Are Aging Mines System Problems or Just Pump Issues?
Well-established copper mine leaders who are also long-time GIW Industries Inc. customers recently came to us with a problem: While their GIW pumps were doing their jobs, they needed to make some major improvements to their aging system to stay solvent.
“They came to GIW and said they needed to improve their operations, reduce downtime, and reduce costs,” says GIW Product Manager Scott Gillum.
The interesting part about this project is that the customer was already happy with their GIW pumps, but after 20 to 30 years of wear, it was time to improve the entire system’s efficiency.
“This wasn’t a situation where the customer was upset,” Gillum says.
In fact, it was quite the opposite.
“Because of our successes with them over a long period of time, we had the opportunity to work together as partners to make their system even better,” Gillum says. “They asked us to design a pump that exceeded what our current pumps were already doing, so we took the knowledge that we’ve gained in dealing with hard-rock applications for many, many years and we applied it to help out this long-standing client.”
Digging deeper: Offering solutions that go beyond the pump
As always, GIW experts jumped on this challenge. Instead of selecting an off-the-shelf pump, engineers took the client’s entire system into consideration and enhanced a product to their exact specifications and desires.
First, GIW professionals looked at production issues and quickly noticed that mine personnel were operating their pumps in low-flow conditions.
“The pump was designed to operate in a certain operational bandwidth, and the pump was operating below that minimum,” Gillum explains.
The solution to this problem may sound simple — boost the pump’s efficiency by increasing flow — but Gillum and his team knew it wasn’t really that simple.
“When you’re dealing with mill circuit applications, there are variables that fluctuate what the flow rate is and the concentration of slurry, and we take that into account,” he says. “We’re not designing for a utopian application — we want to design for real-world applications. The application always comes first.”
In this case, the mill circuit application is extreme. That means pumps are handling very large, abrasive particles that cause them to wear at a very rapid rate. However, this harsh environment doesn’t just affect the pumps — it also wears down the entire system.
To ensure they were designing the ideal pump for the specific application and environment, GIW engineers worked closely with the customers to figure out how to optimize it. They looked at operating data for extended periods to track everything and find trends, and they revisited various pump designs and scenarios to find the perfect fit.
“We came up with a target operational baseline that the customer wanted to operate at, and then we fit a pump to that baseline,” Gillum says.
This entire process took almost a year.
“It takes a lot of time and effort to look at an entire system and see how a slurry pump fits into that picture. So many system variables go into the successful operation of a pump,” Gillum says. “We’re not selling nuts and bolts; we’re selling an engineered product that’s going to operate in a very unique fashion based on the unique system it’s operating in.”
The perfect pump: MDX
The GIW MDX pump line, a derivation of the existing LSA pump, has been in production for multiple years and is used for severe-duty applications.
Because it’s been successfully installed in other hard-rock applications around the globe, the GIW engineers knew the MDX would be a great fit for this copper mine as well.
Various design features make this low specific-speed pump perfect for this mining application:
- Patented Slurry Diverter — Excludes particles from the nose-gap area, dramatically increasing suction liner life by limiting particle recirculation.
- 5-Vane Impeller Design — Oversized impeller shrouds, deep clearing vanes, and patented inlet design work to keep particles out of the nose-gap area.
- Base Circle — The deep-base circle design of the casing minimizes particle impact, reducing abrasive wear.
- Proprietary Materials — The pump wear components are manufactured from proprietary white-iron materials that resist wear.
- Adjustable Suction Liner — This pump also capitalizes on an adjustable suction liner, which allows the operator to maintain an optimal nose gap while the pump is operating and dramatically increase pump wear potential.
All these features work together to extend the pump’s wear life and, ultimately, boost the mine’s efficiency — significantly.
“What we ended up actually delivering was about 40% in excess of what was promised,” Gillum says.
He attributes this success to the partnership between the customer and GIW professionals and hopes it serves as an example of what GIW experts are able — and willing — to do to make their customers’ processes more efficient, manageable, and profitable.
“We’re system engineers who happen to make a pump,” Gillum says. “We have the knowledge and years of experience to back it up!”