Tag Archives: tailings management

Polymetal 2020 profits rise as it accelerates ESG efforts

Polymetal recorded a strong set of financials in 2020, with its revenue, adjusted EBITDA and net earnings metrics all benefitting from higher production volumes and commodity prices.

Revenue increased by 28% year-on-year to $2.87 billion, adjusted EBITDA rose 57% to $1.69 billion and net earnings hit a record $1.09 billion in 2020.

The company’s 2020 gold-equivalent output amounted to 1.56 Moz, a 4% increase year-on-year and 4% above the original production guidance of 1.5 Moz. Strong contributions from its Kyzyl, Varvara and Albazino mines offset a planned grade decline at Voro, as well as lower production at Svetloye, the company said.

While production rose, the company’s greenhouse gas emissions intensity reduced by 4%, Polymetal said. It attributed this to energy efficiency initiatives, switching its mining fleet to electric vehicles, a shift from diesel to grid energy sources and green energy contracts.

Back in December, SMT Scharf AG signed an agreement with Polymetal to develop and produce battery-electric powered LHDs and mid-range underground trucks as prototypes for its gold and silver mines, with these units to be delivered to the company by October 2021.

Polymetal’s environmental, social and governance efforts did not stop there.

In 2020, the company invested $29 million at its Omolon hub in the Magadan region of Russia. This capital expenditure was mainly related to the construction of a dry tailings storage facility and engineering and preparatory works for a 2.5 MW solar plant (due to come online this year). This will be joined by another 5-10 MW solar facility at its Kyzyl operation (Kazakhstan) in 2022.

On its other tailings facilities, Polymetal said: “We operate eight tailings dams in Russia and Kazakhstan; each is rigorously monitored daily. We are confident that any emergency dam failure would have no impact on local communities and employees.

“We welcome the new Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management and have committed to achieving compliance in all operations by 2023.”

In addition to state authority inspections of these facilities, the company conducted an independent third-party audit of its Mayskoye (Chukotka, Russia) tailings site, which was carried out virtually, due to COVID-19 restrictions, by Knight Piésold Ltd. “To further improve tailings safety and minimise the risk of the possibility of dam failure, we are shifting towards dry stack storage methods,” it said.

“Such facilities are already in operation at our Amursk and Voro (pictured filter press) mines, and will be extended to Omolon (2021), Nezhda (2021), POX-2 (2022), Dukat (2024) and Veduga (2025).”

Weir releases new gate valve as it advances Terraflowing, ToolTek solutions

Weir Minerals has released a new Isogate® WR knife gate valve to reduce cycling discharge while improving wear life.

The lightweight, long-lasting Isogate WR knife gate valve offers miners and aggregates operators alike a step change in valve performance, according to Weir Minerals.

The release came on the same week Weir Group announced its 2020 financial results, which saw the company report revenue and adjusted operating profit of £1.97 billion ($2.73 billion) and £305 million from continuing operations, respectively. These figures were down 4% and 3%, respectively, from 2019 totals.

On the new valve, Weir said: “Incorporating the latest advances in design and materials technology from Weir Minerals’ expert engineers, the range of Isogate WR knife gate valves are more reliable, while producing minimal fluid discharge and weighing considerably less than equivalent mining valves.”

John Abbott, Global Product Manager – Valves & Tailings, said: “Drawing on decades of wear analysis, we’ve optimised the Isogate WR knife gate valve’s body design, by reinforcing the areas subjected to the harshest wear and pressure. At the same time, we have reduced the weight elsewhere to produce a robust, long-lasting mining valve that’s significantly lighter than comparable products.

“The weight reduction can be especially significant in situations where a number of valves are used on a specific installation, such as in a hydrocyclone cluster, or where lightweight piping systems are used.”

The gate has also been redesigned, with stronger materials resulting in a thinner gate that can still withstand the pressure of mining slurries. This combines with the valve’s unique gate guide that, Weir says, reduces deflection by ensuring smooth gate movement and less strain on the sleeve elastomer during blade transition.

The Isogate WR knife gate valve uses Weir Minerals’ new Isogate WSL sleeve, which comes with proprietary Linard® HD 60 silica-reinforced natural rubber to solve the three most common problems with sleeved knife gate valves: leakage during cycling, tearing and load distribution ring (LDR) failure due to corrosion and erosion, the company explained.

