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Analysis

Handling Water and Energy During Mine Construction

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 17:39

Dewatering systems are not only necessary to void mineralized rock from water. They also play a crucial role in lowering phreatic levels in order to enable the development of both open-pit and underground mines. Dewatering systems must be maintained and monitored in order to foresee and control potential inflows that could endanger the mine’s structure and the lives of those working within the pits or tunnels. Furthermore, humid rock poses a continuous problem for mining equipment, for it can easily damage any device and structure, ranging from drills to excavators, loaders, pillars and ledges.

Agua y Energía en Movimiento is a Mexican company that provides integrated water management and energy supply services to the country’s mining industry. Created in 2011, the company is backed by a group with nearly 90 years of experience in power solutions. Together with Energía en Renta, its sister company, Agua y Energía en Movimiento now services Grupo Mexico, along with other clients, in multiple locations. “We were recently called to solve a water problem in the mine located in San Antonio, Chihuahua,” Antonio Nava, Director General of Agua y Energía en Movimiento, recalls. “This mine flooded two years ago, when the company encountered a huge deposit of water while excavating. The resulting inflow flooded at least five levels of the mine. We provided the submersible electrical equipment that could extract the water from a depth of over 600m and aid the reactivation of this mine.”

Agua y Energía en Movimiento is specialized in the installation and handling of wellpoint systems, which can abate phreatic levels in record time while at the same time save electricity and diesel. The company first requests a soil mechanics survey and a hydrological assessment from the client, providing the necessary liaisons between mining companies and academic institutions for the procurement of these studies. Agua y Energía en Movimiento then performs thorough evaluations and presents mining companies with a draft project. The company’s wellpoint systems and highflow pumps can dewater great extensions of land, such as those occupied by open pit mines. They can also excavate humid rock without sustaining damage and thus avoiding downtime and the consequent extension of dewatering during mine excavation stages. “In terms of man-hours, field dehydration can take a lot of time without the use of systems such as the ones we offer. Time is essential in mining excavations, and so is the correct handling of all resources,” Nava remarks. “We monitor and control humidity in order to prevent breakdowns in excavators and structure collapses. This keeps companies from spending extra resources on gasoline, machinery, wages, and repair works.”

The company is also participating in several mining projects as a power generation and emergency power provider. For example, Agua y Energía en Movimiento is providing full-time energy supply to the Del Toro mine in Durango, in a remote area where the national electricity company has not installed any infrastructure. “In this project, we are currently operating six synchronized devices, each with 1250kW. This equipment is installed in a 6m container, which is half the size of what older generators would need to produce a comparable capacity,” Nava explains. The company is continuously investing in new technology to facilitate the transportation, installation, and performance of power generators for mining companies. Another focus area is the simplification of this equipment, in order to make sure operators are able to efficiently manage it. “Thanks to the advanced and simplified technology we use, we can generate 500kW with six cylinder motors when we previously would have had to use twelve cylinder motors. Regarding control boards, transference processes, synchronization and voltage regulation, all of these tasks can be performed in an easier way due to the technology we use and the systems we install,” Nava says.

Most importantly, Agua y Energía en Movimiento provides specialized personnel on the field for all its clients, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The company’s lighting solutions also allow both their staff and the mine’s personnel to work in any shift. “Our experience, both as a separate company and as a group, has led us to understand that there are few things as essential to the services we provide as quality,” Nava stresses. Therefore his company hires and continually trains highly specialized staff. In this way, the company is prepared to offer both preventative solutions and emergency power system following the collapse of a mine’s electrical infrastructure. “By successfully managing all challenges regarding water and energy management, we allow our clients to focus on the challenges concerning their core business: mineral extraction,” Nava affirms.