Metso Insights Blog Mining and metals blog Unlocking efficiency and sustainability with water-driven solutions
Mar 5, 2024

Unlocking efficiency and sustainability with water-driven solutions 

Piia Suvio
Piia Suvio
Director, Tailings & Water Product Group
Tomi Ravattinen
Tomi Ravattinen
Product Director, Tailings Filtration, Mining
Metso’s experts address the comprehensive tailings and water-driven solutions that can guide the mining industry towards a more sustainable future.

This article was originally published in Global Mining Review’s January/February 2024 issue.

In the dynamic realm of mining, sustainability and efficiency emerge as pivotal concerns. The imperative for environmentally responsible practices and the persistent quest for heightened productivity prompt mining companies to explore inventive solutions. Metso is positioned at the forefront of this transformative industry as global leader in sustainable minerals and metals processing technologies. Our approach encompasses tailings and water-driven solutions, offering a comprehensive strategy to tackle the challenges and opportunities confronting modern mining. This article delves into four key facets of our strategy:

  • Embracing higher pressures and bigger filters
  • Leveraging digital technologies for water management
  • The economic benefits of tailings processing solutions
  • Service solutions for tailings

Embracing higher pressures and bigger filters

As mines grow, the demand for more efficient dewatering solutions becomes apparent. Metso has innovatively addressed the challenges posed by higher pressures and the need for larger filters. A significant contribution is our high-pressure filtration technology, allowing for the efficient dewatering of tailings at notably higher pressures than conventional methods. This method minimizes the volume of slurry that needs storage, contributing to a more sustainable approach to tailings.

Metso utilizes filtration equipment, including filter presses and pressure filters, designed to meet the rigorous demands of modern mining operations. This not only enhances operational efficiency but also contributes to a reduction in the environmental footprint associated with tailings disposal. Our larger filters, such as the Larox® FFP filtration technology, enable mining companies to process greater volumes of material, increasing overall productivity. Moreover, our expertise in filtration technology ensures that these larger filters are reliable and efficient, minimizing downtime and maintenance costs. 

The combination of high-pressure filtration and larger filters aligns seamlessly with our commitment to sustainability by reducing the amount of water in the tailings and the volume of storage required. This translates to decreased environmental impact and lower long-term costs for mining companies.

Stricter environmental regulations are shifting the focus toward tailings solutions and water resource efficiency.
Stricter environmental regulations are shifting the focus toward tailings solutions and water resource efficiency.

Leveraging digital technologies for water management

In the era of modern mining, digital technologies play a crucial role in optimizing processes and reducing costs. Metso, recognizing the significance of these innovations, integrates them into its solutions, particularly in water management.

Sensors: Advanced sensors are incorporated into our solutions to monitor and control water usage in mining operations. Real-time data from these sensors offers valuable insights into water usage, measuring parameters such as water flow, quality, and levels, which enables informed decision-making and process optimization.

Big data: Analytics, facilitated by Metrics Monitoring and Performance Centers, process the voluminous data generated by mining operations. This aids in identifying patterns and trends, allowing mining companies to gain a better understanding of water consumption and take proactive steps to reduce waste and enhance efficiency.

Digital twins: Digital twin technology enables the creation of a virtual replica of a mining operation. This allows for the simulation of different scenarios that combine operational data and expertise, delivering an insight-driven performance that gives efficient management of variability in mining and metallurgical operations with Geminex™. In the context of water management, digital twins allow for the optimization of water usage, helping miners minimize costs and environmental impact.

Automation and control systems: Our solutions are equipped with advanced automation and control systems, enabling real-time monitoring and control of water-related processes. This ensures efficient water use and mitigates risks associated with overconsumption or water contamination. Advanced control systems, such as their thickener optimizer, improve thickening performance by controlling the key variables of a thickener, including underflow density, the overflow solids content, and the thickener inventory level.