Leveraging the Linard HD 60 rubber’s high resilience against cut, tear and abrasive wear to improve wear life, the new Isogate WSL sleeve fully encloses the LDR to prevent corrosion. By allowing the rubber to move with the blade cycles, the design reduces the chance of tearing while reducing slurry discharge by up to 75%, according to Weir.

The Isogate WSL sleeve can also be used in existing Isogate WS knife gate valves, improving wear life and decreasing discharge on cycling.

Abbott added: “When designing the Isogate WR knife gate valve, we focused on features that improve the everyday experience of working with our valves. This includes important things like improved grease distribution and improved body flushing when used on high solids concentration applications.

“In-depth finite element analysis enables us to ensure the product’s integrity, while making it lightweight. There are also a lot of smaller features to make life easier, such as a larger grease reservoir, ISO mount standardisation and an external visual indicator for the valve’s status.”

Other notable developments from Weir Group’s 2020 financial results included the first order for ESCO’s ToolTek™ system.

This collaborative effort with key mining customers provides enhanced safety for maintenance personnel during the replacement of worn Nemisys® points and adapters, according to ESCO. It features a hydraulic crane mounted tool that is remotely operated, well out of harm’s way during the replacement of worn components. New parts are pre-staged on racks  positioned on the flatbed truck outfitted with the hydraulic crane. The truck also features a recycle bin for safer disposal of worn parts.

Alongside this, Weir said in 2020 it installed the first pilot Terraflowing® plant at a customer’s mine site designed to cost-effectively reduce water in tailings, enabling this waste product to be safely stored or repurposed.

Terraflowing incorporates a two-stage cyclone dewatering process followed by centrifugation of the final stage of cycloning overflow. In the process, three dewatered tailings streams are produced: a primary cyclone underflow, a secondary cyclone underflow and a centrifuge pulp. These three streams can be combined or used in different configurations depending on the end use of the tailings stream, according to Weir Minerals.

This three-stage system offers the flexibility to make provision for variations in mineralogy and particle size distribution as well as the opportunity to recover ‘tailings as a resource’, it added.

SMI-ICE-Chile projects taking on BHP Tailings Challenge

Two proposals supported by the Sustainable Minerals Institute’s International Centre of Excellence in Chile (SMI-ICE-Chile) are advancing to the second round of the BHP Tailings Challenge.

A global competition that aims to fundamentally change how the industry manages copper tailings, the BHP Tailings Challenge announced in January that 10 companies and consortia had been selected to advance to the laboratory test stage of the program. The challenge is seeking solutions and new business models to reuse copper tailings.

The SMI-ICE-Chile-supported proposals advancing to the proof-of-concept stage include one from the Solar Tailings Transformation (STT) Consortium, which SMI-ICE-Chile leads. This consortium is proposing a solution that integrates several solar thermal energy-powered processes to convert tailings material into a stable multi-purpose pellet and high-quality water.

SMI-ICE-Chile is also the local coordinator of the Recomine proposal, which is led by the Helmholtz-Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology and is focused on the development and integration of a series of modular processes to separate out valuable products from the tailings.

The BHP Tailings Challenge, supported by Fundación Chile through its Expande program, aims to promote and deliver new technological solutions and business models for reusing copper tailings, and will provide $10 million in grants to successful developers.

The teams advancing to the proof-of-concept stage are given a $50,000 grant and sample of tailings with which to validate their solutions at a laboratory level before demonstrating its technical and economic feasibility in a demo day in August 2021.

SMI-ICE-Chile Sustainability Leader, Dr Douglas Aitken, said both proposals are innovative solutions that have the potential to drive positive change in tailings management practices and generate considerable value to industry and society.

“The social and environmental issues associated with tailings represent a major challenge for the industry, but by replacing the traditional disposal-based approach with new and innovative value recovery solutions, we aim to eliminate the negative aspects of tailings and instead create social and economic benefits,” he said.

The BHP Tailings Challenge provides an opportunity to develop and test exciting new ideas that could result in the tailings management process becoming safer and an industry asset instead of a burden, SMI-ICE-Chile added.

