With the installation of CDE Meta’s latest Australian project, the company is confident a focus on sustainable minerals processing practices will continue to emerge thanks to its novel modular approach.
A culture of sustainability has become contagious in mining and for CDE Meta – CDE Global’s mining-focussed division – that can only point to a promising future.
CDE’s push for sustainable wet minerals processing practices has emerged at a fitting time for mining as the industry pursues new methods to unlock valuable resources.
Sustainable mining now comes in many forms. For CDE, the company’s aim in mining is to maximise product value through modular wet processing solutions, while minimising tailings deposits and reducing environmental impact.
From Northern Ireland origins, CDE’s modular processing plants have gained traction around the world as more mining companies have considered sustainable initiatives, which its solutions are aligned to.
In Australia, the company’s legacy will forever be linked to its inaugural mining project in the country at SIMEC Mining’s iron ore operations in South Australia.
CDE designed, manufactured and installed two plants with a joint capacity of 950-tonne-per-hour of iron ore waste beneficiation for SIMEC at the Iron Baron and Iron Knob sites in the Middleback Ranges.
Commissioned in late 2017, the two plants were designed to convert around 17 million tonnes of low-grade iron ore stockpiled in waste dumps into a saleable product.
The SIMEC project continues to reflect the direction CDE believes the industry will move in, according to CDE Meta head of mining Adam Holland.
He says CDE’s ethos is to support this new world of resources where sustainable practices are an integral part of mining company strategies.
“The purpose of CDE and the culture that the company has, I think, sits alongside how resources around the world are dwindling,” Holland tells Australian Mining.
“In mining, many of the big companies still have a lot of material to dig, but we need to be increasingly mindful about how sustainable those resources are. A lot of the producers are waking up to that and I think that’s where CDE can bring value.”
CDE’s modular, bespoke plants were delivered to the SIMEC sites just 18 months from the receipt of order after being designed and manufactured in Northern Ireland.
The first plant, at Iron Knob, processes stockpiles of low-grade iron ore accumulated since mining commenced in 1930. It is then shifting to the Iron Empress and Iron Baroness scree ore deposits.
“We have taken a waste, low-grade overburden iron ore material at 42 to 55 per cent grades and our plants beneficiate that through washing separation and gravity separation up to 63 per cent, at almost a 50 per cent yield,” Holland says.
“There are a number of opportunities with mining companies who are looking at similar projects using waste and overburden that has gathered over the life of their mines.”
SIMEC’s processing solution features a range of CDE equipment, including the M-Series modular washing plant, AggMax modular logwasher, EvoWash fine washing plant, dry screening Infinity screens, and AquaCycle thickeners, as well as incorporation of some third-party gravity separation equipment.
CDE has encouragingly expanded its Australian presence this year by delivering a wet processing plant at Centrex Metals’ Ardmore phosphate site near Mt Isa in Queensland.
Ardmore is being developed to produce phosphate concentrate, a highly sought-after commodity in the agriculture industry.
The plant, installed in August this year, will wash, scrub and de-slime free-digging ore to produce premium 35 per cent P2O5 and ultra-low cadmium phosphate rock concentrate to be used to manufacture phosphoric acid.
Scheduled to reach full-scale development in 2021, the plant initially has a 70-tonne-per-hour capacity. It is designed for a phase two expansion to double capacity to the equivalent of 800,000 wet tonnes per annum.
In phase one, the start-up plant will provide up to 30,000 tonnes of wet concentrate to a number of Centrex Metals customers.
Created in collaboration with Centrex Metals, CDE has designed the plant using its trademark modular approach in order to facilitate a simple transition to the 140-tonne-per-hour phase two plant.
CDE’s modular approach was an enabling factor for the project. It allowed for the development of a pilot plant requiring minimal civil infrastructure, while being delivered at a capex and opex to support a start-up operation. Each module is carefully designed to be easily dismantled and incorporated into a wider process plant at a later date.
CDE’s modular design also solves many of the problems presented by Ardmore’s remote location by providing flexibility that protects the initial investment when moving to the full-scale plant in two years.
“We have designed the plant to be adaptable so its modules can be broken down and relocated in a different geometric shape,” Holland says.
“That is an advantage of our modular approach, you can use it in a flexible way for a pilot plant, then bring it down and incorporate it into your future plans.
“The fact that each module is pre wired, pre commissioned and tested in controlled conditions in our Northern Ireland factory also de-risks installation on site, leading to a more rapid, safer and cost effective build and commissioning.”
Holland believes CDE’s modular approach is what sets the company apart at both Australian projects and for mining companies it works with around the world.
He says it enables CDE to put its equipment together to deliver a specific solution that is ideally suited to each mine site.
“It’s very collaborative at the start. We provide advice during studies from the beginning and stick with the project as the companies move through feasibility and start production,” Holland says.
“The modules go together in a different way for each customer, allowing us to develop a solution that is bespoke to our customer’s needs. I can say with confidence that each of the 2000-plus plants delivered by CDE worldwide will be unique compared to the next.”
Due to the challenges around water availability, CDE has also supplied the Centrex and SIMEC sites with its AquaCycle technology, a high-efficiency high-rate thickener and water management system that recovers up to 90 per cent of the process water for recirculation.
For Holland, the project has reached a point where it will deliver a sustainable outcome for Centrex Metals, setting the scene for similar opportunities in the future. He hopes it paves the way for other junior miners to capitalise on a modular route to a sustainable and cost effective start-up operation.
“We believe sustainability will be the next revolution in mining where companies will be buying on the strength of sustainable projects in the future, rather than just price and quality,” Holland concludes.
This article also appears in the October edition of Australian Mining.