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Canadian mine solves pump vibration problem with Xylem solution

Glencore-Xstrata is one of the many mining operations active in the Sudbury basin, located in Northern Ontario. At the company’s Nickel Rim South Mine, pumping water from a pond to a smelter is a key part of the operations. Vibrations in the pumps, however, were leading to high maintenance costs and downtime. Using vertical turbine pumps from Xylem, the company now has an efficient, trouble-free solution.

Located 15 kilometers outside of Sudbury, Glencore-Xstrata’s Nickel Rim South mine is currently the largest mining operation in the basin. Production at the site began in 2007, with nickel being the primary ore mined at the underground site.

The basin itself was formed more than 1.8 million years ago when a meteor struck creating the second largest known impact crater on Earth, measuring 62 kilometers long, 30 kilometers wide and 15 kilometers deep. This resulted in a crater full of metals such as nickel, copper, zinc, gold and silver from the melted rock below.

These metals were not discovered until 1883 when blasting and excavation for the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway revealed high concentrations of nickel and copper deposits near the edge of the Sudbury basin. Today, the Sudbury area has one of the highest concentrations of production mines in the world.

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The challenge

In late 2013, the South Mine faced the challenge of pumping reclaimed water from its Nickel Rim South Moose pond to its distant smelter. The previously installed pumps were costly to maintain and unreliable due to vibrations in the setup. Lack of local support also made it problematic to source spare parts, leading to extended downtime for the pumps.

The mine’s operations staff was looking for options and reached out to see what Xylem’s local Sudbury branch could offer in the way of an alternative to the inefficient and expensive pumps.

The challenge involved not only developing a solution capable of pumping the reclaimed water over 13.7 kilometers away to the main nickel smelter, but also overcoming over 40 psi of static head. In addition, the proposed solution would need to be robust enough to stand up to the wear and tear brought on by 24/7 operation of the pumping system.

The Xylem solution

After a thorough examination of what was causing the vibration problems and pump maintenance issues, the proposed Xylem solution consisted of a Goulds Water Technology VIT vertical turbine pump (Model VIT-FFFM SIZE 12CHC: 4 STAGES with discharge, column and bowl in 316 SS) driven by a 100Hp premium efficiency motor.

Vibration issues were addressed by installation modifications, including changes to the concrete base and sole plate. With the modification in place, the vertical turbine pump was placed into the well and secured. A trial period was agreed upon to test the ability of the turbine pump to stand up to the challenging conditions.

Worry-free, constant pumping

The VIT vertical turbine pump was first run during a two-month period. The pump ran constantly to provide process water to the nickel smelter, achieving the desired flow with no service issued or call outs. The peace of mind achieved with the installed Xylem pump led to the mine adding another two pumps to provide additional flow and backup.

The final system is comprised of two pumps in service with one pump on standby. With the pumping system supported by the local Xylem Sudbury branch, service concerns were also minimized knowing that support was only minutes away if parts or routine maintenance were needed. The mine’s superintendent, Rodney Withers, was very pleased with the results, commenting that “the pumps were virtually worry free and purring along smoothly.”

by Jason Nelson and Terry Cormier