Dr Felipe Saavedra, the STT project lead for the SMI-ICE-Chile team, explained the proposed concept and the expected benefits.

“The STT consortium is a multi-disciplinary group comprised of researchers from SMI-ICE-Chile, SMI, IMDEA Energy, SEENSO, and Aiguasol Latam,” he said. “The proposed concept aims to repurpose over 50% of operational tailings production using solar thermal energy to dewater the tailings and produce a stable and flexible end-product.

“It is a sustainable approach that takes a complex and difficult-to-handle mine waste and transforms it into a material that can be used by numerous local industries, such as construction, road building and agriculture. We expect that the recovered water will also have considerable value for local water users, its availability should offset freshwater extraction from natural resources, thereby protecting local ecosystems.”

Dr Saavedra concluded: “We hope that the solution will generate wide-spread social and economic development and we’re looking forward to testing the technologies with our partners in the coming months.”

Weir Minerals Africa provides tailings management flexibility with mobile pumphouses

Weir Minerals Africa says its mobile pumphouse is ideally equipped for the needs of mine tailings operations.

As the company explains, pumping slurry to tailings facilities requires a solution that can move as the dam expands to allocate room for additional tailings.

Weir Minerals Africa Pumps Product Manager, Marnus Koorts, says a mobile pumphouse completely avoids the cost of any civil engineering for permanent on-site pump buildings. “Instead, it is designed to be moved as required across the site, using its own specifically engineered, skid and jack-and-roll elements,” he said.

Koorts says the offering is part of Weir Minerals Africa’s engineered-to-order solutions, which also reduces the long-term total cost of ownership. The three-point Warman® Multiflo® pump mounting system allows the base and skid to act independently. This minimises the risk of misalignment between the pump and motor shaft during operation and relocation. The unit incorporates an integral gland water supply system and a separate electronic house for power control and remote communication.

Koorts highlights that as a mine’s process plant matures, the tailings line grows with new tailings dams being created, often using Linatex hoses and Isogate valves. It is a significant advantage to be able to move the pumphouse, and to add pumps to the tailings line if the increased distance requires more pressure. It is also an important contributor to reducing initial capital costs.

The design of the mobile pumphouse, he emphasises, sets a new standard for tailings management applications, providing the customer with the tools and equipment to rapidly reconfigure their pumping network, with the ability to move it to other sections of the tailings pond.

Weir Minerals solutions include Multiflo pump barges and floating pontoons mounted with Warman SHW submersible slurry pumps for extracting the fluid tailings. Its Warman slurry pumps are ideal for boosting recovered tails from the pond, to drive the new tailings treatment process plant, the company says.

Koorts emphasises that, with increased scrutiny and pressure to improve the management of tailings, it is more important than ever to look at different methods that are innovative and fit-for-purpose.

Samarco iron ore pellet operations restart five years after Fundão tailings dam spill

BHP and Vale have confirmed their joint venture Samarco iron ore business has restarted operations in Brazil, more than five years after the failure of the Fundão dam led to its suspension.

Samarco’s gradual restart of operations incorporates concentrator 3 at the Germano complex in Minas Gerais and pelletising plant 4 at Ubu in Espírito Santo, as well as a new system of tailings disposal combining a confined pit and tailings filtering system for dry stacking, BHP said.

With the new filtration process, Samarco expects to be able to substantially dewater sand tailings, which represent 80% of total tailings by volume, and safely stack these filtered sand tailings in piles, Vale said. The remaining 20% of tailings are planned to be deposited in the Alegria Sul pit, a bedrock self-contained structure. Additionally, Samarco is progressing in the decommissioning of the Germano tailings dam to improve safety standards.

“Independent tests have been carried out on Samarco’s preparations for a safe restart of operations,” BHP added.

Samarco expects initially to produce around 7-8 Mt/y of iron ore pellets from the use of one of three concentrators to beneficiate iron ore from the Germano complex and one of four pellet plants in the Ubu complex, representing 26% of Samarco’s productive capacity.

Vale explained: “The integrated restart of operations occurs after an extensive commissioning test, ensuring a safe resumption after five years.”

