The shipment and storage of solid particles is at the core of mineral processing. As ore is ground to liberate the valuable metals, both the concentrate produced and the tailings generated must be handled in a safe and effective manner for both the processing plant, the surrounding environment, and it’s customers.
Typically, the tailings generated are stored behind a reinforced dam where the slurry is deposited and, in some instances, the water is recovered. The management of these tailings is a ubiquitous component of all mining operations and fundamentally critical to the operational capability of the site. The inability to properly contain them can have disastrous implications for the environment due to liquefaction, a physical phenomenon where loosely packed waterlogged solids lose the frictional force between them causing the solids to move like a fluid.
Once these tailings begin to move within the dam, the forces exerted against the dam wall can cause it to break, spilling out the tailings. There are several well-known examples of these failures in the industry and the catastrophic implications for the plant, its workers, the environment and the neighboring communities are well documented.
Concurrently, the shipping of bulk cargo concentrate suffers from these same stability issues. During the shipping process, the air and moisture between the solids sits in the void space between them allowing for the frictional force between particles to maintain some physical shear strength. As the solids compact, the space between these particles reduces, and the remaining water exerts a pressure on the solids that overcomes this frictional force, causing the cargo to move like a liquid. This effect can cause the cargo to shift within the vessel causing it to list and potentially capsize.
Allonnia aims to solve these challenges through the use of biological processes well known in soil aggregation. Microorganisms, found ubiquitously in the environment, are known to generate calcium carbonate under certain conditions. We are inspired by these bacteria that secrete calcite in the interstices of soil particles creating a soil agglomerate.
We aim to utilize these known biochemical pathways to provide stockpile protection from the elements, freeing up time for operators, reducing the need for stockpile maintenance and reducing off-site discharge of stockpiled material.
We envision a product that can be applied to the surface of these stockpiles using readily available spraying technology typically used for dust control.
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