Finding a smelter pump for processing ore

At the smelter of a platinum group metals producer in South Africa, a new pump was required to transfer highly abrasive materials and keep the slurry in motion during the processing of ore. The company decided to install three peristaltic pumps designed to withstand the demands and capacity of pumping slurries.

The Waterval smelter plant in Rustenburg, South Africa.
The Waterval smelter plant in Rustenburg, South Africa.

Miningis a tough, uncompromising process and the industry requires a pump that can work in these conditions. A pump must be reliable and perform as expected, when expected. This requires a pump that can move large volumes of heavy, abrasive product over great distances and for long periods of time, quickly and with little need for maintenance.

Anglo Platinum Ltd, part of Anglo American plc, is a producer of platinum group metals (PGMs). Much of the PGM ore is processed at centralized smelters, and this is the case at its Waterval smelter plant in Rustenburg, South Africa.

Finding a durable pump

As a result of various changes to the processes at the smelter, the company required a pump that could transfer highly abrasive materials and also keep the slurry in motion, meaning the pump would be operating constantly for long periods of time.

In 2006, decisions were made to buy and install three Verderflex® 125 pumps at the Waterval plant. Div de Villiers, engineering specialist at the Waterval Smelter, chose the Verderflex® peristaltic pump from Verder Pumps Ltd as the pump is renowned for its durability, and designed to withstand the demand and capacity of pumping slurries. With this product there is no opportunity for the product to settle as the smooth pumping action keeps the slurry in suspension.

Perfect match

Robday Mining Supplies, the local partner of Verder Pumps SA (Pty) Ltd, provide miningsupplies to most of the mines in the Rustenburg area of South Africa, where the Waterval Smelter plant is based, and so were involved with the supply of the pumps.

“The VF125 pump, the largest pump in the Verderflex® peristaltic range can cope with the toughest of pumping tasks, such as the platinum slurry at the Waterval Smelter plant, with the greatest of ease.” states Robday MiningSupplies Managing Director Ritchie Lamb.

“After a strategic consultation with Robday MiningSupplies, three VF125 pumps were acquired for the plant. The offloading pump, transfers the concentrate from the trucks to the tank, previously took one hour 45 minutes, and using the VF125 this offloading has cut right down to 20 minutes. The conditioner pump, working the hardest at 10 hours per day, provides circulation within the process, keeping the slurry in suspension and ensuring no sediment to settle. The transfer pump transfers the slurry 600 m to the filter plant. The conditioner pump works approximately 10 hours day the other two pumps only operate four to five hours a day when the slurry needs to be pumped. The pumps are limited to 50 m3/h for SG of 1.7 even though the pump has a capacity to pump up to 80 m3,” commented Pieter Gresse, Waterval Smelter Fitter.

Positive feedback

Gresse, who has been with the tollbay smelter plant for 11 years, has reported that the pumps are operating smoothly, with only the regular maintenance that has to be performed on the hoses. “We are extremely happy with the pumps' operation,” he confirms.

In the 17 years that de Villiers has been with Anglo Platinum, he says that he has never received such outstanding service, as he has from Robday MiningSupplies. “We are in an extremely fortunate position to be receiving such professional expertise and product knowledge from Robday. Since becoming the plant's preferred service provider eight months ago, the plant has benefited tremendously from the sound pumping knowledge from the miningsuppliers.”

Furthermore, with the recommendation from Robday, a VF100 pump was recently delivered to the UG2 Concentrator, the newest plant in the area by the same operation. “This is the first of the Verder range of pumps at the particular plant. In time, the durability of Verder's quality pumps will break the competitor stronghold at the plant,” commented Ritchie Lamb.

Moreover, de Villiers was so impressed by the quality of Verder's pumps that Verder's range of pumps will gradually replace the existing competitor ones when coming across major repairs and/or modifications at the smelter.

Due to the increase in demand on the pumping of slurries at the smelter, de Villiers has advised Robday that a second tollbay plant is on the cards and this new plant is expected to be built next to the existing plant, will double in size, and will use 6 VF125 pumps to accommodate the capacity.