Processing water from an open pit

A Mexican gold mine required a number of products and services for the facility's process pump applications. It was important that the pumps could handle the abrasive mine water and could adapt to varying conditions. A reclaim water pumping system provided the answer and enabled water to be reused throughout the facility.

The 900 horsepower vertical turbine pumps are situated on the Minera Penasquito mine's barge.
The 900 horsepower vertical turbine pumps are situated on the Minera Penasquito mine's barge.

During the third quarter of 2009, a new grass roots gold mine opened in the State of Zacatacas, Mexico. GoldCorp's Minera Penasquito mining project was soon to become the largest open pit mine in Mexico and a significant contributor to its annual production and profits. The huge project encompasses traditional mining, crushing, grinding and flotation circuits of sulphide ores. Significant by-products of silver, zinc and lead add considerably to the viability and profitability of the mineral processing facility.

Quadna, Inc, in conjunction with M3 Engineering and Technology Corp of Tucson, Arizona, USA, received multiple orders to provide products and services for several of the process pump applications found in this massive mining facility. The largest single order Quadna received was for the reclaim water pumping system, which returns water from the tailings pond to the plant for use in various process.

The system consisted of eight barge-mounted ITT Goulds vertical turbine pumps equipped with 900 horsepower GE motors. The pumps and motors are located in the tailings pond and are gravity fed to the processing plant. The pumps deliver 10,000 gallons of water per minute each, or a maximum of 80,000 gpm, to a secondary booster pump station which houses eight additional Goulds VIC-T 1000 HP can-type vertical turbine pumps. The system produces a total flow of more than 100 million gallons of water per day which is reused continuously. Additional make-up water is added to the system, as needed.

According to Mike Dwyer, Quadna sales engineer, the process required pumps which would not only handle the abrasive nature of the dirty mine water, but would also be adaptable to varying conditions over the estimated 22-year life of the mine. Quadna's solution was to provide multi-stage turbine pumps which could be de-staged at future intervals as the tailings pond levels rise and the pump system head requirements decrease over the life of the mine. In addition, Quadna recommended, and provided, special chrome oxide bearing and shaft surfaces that will greatly extend the wear life of the pump components.

M3 Engineering and Technology Corp designed the plant, purchased the materials and managed construction of this massive project for several years. On 22 March 2010, Goldcorp began celebrating what would soon become the largest mine in Mexico and one of the most important mines in Goldcorp's Penasquito portfolio. The US$1.7 billion investment made by GoldCorp in the Penasquito mine is one of the most important in the domestic mining sector in Mexico in the past two decades, and will position Mexico as one of the five largest gold producers in the world and the most important silver producer. Furthermore, it will generate 2,500 direct jobs and 12,500 indirect jobs.

In the second quarter of 2010, a second sulphide line, which will further expand production capabilities, was completed. The annual production of the mine over its lifetime will produce approximately 500,000 ounces of gold, 30 million ounces of silver and more than 400 million pounds of zinc. GoldCorp's Penasquito property is the largest open pit mine in Mexico.

With gold and other commodity prices continuously on the rise, the plant's timing was perfect.