When the mining industry is financially struggling, the need to develop a ‘mean and lean’ business model becomes essential. Often overlooked are the innovations and services OEMs are offering to help them streamline their businesses, improve production and generate more cash while protecting the environment, writes Laura Cornish.

Dewatering systems and filtration specialist Filtaquip has aligned its business strategy to assist mining companies remain operationally sustainable, and establish a business service offering aimed at allowing mines to reap the benefits of its equipment and technology without the upfront capital outlay required to purchase it.

“Our priority as a service provider to the mining sector is to assist mining companies to focus primarily on their core business, production. With this in mind, we established a financial lease division that cansupply plant and equipment for up to 60 months, to approved customers, on a capital lease contract,” says Filtaquip MD, Kobus Boshoff.

“This allows us to offer tailor-made financial packages to suit our clients’ needs. We saw the opportunity for off-balance sheet funding for equipment, which doesn’t form part of mine’s core business or which has perhaps not been budgeted for. This provides them with the flexibility to use premium equipment that they haven’t necessarily budgeted for.” Boshoff explains that the lease process is no different to purchasing a car. After the stipulated lease timeframe, the equipment belongs to its lessee. It can also be paid off in full at any period during the lease period.

Also added to the company’s services is a ‘maintain and operate’ division, which offers plant operations on a cost/tonne basis.

Today, Filtaquip already has its first lease contract in place – it included the supply of a full dewatering plant,which is already installed and in operation. “Our contract for one of the country’s largest coal companies is a milestone achievement for our new business unit. Not only were we provided with an entire turnkey lumpsum contract – from concept, design and upfront testwork, through to installation and commissioning; but we will also operate and maintain the plant as well.”

The plant includes two 1.5 m filter presses, each equipped with 120 plates, complete with discard conveyors and filtrate recovery systems, all fully automated. It can deliver up to 35tph of dewatered coal fines. Recently commissioned, the plant’s filtrate is recycled and reused in the mine, reducing consumption of freshwater by up to 40%.The dry fines product contains a moisture content of less than 20%, meaning it is less environmentally hazardous if discarded to tailings dams or alternatively, in some instances, it can be sold as well.

Filtaquip systems are predominantly aimed at the recycling/recovering of plant effluent water by producing clean water, suitable for reuse in the plant or process, while producing a dry cake, with a moisture content less than 20% which is easy to handle. As Filtaquip designs equipment and processes to suit the customer’s exact requirements, dewatering processes and plants whichcan process in excess of 100tph can be supplied.

“Our systems are perfectly suited to the industry’s growing needs for greater environmental responsibility. We are offering the opportunity to do away completely with settling ponds, which is in line with requirements from the Department of Environmental Affairs. This continues to be a critical industry issue at present which is generating a lot of business for us as a result,” Boshoff outlines.

While Filtaquip designs and manufactures filtration equipment locally, it also partners with a ‘high technology’ (Matec) company in Italy, which ensures continuous evolution of the company’s technology and equipment. The high-pressure technology (HPT) plate and frame filter press design and technology permits the press to work at pressures of up to 16 bar, enabling the unit to process even the most difficult-to-dewater sludges. This press functions without the use of flocculants and is fully automated. An added benefit is increased water recovery as the dewatered fines are drier than those encountered in other types of filter presses.

The company also has extensive experience in the dewatering of precipitates generated in neutralising of acid effluents. Recent results achieved at such an application yielded a gypsum cake with moisture of less than 15% and a press cycle time of less than 14 minutes using only a high-pressure feed pump and no membrane squeeze or core blow. The pump has not required any spare parts for a period of six months.

Fully automated filter presses

“Filtaquip’s philosophy focuses on a search for balance between the productive requirements of a modern company and environmental protection.” The filter press dehydrates the solids in the feed sludge by squeezing all the liquids out of it (up to 90%) by means of a high-pressure feed pump, which provides the driving force for the dewatering process. The products are clear press filtrates suitable for recycling into the process or for further processing, and a dehydrated filter cake, which is easy to handle. These presses have capacities ranging from 10 to 45 000 ℓ/h of solids each.

Press technology features include: finite element design of frames that can withstand hydraulic forces up to 20 bar for extended periods; HPT – feeding up to 16 bar, accelerating the filling of the press chamber and providing exceptional dehydration force; the use of specialised pumps, a clearing cycle of less than four minutes for a 160 plate press, designed and manufactured for filtration purposes; a shaker gasser plate shaking system; proper selection of filter cloth; and a hydraulic system operating pressure of 300to400 bar.