Richardt Fangel
Director General
FLSmidth Mexico
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View from the Top

Dry Stack Tailings Solutions for Water Shortages

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 16:02

Given the current market conditions, FLSmidth is taking a two-pronged approach. One is focused on reducing the unit cost of processed tons and the other is providing adequate services to the local industry. Under the current circumstances, new equipment installation has dropped considerably whereas provision of services has maintained its base because production is increasing, according to Richardt Fangel, the company’s Mexico Director General. With a goal to increase its local service offerings to ensure higher uptime of equipment for customers, FLSmidth is constantly focusing on the cost of equipment and has noticed that Mexico has become increasingly attractive for manufacturing. “Innovations carried out on new equipment can provide energy savings and increase recovery rates while helping with the throughput and production,” claims Fangel. “Companies can actually earn money with the substitution of old equipment with newer technology, and combining high uptime with the latest technology ensures our customers can become low-cost producers.”

FLSmidth has also been involved in Goldcorp’s Peñasquito project. Around 80 percent of the equipment in Peñasquito was sourced from FLSmidth, meaning ¡ the mine’s daily process rate of 130,000 tons is the ¡ company’s most important reference in Mexico. Nevertheless, for a global company such as FLSmidth, these success stories are present around the world. “Success only comes after many different operating challenges like a change in the ore grade causing an impact on the process, or operators that are not adequately trained to use the equipment,” Fangel explains. “We work hard to provide the correct solution for our customers, which might include training, changing the installation, or modifying the process but our philosophy is never to abandon a problem.” This mentality led FLSmidth to adjust its local structure, and the service center in Zacatecas is part of this local expansion. “The center is able to offer complete service of a processing plant from primary crushing to filtration,” comments Fangel. “Our local service offerings are part of the FLSmidth life cycle services, where we combine CAPEX and OPEX in one source to benefit the local end user, a concept that ensures high ROI for our customers.”

Although the company normally carries out its own R&D at its Technological Mining Center in Salt Lake City, it is continuously working on projects with global and Mexican clients. This may include its latest dry stack tailings concept or the Next Step rotor, a product that reduces energy use by 20 percent while improving recovery rates. “From time to time, we may collaborate with niche technology providers, and lately we have signed an agreement with BASF on arsenic-challenged copper deposits,” Fangel boasts. “After adequate internal specialist training these solutions are made available to our local customers.” Apart from technologies, FLSmidth also brings new concepts to the market, an example of which is the complete turnkey solution concept. “We have the complete flow sheet technical solution, including the process and equipment, and we can integrate these into a complete process plant on turnkey basis,” he declares.

Historically, Fangel says, Mexico was characterized for its access to relatively inexpensive water compared to other countries, and for that reason there was no economic incentive to invest in water saving technologies. Now that water shortages are increasing due to the vast increases in Mexico’s manufacturing processes, the price for industrial fresh water is increasing fast. “Water is a scarce resource, and mining companies may have conflicting interest with the agriculture sector for the same source,” Fangel comments. “The consequences of this are that mining companies are now more interested than ever in investing in new technology within this area.” In November 2015, FLSmidth participated in the Mining Dialogue between Mexico and the Nordic Countries conference at UNAM, where SEMARNAT, PROFEPA, and various technical Nordic suppliers were able to suggest water efficiency solutions. “We introduced the dry stack concept at this event but there are currently no dry stack guidelines,” Fangel laments. “Our impression from that dialogue was that all stakeholders in the industry are extremely interested in applying new technologies to contribute to water availability solutions.”

Mexico and its mining industry are changing, according to Fangel. Since the mining industry was opened to foreign investment in 1993, there have been increasing numbers of new players coming into Mexico. “With the suppliers’ change in mentality from single equipment manufacturer to complete flowsheet process plant we see a trend of a new customer mindset,” Fangel observes. “Our One Source concept allows us to challenge the division of responsibilities along the chain, and those customers that want to set new standards in the industry should consider the flexiblility that the One Source concept can provide.”