantly lower energy consumption to transfer raw potash salts from the evaporation ponds to the processing plant (ie raw potash salts will be transferred to the plant via pipeline as a slurry, thereby removing the requirement to truck dry salts);
- Reduced labour costs as wet harvesters will be automated;
- Increased overall potassium recovery with harvesting of two pre-concentration ponds to recover a portion of the potassium-bearing entrained brine; and
- Reduced pond sizes due to harvesting occurring earlier in the evaporation cycle and not having to take ponds off-line for harvesting.
The wet harvester FEED work will be completed over the next eight months, building on the DFS level design work that was completed by IHC. IHC will deliver detailed construction design drawings for all key areas of the equipment including cutting tools and propulsion, slurry transport systems, hydraulics, electrics, field testing and a fixed cost for supply of the harvesting equipment, Agrimin said.
Production capacity at Mackay is designed to be 450,000 t/y of SOP over an initial 40-year mine life.