Following the Corrective Operation Licence received in October 2019, Samarco expects to be able to restart a second concentrator in around five years to reach a range of production of some 14-16 Mt/y. The restart of the third concentrator could happen in around nine years, Vale said, when Samarco expects to reach a production volume of around 22-24 Mt/y.

The extensive work undertaken by the Renova Foundation, a collaboration between Vale, BHP Billiton Brasil Ltda and Samarco, to remediate and compensate for the damages of the failure of the Fundão dam in November 2015 continues, BHP said. The foundation is responsible for carrying out programs to repair the social and environmental impacts.

By November 2020, Renova had spent approximately $2.1 billion on its remediation and compensation programs. By November 2020, around $620 million had been paid in indemnities and emergency financial aid to approximately 325,000 people.

Ivanplats eyes Platreef project fast track following Shaft 1 sinking work

An integrated development plan (IDP) on the Platreef palladium, platinum, rhodium, nickel, copper and gold project in South Africa has shown the potential to fast-track the development into production.

Consisting of an updated feasibility study and a preliminary economic assessment, the IDP marks an “important step in our vision of building and operating the world’s next great precious metals mine, together with our local community and Japanese partners”, Ivanhoe Mines Co-Chair, Robert Friedland, said.

Ivanhoe indirectly owns 64% of the Platreef project through its subsidiary, Ivanplats. The South Africa beneficiaries of the approved broad-based, black economic empowerment structure have a 26% stake in the project, with the remaining 10% owned by a Japanese consortium of ITOCHU Corporation, Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, and Japan Gas Corporation.

The Platreef 2020 feasibility study builds on the results of the 2017 feasibility study and is based on an unchanged mineral reserve of 125 Mt at 4.4 g/t 3PGE+Au, project designs for mining, and plant and infrastructure as in the 2017 study; except with an increased production rate from 4 Mt/y to 4.4 Mt/y, in two modules of 2.2 Mt/y, for annual production of more than 500,000 oz of palladium, platinum, rhodium and gold; plus more than 35 MIb of nickel and copper.

The 2020 feasibility study includes an updated production schedule based on the current project status, costs and economic assumptions, with the schedule for the latest study driven by the sinking of the project’s second, larger shaft (Shaft 2), where early works have commenced. The 2020 study envisions Shaft 2 equipped for hoisting in 2025, allowing for first concentrate production in the latter half of the year. The initial capital cost for the Platreef 2020 feasibility study is estimated at $1.4 billion.

The Platreef IDP also includes the Platreef 2020 preliminary economic assessment, which is an alternate, phased development plan that fast-tracks Platreef into production. The plan uses the project’s first shaft (Shaft 1) for initial hoisting and mine development, with 825,000 t of annual total rock hoisting capacity, of which 125,000 t is allocated for development rock. The alternate plan envisions building an initial concentrator with a capacity of 770,000 t/y, and could produce first concentrate in mid-2024.

“The recently-completed sinking of Shaft 1 has created the opportunity to access early, high-grade tonnes in this scenario,” the company said. “While the 700,000 t/y initial mine is being operated using Shaft 1, there would be opportunities to refine the timing of subsequent phases of expanded production, which is driven by the sinking of Shaft 2.”

Once completed, two 2.2 Mt/y concentrator modules would be commissioned, and the initial concentrator would be ramped up to its full capacity of 770,000 t/y; increasing the steady-state production to 5.2 Mt/y for annual production of more than 600,000 oz of palladium, platinum, rhodium and gold, plus over 40 million pounds of nickel and copper. The initial capital cost for 700,000 t/y under the Platreef 2020 assessment is estimated at $390 million – substantially lower than the Platreef 2020 feasibility study that requires Shaft 2 for first production.

Detailed engineering has commenced on the mine design, 770,000 t/y concentrator and associated infrastructure for the phased development plan, which will be incorporated into an updated feasibility study in 2021, Ivanhoe said. The Shaft 1 changeover will take place simultaneously in preparation for permanent hoisting by early 2022. The budget for 2021 is $59 million, which includes $10 million for commencement of the construction of the headframe to the collar of Shaft 2.

“The Platreef IDP reflects the first phase of development for the Platreef Mine,” the company said. “It is designed to establish an operating platform to support potential future expansions to 12 Mt/y and beyond, as demonstrated in previous studies, which would position Platreef among the largest platinum-group metals producing mines in the world, producing in excess of 1.1 Moz of palladium, platinum, rhodium and gold per year.”

