Stainless steel pumps emerge in mining environments

There is a reason why an industry leader like Xylem remains ahead of the competition after several decades. 

Xylem has grown over a century to become a Fortune 1000 water technology company that continues to solve industry challenges, backed by a research and development (R&D) department that provides solutions for an evolving environment.

This year, the company has allocated a significant amount of investment to R&D to take its capability in solving water issues to another level. 

Such a commitment is one factor that motivated Xylem business development manager – mining and industrial, Kerrin Foster, to spend a few years at the company’s headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden in 2007.

Foster, who began his career at Xylem in 1993, says he’s always been proud that the company is constantly looking for ways to improve its product range and customer experience. 

“Xylem leads in water technology R&D. Such commitment to innovation has, for example, given birth to the extension of the range of Flygt stainless steel pumps late last year,” he tells Australian Mining.

“When I started with this company nearly 30 years ago, we didn’t have the full range of stainless steel pumps available in the market. 

“When you did get your hands on one, it wouldn’t be a pump designed for mine water dewatering so they weren’t as robust and able to handle the harsh environments that underground mining present.”

Xylem’s range of stainless steel pumps respond to problems that are found across Australia, from the mining region of Far North Queensland to the Goldfields of Western Australia. 

The range combats acid mine drainage that occurs when water and air interact with minerals in the rock that can be exposed during the mining operation. 

This leads to oxidation which can create sulphates, which then dissolve in water creating an acid solution, making Xylem’s corrosion-resistant stainless steel pumps an ideal choice to resist such extreme environments. 

”We see it in copper mines, particularly, but it can also happen in zinc and gold mines for example,” Foster says.

“When water with low pH is found in a sump or at the bottom of a shaft, standard pumps would suffer accelerated rate of wear, heavy corrosion and high incidence of failure.

“Mining companies have traditionally had to bear with the failure in the midst of running a 24/7 mining operation and endure excessive repair costs.”

This situation has inspired Xylem to further develop its range of stainless steel pumps to overcome more problem applications and reduce company operating costs. 

Xylem supplied a copper mine in Australia with its all-stainless steel Flygt BS2700 series pump, which Foster says instantly changed the situation.

It also resulted in greater reliability and service life, significantly reducing the operator’s maintenance and operating costs. 

The range of stainless-steel pumps is also designed to come to the rescue in hyper saline applications, where premature pump failures occur due to material incompatibility. In such hyper saline scenarios where corrosion rates are accelerated and major components wear a lot quicker, a standard pump’s intended life would be slashed considerably. 

In this case, Xylem’s Flygt BIBO 22-kilowatt 2190 and Flygt BIBO 37-kilowatt 2201 stainless steel pumps virtually compete with the performance of the classic Flygt BIBO range, but with a far superior material advantage.

The pumps have currently tripled the previously experienced service life and counting, with no signs of distress, according to Foster.

Such performance materially trumps previous failure rates, which typically occurred between four and six weeks.

Foster says the Flygt BIBO stainless-steel pumps are backed by the strength of the classic BIBO dewatering pumps only to offer superior material, design and corrosion resistance benefits. 

“A majority of the pump’s components are constructed with the CD4MCu Duplex stainless steel. Duplex stainless steel has a high resistance to corrosion, particularly suitable for applications where there are high levels of chlorides or salinity where the water could be more than seven times saltier than sea water,” he explains.

“The 316 stainless steel is not as corrosion resistant for an environment such as this. The pumps above have provided more than twice the service life, yet we haven’t even seen the end.” 

Xylem’s stainless steel pumps are also a welcome solution in tails decant applications, where there could be acidic or alkaline conditions and chemical residue present in the water following ore processing.

Foster says the Flygt BIBO 2190 and BIBO 2201 pumps can be particularly helpful in recovering water from tailings decant due in part to their rugged hydraulic design.

“In mining, you don’t want someone to be watching the equipment at all times. You want a solution that will require very little care or interaction, so we provide the best solutions for their water challenges,” Foster says.

While mining companies have used the solutions available to them in the past, Xylem is changing the game by better equipping them to stand up to the rigours of harsh operating environments in the future.

Xylem, the owner of 3000 patents, is at the forefront of robust water technology solutions as it prioritises reliability above all else.  

This story also appears in the May issue of Australian Mining.

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