Success Story 5

Nitrate Operation

Chile

Max-Emitter improves mineral extraction, improves pregnant leach solution (PLS) grade and reduces fresh water consumption by 50% allowing the mine to double the leach area and double mineral production.

After testing almost every drip emitter manufactured, management could not find a drip emitter that could operate very long before plugging. It seems that nitrate operations have a large quantity of suspended solids, dissolved solids, etc. in their leach solution making drip emitter use very difficult. Management's goal to convert from sprinkler leaching to drip emitters was to reduce leach solution evaporation rates so additional leach areas could be brought under leach with the existing fresh water supply, effectively increasing mineral production.

A Max-Emitter test was tried on a complete new leach area with the same application rate used with the normal sprinkler leaching. The Max-Emitter test area was watched closely throughout the test because everyone was expecting it to plug as ever other drip emitter tested before it had. However, when the leach cycle was complete, the Max-Emitter test area did not have any significant plugging.

Mineral PLS grade from the heap had been much higher than ever experienced with sprinkler leaching, leading to improvements in the extraction plant's recoveries and lowering operating costs. Additionally, evaporation losses were calculated to be almost half of that experienced with sprinklers, fresh water consumption would be cut in half for each new leach area.

Therefore, the test was much more than a complete success. Not only would the Max-Emitter now allow the operation to leach twice as much area as before, management's original goal - but the PLS solution sent to the extraction plant would have a much higher PLS grade which reduces operating costs and increases mineral production much more than expected.

 
 

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