Friedland said: “The thick and flat-lying nature of the high-grade mineralisation of Platreef’s Flatreef deposit will accommodate the use of mechanised and state-of-the-art, automated mining techniques; allowing us to efficiently and safely bring material to surface to produce precious metals vital to a proliferation of modern technologies.”

Marna Cloete, Ivanhoe’s President and CFO, said approximately 60% of the mine’s tailings will be sent back underground to fill mined-out voids, and the remainder will be treated using sustainable, dry-stacking technology.

Mining zones in the current Platreef mine plan occur at depths ranging from around 700-1,200 m below surface. Once expanded mine production is achieved, primary access to the mine will be by way of a 1,104-m-deep, 10-m-diameter production shaft (Shaft 2). Secondary access to the mine will be via the 996-m-deep, 7.25-m-diameter ventilation shaft (Shaft 1) that recently has been sunk to its final depth. During mine production, both shafts also will serve as ventilation intakes. Three additional ventilation exhaust raises (Ventilation Raise 1, 2, and 3) are planned to achieve steady-state production.

Mining methods included in the studies are longhole stoping and drift-and-fill. Each method will use cemented backfill for maximum ore extraction. The production plans in both the PEA’s initial five-year drift-and-fill mining operation off of Shaft 1 and the larger feasibility study expansion are focused on maximising higher-grade areas, which was achieved through optimisation based on stope locations, stope grades, mining method, and zone productivities. The orebody was targeted to recover around 125 Mt at the highest net smelter return.

The ore will be hauled from the stopes to a series of internal ore passes and fed to the bottom of Shaft 2, where it will be crushed and hoisted to surface.

Comminution and flotation test work has indicated that the optimum grind for beneficiation is 80% passing 75 micrometres. Platreef ore is classified as being ‘hard’ to ‘very hard’ and thus not suitable for semi-autogenous grinding; a multi-stage crushing and ball-milling circuit has been selected as the preferred size reduction route, Ivanhoe said.

Improved flotation performance has been achieved in test work using high-chrome grinding media as opposed to carbon steel media. The inclusion of a split-cleaner flotation circuit configuration, in which the fast-floating fraction is treated in a cleaner circuit separate from the medium- and slow-floating fractions, resulted in improved PGE, copper and nickel recoveries and concentrate grades.

A two-phased development approach was used for the flowsheet design comprising a common three-stage crushing circuit, feeding crushed material to milling-flotation modules. Flotation is followed by a common concentrate thickening, concentrate filtration, tailings disposal and tailings-handling facility. The phased approach allows for increased processing flexibility and introduces process redundancy while allowing for phasing of capital and mine ramp-up, the company said.

To further evaluate optimisation opportunities and confirm additional detail design parameters, a mini pilot plant test work program is proposed and will be undertaken as part of the project implementation phase.

The proposed tailings storage facility (TSF) will be developed as a dry stack TSF with an estimated operating life of 32 years. During this time, some 55.4 Mt of tailings will be stored within the dry stack TSF, with the remainder of the tailings to be used as backfill in the underground mine. The dry stack TSF design also caters for an 8 Mt/y ramp-up in production to be explored in future studies.

The dry stack TSF is compliant in terms of required tonnage profile production split between the backfill requirement and dry stack TSF of 35% on average, but is conservatively designed for 40% of non-ore material reporting to the TSF.

Since the Platreef 2017 FS, a hybrid paddock deposition methodology was proposed; however, Ivanplats has decided to change the TSF deposition methodology from upstream design to dry stacking in the Platreef 2020 studies.

Following a study undertaken by Golder Associates Africa in December 2016, it was concluded that stacked tailings storage facilities are deemed to be safer in that there is no hydraulic deposition, hence the risk will be minimal to flood the surrounding areas with tailings in the unlikely event of a catastrophic failure.

“Stacked tailing storage facilities are more water efficient in that the majority of water in the tailings is captured in the dewatering plant, pumped directly back to the concentrator and re-used within the process,” the company said.

