Tailings processing has become a critical aspect of mining operations globally, with an increased focus on water recovery, safety and sustainability. 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, Weir Minerals has extended its expertise into this area to encompass the entire tailings process. From dewatering to transport, disposal, and the conversion of tailings into a resource, the company can provide customers with an end-to-end tailings and pipeline solution.
“Our 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,” said Hoosen Essack, process manager for Weir Minerals Africa.
Weir Minerals’ extension into the tailings processing field means the company is now involved in the production of the material, as opposed to simply transporting it. Through extensive consultation, site visits and audits, Weir Minerals ascertains customers’ objectives and recommends a complete, optimal solution to meet their needs, including dewatering equipment, piping, pumps, valves and instrumentation.
This approach is a departure from the traditional industry practice of sourcing components from multiple suppliers, which can be challenging to integrate. The company’s extensive research and development capabilities allow it to 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 Weir Minerals has 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.
“Weir Minerals can provide a variety of processing systems including 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,” said Essack.
As mine operators become more vigilant in managing their tailings, new processing technology is continually developed, including at the Weir Technical Centre tailings research facility in Australia. Innovative, uniquely tailored solutions incorporating high performance equipment and a global service footprint means Weir Minerals is 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.