By integrating these digital technologies into their solutions, we empower mining companies to operate more sustainably and efficiently, with reduced water consumption benefitting both the environment and operational costs.

The economic benefits of tailings processing solutions

Beyond the evident environmental and social benefits, Metso’s tailings processing solutions offer economic advantages to mining companies, making them a win-win for both the industry and the planet. The benefits and advantages conveyed are explained below.

Reduced environmental liabilities: Traditional tailings storage can lead to long-term environmental liabilities, including the risk of dam failures and water contamination. Our solutions, with their focus on dewatering and dry stacking, significantly reduce these liabilities. This, in turn, minimizes the financial risks associated with potential environmental damage and costly cleanup efforts. As part of our Planet Positive offering, the thickener and clarifier Reactorwell™ feed system ensures low flocculant usage, bringing significant environmental and cost efficiencies to operations.

Up to 85% reduced plant footprint with compact and efficient design of Inclined Plate Settler (IPS).
Up to 85% reduced plant footprint with compact and efficient design of Inclined Plate Settler (IPS).

Lower operating costs: Efficient dewatering reduces material volume, leading to lower transportation, storage, and maintenance costs. An extensive conveying and stacking portfolio leads to lower transportation costs and reduced storage and maintenance requirements. The comprehensive and versatile range of slurry pumping solutions also improves slurry handling efficiency, minimizes operating costs, and increases the overall productivity of the entire plant.

Improved resource recovery: We have a track record for innovation, with a diverse portfolio of thickening and clarifying products that not only remove water efficiently but also enable better recovery of valuable minerals from the tailings. This enhanced resource recovery can significantly boost a mining company’s revenue by turning waste into profit.

Enhanced product quality: Dewatered tailings are typically more stable and easier to handle. This can lead to improved product quality and fewer product losses, ultimately increasing the revenue generated from mining operations.

Optimized water usage: By reducing water consumption and optimizing water-related processes, mining companies can cut their water-related costs. The possibility of treating and reusing process water results in lower fresh or raw water intake. Additionally, efficient water management can mitigate the risks of water shortages or restrictions, further protecting the bottom line. 

Community and regulatory approval: Responsible tailings practices that prioritize the environment and community well-being can lead to quicker project approvals and reduced regulatory hurdles. This can expedite project development and reduce associated costs.

Financing alternatives: Metso offers alternative financing models to assist in funding large tailings equipment or plants with extended payment terms. This enables customers to focus on their business’ cash flow while ramping up a state-of-the-art dry-tailings solution.

Metso has end-to-end thickening, filtration, pumps and material handling portfolio.
Metso has end-to-end thickening, filtration, pumps and material handling portfolio.

Metso service solutions for tailings

Metso’s tailings services provide a comprehensive solution from investment through the entire plant life cycle, ensuring that mining companies receive tailored solutions that align with their sustainability goals. This four-phase approach supports sites at every stage.

Solution planning: We ensure the equipment meets or exceeds operational requirements. The integrated programs, including KPIs and cost-per-ton commitments with the best operational cost, enhance profitability while reducing operating costs and risks. 

Operational planning: Looking ahead, we provide training, spare parts, equipment testing, maintenance strategy, shutdown planning, and more. Our experts ensure a smooth production start-up and quicker ramp-up with customizable LCS packages. 

Operational excellence: During this phase, we offer continuous improvement with lower costs and risks. Our global team of industry professionals uses plant data to optimize processes, improve recoveries, and reduce energy, chemical, and water consumption. 

Modernization and extension: Metso offers cost-effective, sustainable solutions to prolong a plant’s life. Upgrading equipment with the latest technology increases capacity and profitability. Refurbishments restore and optimize equipment to its original condition, ensuring continued production. 

Our solutions, coupled with comprehensive services, can guide the mining industry towards a more sustainable and economically viable future. In the face of growing demand for larger mines, Metso showcases that responsible mining is not only possible, but can also be more profitable, redefining the future of mining one sustainable step at a time.

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