The stacked facility will comprise a starter dam constructed primarily of rock fill, engineered tailings, nominally compacted tailings, and random fill. Tailings will be delivered to the dewatering plant situated at the stacking facility using the same pumping systems from the processing plant. Dried tailings will be delivered to the stacking facility using load and haul transportation with trucks from the dewatering plant.

Aside from the rock fill in the starter dam and drainage elements, which include a return water dam, the facility will be developed using dewatered tailings. The infrastructure will have to be in place upon start-up.

For the Platreef 2020 PEA development scenario, it is envisaged to use the approved rock dump footprint within the immediate Platreef mine and concentrator areas, as a dry stacking tailings facility for the initial 700,000 t/y mine. Golder Associates currently is performing the design work to apply for the relevant licences and/or amendments to the existing authorisations.

TAKRAF dry-stacked tailings test work boost for Los Andes Copper’s Vizcachitas project

Los Andes Copper says it has received additional positive results from the ongoing prefeasibility study (PFS) metallurgical test work at its Vizcachitas project in Chile.

These results show improved filtration rates for both the fine and coarse fraction tailings compared with previous testing, it said, reinforcing the decision to adopt dry-stacked tailings at the project.

An October press release regarding PFS metallurgical test work carried out by SGS demonstrated that the Vizcachitas tailings were amenable to being filtered and dry-stacked.

These same coarse and fine representative tailings samples were sent to the TAKRAF laboratories for further settling and filtration assessments. Los Andes said the TAKRAF work tested various settling and filtration parameters, including those previously tested.

The studies demonstrated that for the coarse fraction vacuum filtration, the rates improved from 1.9 t/h/sq.m to 3.4 t/h/sq.m when compared with the previous results. For the finer fraction, the settling velocities improved from 8.4 m/h to 16 m/h and the pressure filtration rates improved from 0.6 t/h/sq.m to 0.7 t/h/sq.m. The expected cake moistures for both filtration technologies were 15%.

These positive results mean that the Vizcachitas project, processing 110,000 t/d of ore, would only need to use eleven standard 162 sq.m belt filters and four 2.5 m x 2.5 m pressure filters for the tailings dewatering operation, Los Andes said, noting that other operations in the world were successfully operating with similar filter arrangements.

“Tailings filtration reduces water consumption by 50% when compared to thickened tailings disposal alternatives,” Los Andes said. “Furthermore, filtered tailings can be handled by trucks, conveyors and shovels, eliminating the need for the construction and operation of a tailings dam.

“The adoption of this technology puts the Vizcachitas project at the forefront of the environmentally responsible practices being adopted for the future of sustainable mining globally.”

Metso Outotec tackles long-term tailings management task with Larox FFP3716 filter

Metso Outotec says its newest addition to the FFP filter range, the Larox® FFP3716 filter, comes with compact plate pack design and smart automation, redefining the overall standard in reliability, capacity and safety in tailings filtration.

Combined with Metso Outotec’s optimised filtration plant design, the FFP3716 filter offers a reliable and cost-efficient long-term solution for tailings management, even in challenging environments, the company claims.

Geoff Foster, Head of Tailings Filtration at Metso Outotec, said: “Responsible usage of water in the mining industry is the primary driver for increasing interest in tailings dewatering. At Metso Outotec, our goal is to provide holistic tailings management solutions by bringing a step change in the way we view, handle, and manage tailings.

“Backed by proven technology and industrial knowledge, our efficient dewatering solutions help in maximising water recovery and reuse. The Larox FFP3716 filter represents the most advanced technology currently available for safe and efficient dewatering.”

The Larox FFP3716 comes with a substantial increase in total filtration volume, using an optimised plate pack design to reduce wear on the plate pack and cloth components, along with ease operation and spares holding.

The new design of the closing and sealing mechanism, with individual controlled sealing cylinders, ensures a squared plate pack at any time, resulting in long lifetime of the pack, the company says. The filter, which comes with a 2,000 sq.m filtration area, 44 cu.m of chamber volume and up to 16 bars of operating pressure, has been designed from bottom to top with optimal safety in mind, Metso Outotec added.

Decipher to help miners align with new tailings storage facility standards

Wesfarmers-owned software-as-a-service company, Decipher, says it has extended its successful TSF cloud platform to provide a solution to simplify the process of tailings storage facility (TSF) data disclosure as well as helping companies align with the new global tailings standard.

