Ensuring sufficient water storage capacity in mines’ process ponds is crucial for the optimal functioning of mineral treatment plants, and this means regular desilting must be conducted.

This is according to Lee Vine, managing director of Integrated Pump Rental, whose company is frequently called upon to urgently attend to process ponds that have silted up.

Ensuring sufficient water storage capacity in mines' process ponds is crucial. Image credit: Pump Rental

Ensuring sufficient water storage capacity in mines’ process ponds is crucial. Image credit: Pump Rental

“While too much silt in these ponds can disrupt plant operations, this situation also raises the risk of over-topping which can lead to costly environmental damage,” says Vine. “Our locally developed SlurrySucker system can readily address the problem, but it should not be left too long. Ideally, mines would have a pond monitoring strategy and a regular schedule for desilting operations.”

He highlights that fully functional process ponds are increasingly important elements of a mine’s water balance, as mines actively pursue water conservation efforts to make themselves more self-sufficient. Strategies include more reuse of mine water, so ever-closer management of water flows is necessary.

It is usually possible to observe the bank of silt building up once it fills about 40% of a pond’s volume, he says. This indicates that prompt action is required.

“With our proven technology, the desilting is relatively straightforward and not labour-intensive. It can be conducted effectively by just a couple of operators with the required training,” he says. He notes that recovering the value of the minerals in the silt can often cover the cost of desilting, with many mines being designed to recycle the sediment back into their process plants.

Choosing whether to contract-out the desilting function or conduct it in-house will depend on each mine’s conditions and preferences, says Vine. Integrated Pump Rental can provide the desilting service on a turnkey contract basis or rent the necessary equipment to the mine. For some mines, it might make sense to invest in their own SlurrySucker unit.

“We work with customers to find the right solution, assessing their detailed requirements before making a proposal,” Vine says. “Where mines wish to conduct the work themselves, we can train their staff and fully support the equipment with prompt parts availability and all the necessary engineering and maintenance services.”