Tailings, the waste products from mining, can be liquid, solid or a slurry, and may contain toxic substances. To avoid these substances from contaminating water sources or polluting the environment, mines contain them in tailings dams and are required to maintain and monitor them to ensure they remain safe.
When tailings dams fail, the consequences can be lethal, which is why it’s important that drainage systems remain operational and function efficiently. High-pressure jetting equipment can be used to ensure this is the case.
“The way most tailings dams work is that a slurry of mining waste is piped into the dam, and the solids then settle to the bottom. The water is recycled to be used in the separation process again,” explains Sebastian Werner, MD of Werner Pumps, leading manufacturer of high-pressure jetting equipment in South Africa.
“Aside from ensuring that the dam walls are sound, it’s also important to monitor drainage. If the drainage system gets blocked, it can pose major safety risks.”
If the drainage system gets blocked, it causes flow restriction and can affect safety factors such as the degree of saturation in the dam, and phreatic surface levels. Blockages can be caused by anything from algae build-up to mineral deposits.
“To avoid or deal with blockages, regular jet-rodding is recommended,” says Werner. “This entails using high-pressure water jetting equipment to scour the walls of the drainage system to allow water to flow freely by unclogging the pipes. It can also assist in identifying damaged pipes.”
Werner Pumps supplies trailer-mounted high-pressure jetting units, which can be used for cleaning domestic sewer lines, as well as water sandblasting. The units are high-quality, 100% locally manufactured, and customisable for every customer’s specific requirements, with models available for every need. They range from 8 litres per minute to 500 litres per minute, with pressures from 50 Bar to 2800 Bar and power from 2.5kW to 500kW, while the ultra-high-pressure units (such as those used in the tailings cleaning applications) offer 1000 Bar and are also suitable for applications such as rubber and scale removal.
Extras available include a Werner low-water inlet switch, high-pressure jetting hose (20m, 30m or 50m), a high-pressure gun with lance, nozzle holder and fan nozzle, and the Werner small hose reel for smaller diameter hoses, for cleaning of household lines.
“We initially designed the trailer units for domestic applications and smaller sewerage clearing operators and municipalities who were looking for a more cost-effective option than investing in a truck unit, but we’ve found that because they are so easy to transport, they are much lighter and they can get into tight spaces, they are ideal for other niche applications,” says Werner. “We have a customer who uses one of our trailers not only for tailings dam maintenance on the mines, but also for clearing out piping in the boreholes they drill too. The trailer-mounted unit continues to be one of our most versatile offerings.”