The recent Global Standard on Tailings Management was launched on the August 5, 2020. The historic agreement includes six topic areas, 15 principles and 77 auditable requirements, which covers the entire TSF lifecycle – from site selection, design and construction, management and monitoring, through to closure and post-closure.

With an ambition of zero harm to people and the environment, the standard significantly raises the bar for the industry to achieve strong social, environmental and technical outcomes by elevating accountability to the highest organisational levels and adds new requirements for independent oversight, Decipher says.

“These recent initiatives have encouraged mining companies to respond quickly to public demand for more transparency which has highlighted the need for a software solution which can improve tailings data management, reporting, monitoring, compliance and governance,” the company said.

This is where Decipher’s technology comes into play.

Decipher Chief Executive Officer, Anthony Walker, said the resources industry is actively seeking easily implemented, cost effective and globally accessible solutions.

“The early adoption from Tier 1 miners and general interest has been phenomenal indicating that there is a real need for a TSF data disclosure solution; it excites us that our technology platform can be leveraged to support better management and monitoring of tailings storage facilities,” he said.

Topic Area VI of the new standard requires operators to support public disclosure of information about tailings facilities, and participate in global initiatives to create standardised, independent, industry-wide and publicly accessible information about facilities. For example, the recent Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative called upon 727 extractive mining companies to make public disclosures about their TSFs to form an independent global database – The Global Tailings Portal, developed by GRID-Arendal.

Due to manual processes, and often disparate and siloed datasets, mining operators have estimated it took them around six weeks per site to collate their tailings data, according to Decipher. “With many operators having well over 50 sites, this process is challenging and surfaced many inefficiencies,” it said.

After hearing these frustrations from the industry, Decipher designed a tailings database solution to help companies easily capture, manage and disclose tailings data, enabling them to meet data provision requests from industry groups such as the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative, it said.

Decipher has also been working closely with GRID-Arendal to create an API to facilitate automatic update of tailings data within the Decipher platform directly to the Global Tailings Portal.

“We believe this will significantly increase efficiency and provide a massive time savings for mining operators who choose to disclose regularly,” the company said.

Topic Area III of the standard aims to lift the performance bar for designing, constructing, operating, maintaining, monitoring, and closing facilities.

Recognising tailings facilities are dynamic engineered structures, this topic area requires the ongoing use of an updated knowledge base, consideration of alternative tailings technologies, and a comprehensive monitoring system.

“Decipher’s TSF solution is trusted by environmental, tailings, geotechnical and management teams globally to help improve monitoring, compliance, reporting, operational visibility and safety,” the company said. “The platform brings together data from laboratories, IoT devices, LiDAR, CCTV, drones, inspections and remotely-sensed platforms to serve users with up-to-date information to provide key data and insights, enabling teams to effectively monitor, govern and operate their TSFs.”

Armed with Decipher’s Tailings Database solution, Decipher says. customers can:

  • Comply and meet requests for data provision from industry groups such as COE, ICMM, UNEP, PRI, Global Tailings Review and more, with fields embedded for simple reporting and tracking;
  • Store an endless variety of tailings data in one location which is otherwise managed by a number of teams in disparate systems;
  • Operate with increased confidence knowing required data is being collected and monitored;
  • Easily visualise their operational TSF data on the map;
  • Cluster data into key areas such as safety, risk, compliance, construction, design, roles and responsibilities;
  • Assign actions and tasks for data collection with a register and audit trail of all actions and respective statuses to monitor progress, and reminder and escalation notifications;
  • View dam data across multiple sites in a single screen with the ability to easily export for reporting;
  • Facilitate automatic updates to databases and portals based on integration capabilities with third-party systems or public portals;
  • View spatial visualisation to display tailings dams in proximity to surrounding environment and communities;
  • Better align with standard such as the Global Tailings management; and
  • Access custom reports.

Weir Minerals mobilises team to take on tailings treatment challenge

Water requirements for intensive applications such as hard-rock mining and oil sands processing have historically been supplemented by local water sources. Today, these applications face new challenges as the focus shifts to how operations can minimise their environmental footprint but continue to improve productivity while also complying with new regulations. This global shift in focus reveals the need for increased sustainability in tailings processing, Weir Minerals says.

