Chemical Solutions Enhance Productivity and EfficiencyMon, 10/21/2013 - 15:12
Mining companies are increasingly eager to adopt best practices that prioritize safety and environmental performance, while helping to optimize production and improve operational efficiency. Ashland Water Technologies, a commercial unit of Ashland Inc., is a leading global supplier of specialized chemicals that are used by customers around the world to optimize production, protect assets and minimize environmental impact.
Ashland Water Technologies offers an extensive product portfolio that includes a broad range of processes and water treatment chemicals for the mining industry. “Historically, the Ashland Water Technologies business model was oriented more along product lines and geography; however, in the last year we have realigned our organization according to markets, so that today we have a global team exclusively dedicated to the mining industry,” says Ángel Pedraza Velazco, Team Leader Ashland Water Technologies at Ashland Services México.
Thanks to the positive outlook in the Mexican mining industry, the country is gaining prominence in Ashland’s global mining activities. Given that the majority of Mexico’s mining operations are in desert areas, Ashland is positioning its water treatment products as a premium solution for the country’s mine operators. “Ashland has always been known for its water treatment products, including its Millsperse™ antiscalants, boiler and cooling water treatment programs, and process flocculants and coagulants. We have recently expanded our product offering, placing major emphasis on products that increase mineral recovery and process throughput,” says Andrés Robles Osollo, the company’s former Corporate Accounts and Territory Mining Manager for Mexico and Central America.
Ashland offers specific chemical solutions for different mining operations, which are not only focused on safety but also on supporting practices that are less damaging to the environment. Ashland delivers portable monitoring units that measure dust levels throughout the crushing process. As dust control is becoming increasingly important for mining companies because of dust-related respiratory problems, Ashland has developed a product line of specialized chemicals that effectively provide dust control while reducing water consumption. As Robles Osollo explains: “The dust control products drastically reduce both the amount of water needed to control the dust and the frequency of application, which provides the added benefit of being an environmentally friendly solution.”
In other areas such as flotation Ashland offers different chemicals for improving processes, and is also poised to launch a new product line. “Flocculants are used for both mill water treatment and dewatering processes, and antiscalants are used in the process of treating mill water and heap leaching, to avoid numerous operational issues related to calcium sulfate or calcium carbonate scaling in piping, pumps, emitter piping, solution ponds, and other areas throughout the mine. We have also introduced several new Zalta™ antiscalants this past year, designed for low pH and high temperature operations, both of which are issues in the marketplace,” adds Pedraza Velazco.
Though Ashland does not usually customize its products for individual Mexican mines, it does support its customers in selecting the best products for specific applications, based on the ore mineralogy and operational practices on each mining facility. In addition, the company also helps its clients to identify problems, and provides real-time monitoring and control services once solutions have been implemented. This highlights the transition Ashland is undergoing, moving from being a provider of specialized chemicals to becoming a provider of integrated solutions.
According to Pedraza Velazco, safety has always been a core value for Ashland in all of the products and programs that the company provides: “Every Ashland employee is engaged in safety programs and we are guided by principles of responsible care. These principles guide not only our safety efforts, but also our focus on environmental concerns and the responsible manner in which we handle and transport our products.” As a consequence, adds Robles Osollo, this safety culture also transfers to any mining facility with which Ashland is involved. The company’s Behavior-Based Safety Observations program, which helps to recognize potentially unsafe situations before they occur, is another example of Ashland’s commitment to improving safety in all of its operational practices.
In recent years Ashland has directed its attention towards developing products that increase industrial productivity and reduce environmental impact. Its research and development activities relating to specialized chemicals for mining have focused on three main areas, which include: components that can improve mineral recovery and plant throughput; compliance with environmental, health and safety standards through the use of more specialized products; and chemicals that are developed by means of renewable feedstock. For flotation applications, for example, increased emphasis is being placed on using renewable materials, stepping away from petroleumbased chemicals. In the area of solid liquid separation, the company’s approach is slightly different. “Here, the focus is clearly on plant throughput improvement and our new products, such as Ashland’s Zalta™ viscosity aids and filtration aids that allow increased production rates and maximized water recovery, and conservation and recycling using existing equipment,” says Pedraza Velazco.
Ashland is excited about the promising future of the Mexican mining industry, given the vast amount of resources that are still unexplored in the country. “The market in Mexico is growing as a result of three factors: new technologies, foreign investment and the value of metals. Within Mexico, there are a tremendous number of new projects,” says Robles Osollo. “For Ashland, we must work hard to keep up with this growth.” The company plans to continue investing in products that deliver innovation and efficiency while enhancing safety, reducing potential health hazards and improving environmental performance. These products will include applications to target the water management challenges that the Mexican mining industry currently faces, such as improving rates of water recycling and water use optimization.
Ashland will also invest in new monitoring and control systems, such as the recently developed OnGuard™ system, in order to keep providing integrated solutions to the Mexican market. The main concern for Ashland right now is finding talented and experienced personnel to support the company’s operations in Mexico. That is one of the reasons why the company is carrying out an ambitious internship program and interacting as much as possible with industry experts and specialists, in order to attract qualified professionals that can help Ashland to maintain its successful track record.