Rodrigo Rivas
Oil and Mining Manager
View from the Top

Efficient Use of Water to Improve Production

By Paloma Duran | Thu, 04/15/2021 - 16:03

Q: What problems does SNF solve in the mining sector and how important is the mining industry for the company?

A: Our main solution for the industry is the separation of solid and liquid in processes involving water. For mining, we specifically offer processes for the recovery of water through backwashing systems. We are responsible for the management, recovery and efficient use of water.

The mining sector needs to recover as much water as possible from its processes, which is done using thicker tanks that require flocculants to function efficiently. SNF offers products that are specific to each mineral, allowing the highest water recovery and preventing any need for the mine to use dam water. The company has collaborated with large mining groups in Mexico, such as Grupo México and Peñoles, and in international projects such as Peñasquito, the Palmarejo mine, Pinos Altos mine and the Campo Morado mine. For SNF, the mining market represents around 18 percent of our global sales and because Mexico is one of the world’s leading producers of gold, silver and copper, the Mexican mining sector represents around 20 percent of our sales in the country.

Q: What differentiates the company’s polymers from others?

A: SNF developed a very interesting patent, which is bio-acrlylamide. This is generally obtained through a petrochemical acrylonitrile process. However, SNF created a unique process using bacteria. This process allows us to obtain acrylamide, which is our raw material for polymers, with a high degree of purity at low cost. This process makes the company highly competitive. SNF supplies more than 48 percent of these polymers worldwide and around 74 percent in Mexico.

Q: What challenges has SNF encountered in the Mexican mining sector?

A: The challenge is that there are many misconceptions about mining and there is political uncertainty regarding concessions and projects. As a result, those who work in the mining sector must make others aware of the benefits mining provides to communities.

Another challenge is COVID-19 because at the beginning of the confinement, mining was not considered an essential activity, which caused the suspension of projects and, therefore, our services. Even though mining is again active, it is still very difficult to visit mining sites, so we have had to update our processes to continue providing a high-quality service.

Q: What benefits does the use of Polyamine and Polydadmac offer the mining sector?

A: Polyamine and Polydadmac are organic coagulants that are widely used in water treatment and in the paper industry. Recently, SNF found a very interesting use for them in the mining sector. Today, there is greater demand for the finer grinding of minerals, which makes the separation processes more complex. SNF has found that these types of coagulants increase the separation and recovery of water, which is used more in backwashing where it is possible to increase the efficiency of gold extraction. SNF is one of the world’s top producers of these organic coagulants.

Q: How does the company approach the development of new technologies?

A: The company invests around 8 percent of its annual return on research to improve technologies. We also have laboratories in France where we optimize our products and services, which our affiliates then test and analyze in different locations and sectors. An interesting case is Newmont’s Peñasquito, where we introduced sulfonated polymers that have the ability to create low viscosity muds that increase water recovery. This case is interesting because the technology came from the company’s products for the oil sector, where it is used in assisted oil recovery.

Q: What goals does the company want to accomplish in 2021?

A: For this year, the company has new projects, such as the launch of new dispersants that are known in mining as scale inhibitors, which are mainly used in the extraction of gold where pipe blockages are common. This year, the company plans to launch a very competitive product that will be manufactured in our Toluca plant. In addition, SNF seeks to strengthen our position in the mining market by offering the best costs and technologies, while increasing our participation in projects such as Juanicipio, where we have already distributed polymers and built special equipment to dissolve them. Now, we want participate in water recovery using flocculants. We also hope to participate in other projects that demonstrate what we can offer, not only in the mining sector, but also in other industries.

SNF is a global leader in manufacturing water-soluble polymers, SNF has developed a range of more than 1,000 products that help to preserve natural resources, encourage recycling, and improve industrial process efficiencies.

Paloma Duran Paloma Duran Journalist and Industry Analyst