The way forward is not only installing energy-efficient products that offer improved reliability, but also working directly in partnership with companies such as Weir Minerals that can design engineered-to-order solutions tailored for optimised and sustainable results, the mining OEM explains.

One of the ongoing challenges for customers is tailings reclamation. The question of how best to reduce dependence on tailings ponds yet expedite reclamation of both water and product in the process, was top of mind for one Weir Minerals customer.

Pumping stations are a critical element of tailings management, providing the energy needed to drive the downstream processes. Static slurry pump houses have, until now, been the norm, but they are costly and present many limitations when considering alternate tailings processing techniques.

A new approach to tailings reclamation

When the customer approached the Weir Minerals Canada dewatering team with a vision to mobilise the pump system for their new tailings treatment process, initially they didn’t even know if it was even possible.

“The sheer size and energy requirements of the equipment needed for the application meant that this was a huge undertaking from the beginning. You don’t normally think of 3,500 hp (2,610 kW) pumps and 160 t of equipment as mobile,” Kris Kielar, Product Manager for Dewatering Engineered to Order Solutions at Weir Minerals Canada, explains.

The Weir Minerals team worked directly with the customer to design an innovative booster pumphouse, engineered especially to manage the non-segregating tailings on site. The proposed solution played an integral role in reducing the tailings pond footprint on site through accelerated fines capture and decreased fluid tailings production, thus releasing more water for recycling and reducing necessary water intake from local sources. This, in turn, would expedite reclamation to create landforms that support wetlands and self-sustaining forest ecosystems, according to Weir Minerals.

The standard tailings processing model takes time, but this solution dramatically reduced tailings residence time with a total solution realised through Weir Minerals equipment, it said.

Multiflo® pump barges mounted with Hazleton® submersible slurry pumps extract the target fluid tailings that feed high-powered, land-based Weir re-locatable pump houses. Inside the pump houses, Warman® slurry pumps boost recovered tails from the pond to drive the new tailings treatment process plant.

Kielar continued: “By working directly with the customer, we understood not only their desired outcome, but also the existing capabilities on site. We stayed close and were able to proactively tweak our design based on the customer’s needs, so when it was time to present, we were already prepared with the ideal solution.”

Engineering for extra value

The Weir Minerals dewatering team designs solutions using engineered and reliable equipment that is not just efficient, but also adds value to a customer’s site process, it says.

“For example, the entire module of the Weir mobile pump house can be built offsite at a much lower cost than traditional pump houses, which are built in-situ,” Weir Minerals said. “Building a pump house in-situ is time-consuming and expensive, as the method requires skilled trades to work for extended periods of time in remote locations.”

Peter Pavlin, Weir Minerals’ North America General Manager of Engineering, said: “Competitor pump houses built using in-situ construction methods can more than double the construction time and costs compared to the steel fabrication methods we have used. When faced with a complex problem from a customer, we always evaluate the situation holistically and strive to develop a new approach. That is the beauty of engineering, the possibilities are endless, and the Weir Engineering Team have the expertise and tenacity to go against the norm and develop novel and cost-effective solutions.”

The Weir mobile pump house provides a variety of pumping possibilities for intensive tailings applications, according to the company.

It is designed to relocate across the site using especially engineered, military-style skid and ‘jack-and-roll’ elements and a novel patent-pending pump/motor suspension system, providing a unique advantage in mobile pump house technology. These advances provide operators with distinct advantages over traditional fixed-in-place designs, creating a more agile and cost-effective solution, according to Weir Minerals.

Pavlin explained: “Our ground-breaking design sets a new standard for tailings management applications. Other pump houses in the market are static and often cause difficulties for operators when they wish to expand into new areas, as they must discontinue service, resulting in a large capital expenditure. Our solution has overcome these limitations by providing the customer with the tools to rapidly reconfigure a changing pumping network and move it to other sections of the tailings pond.”

The Weir mobile pump house incorporates an integral gland water supply system and a separate eHouse for power control and remote communication. A patent-pending, three-point pump base mounting system allows the base and skid to act independently, minimising the risk of pump and motor shaft misalignment during operation and the relocation process, according to Weir.