In part 1 of this article, we discussed the design, sizing and layout of drip irrigation systems used in leach mining applications. We will now proceed with looking into the factors that affect the leach lifecycle, and the common mistakes made when employing a leach mining drip irrigation system.
Much like in the design & layout of drip irrigation systems, extraction rates are greatly affected by the experience of the system operator. Apart from designing and commissioning of the appropriate drip irrigation equipment, ensuring high extraction rates and maintaining the irrigation systems life cycle requires proper drip irrigation system maintenance procedures.
Leach Mining Drip Irrigation System Lifecycle
Depending on the amount of dirt and contaminants in the lixiviant solution, drippers in a drip irrigation pipe may clog with time. Therefore the lifecycle of the pipe and dripper are directly related, clogging of many drippers will ultimately render the pipe inoperable and lower extraction rates.
This is a factor that leach mining professionals should take into account when incorporating maintenance procedures. Drippers are bound to clog over time, thus it is important to set a threshold before considering the dripline span inoperable. Field experience has shown that factors such as solution quality, ore type and chemical additives may cause the dripper to clog immediately or last as long as 6 months.
Achieving high extraction rates requires optimal dripline performance, which means repiping of clogged cells. This is considered a small operational cost compared to the gains to be had from achieving extraction rates at or near the expected amount.
An important factor to ensure the longest possible system lifecycle, is the use of drip irrigation pipe with drippers that are custom designed for use in leach mining. The Minoro™ Leach Mining Dripper is a specialized patented dripper by DRTS, specifically developed to offer world class clog resistance and other features, specifically for use in heap leach mining applications.
Common Leach Mining System Design Mistakes
The following points are the most common design and operational mistakes made in leach mining drip irrigation systems:
- Improper maintenance, resulting in continued use of the same dripline despite it having more than the threshold of clogged drippers.
- Not using solution filtration.
- Relying on visual appearance of the leachpad surface to gauge solution distribution, not taking into account that due to capillary action solution will migrate to areas of less saturation.
- Improper housekeeping, such as difficult access for maintenance and negligence of daily routine tasks such as system flushing.
As the saying goes “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, the same is true for properly designing and operating a drip irrigation system for use in the leach mining industry. It is therefore equally important to design a drip irrigation system as it is to place in effect the appropriate monitoring and maintenance procedures.
DRTS @ MiningWorld Russia
DRTS will be exhibiting at the MiningWolrd Russia trade show from April 23 – 25. MiningWorld Russia is one of Russia’s leading mining industry trade shows. The show features the latest technology, machinery & equipment for mining & processing of minerals. Visit DRTS and learn more about our Minoro dripper and how we can help design your next leach mining project. Click here to schedule a meeting at the show.
Visit our booth: Hall 1-3 | Stand C377
Learn More with DRTS
To find out more about leach mining drip irrigation systems, products and project design, contact DRTS to request a free expert consultation with a field expert and receive a custom quote tailored to your needs and budget. Or feel free to learn more about our mining products and services on our leach mining page.