Slurry pipeline

Slurry pipeline

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A slurry pipeline is used in mining to transport
Transport
Transport or transportation is the movement of people, cattle, animals and goods from one location to another. Modes of transport include air, rail, road, water, cable, pipeline, and space. The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles, and operations...

 mineral concentrate from a mineral processing plant near a mine.

Overview


The concentrate of the ore is mixed with water and then pumped over a long distance to a port where it can be shipped for further processing. At the end of the pipeline, the material is separated from the slurry
Slurry
A slurry is, in general, a thick suspension of solids in a liquid.-Examples of slurries:Examples of slurries include:* Lahars* A mixture of water and cement to form concrete* A mixture of water, gelling agent, and oxidizers used as an explosive...

 in a filter press to remove the water. Water is usually subject to a waste treatment process before disposal or return to the mine. Slurry pipelines offer an economic advantage over railroad and much less noise disturbance to the environment, particularly when mines are in extremely remote areas.

Pipelines must be suitably engineered to resist abrasion from the solids as well as corrosion from the soil. Some of these pipelines are lined with high-density polyethylene (HDPE).

Typical materials that are transferred using slurry pipelines include coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

, copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

, iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

, and phosphate
Phosphate
A phosphate, an inorganic chemical, is a salt of phosphoric acid. In organic chemistry, a phosphate, or organophosphate, is an ester of phosphoric acid. Organic phosphates are important in biochemistry and biogeochemistry or ecology. Inorganic phosphates are mined to obtain phosphorus for use in...

 concentrates, limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

, lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

, zinc
Zinc
Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

, nickel
Nickel
Nickel is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile...

, bauxite
Bauxite
Bauxite is an aluminium ore and is the main source of aluminium. This form of rock consists mostly of the minerals gibbsite Al3, boehmite γ-AlO, and diaspore α-AlO, in a mixture with the two iron oxides goethite and hematite, the clay mineral kaolinite, and small amounts of anatase TiO2...

 and oil sands.

Slurry pipelines are also used to transport tailings
Tailings
Tailings, also called mine dumps, slimes, tails, leach residue, or slickens, are the materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction from the uneconomic fraction of an ore...

 from a mineral processing plant after that the ore has been processed to dispose of the remaining rocks or clays.

For oil sand plants, a mixture of oil sand and water may be pumped over a long distance to release the bitumen by attrition. These pipelines are also called Hydrotransport Pipelines.

The 85km Savage River Slurry pipeline in Tasmania
Tasmania
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, was possibly the world's first slurry pipeline when it was built in 1967. It includes a 366m bridge span at 167m above the Savage River. It carries iron ore slurry from the Savage River
Savage River, Tasmania
Savage River is a small Australian mining township located on the West Coast of Tasmania.-History:Government surveyor Charles Sprent discovered Savage River's iron ore deposits in 1877, however the minerals were left untouched for nearly a century due to the difficulty in extracting iron from the...

 open cut mine owned by Australian Bulk Minerals and is still operational as of 2011.

One of the longest slurry pipelines was to be the proposed ETSI pipeline, to transport coal over a distance of 1036 miles (1675 km). It was never commissioned. It is anticipated that in the next few years some long distance slurry pipelines will be constructed in Australia and South America where mineral deposits are often a few hundred kilometers away from shipping ports.

A 525km slurry pipeline is planned for the Minas-Rio
Minas-Rio
Minas-Rio is an iron ore mining project in Brazil. It is one of the world's largest mining projects, and is initially expected to export 26.5 million tonnes of iron ore in 2013, through a 525km slurry pipeline to a port at Açu; production potential is 53 Mtpa or higher.The project was bought by...

 iron ore mine in Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

.

Slurry pipelines are also considered to de-silt or remove silts from deposits behind dams in man-made lakes. After the Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was a powerful Atlantic hurricane. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall...

 disaster there have been proposals to pump silt to the shore and remedy the environment. Proposals have also been made to de-silt Lake Nubia-Nasser
Lake Nasser
Lake Nasser is a vast reservoir in southern Egypt, and northern Sudan, and is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. Strictly, "Lake Nasser" refers only to the much larger portion of the lake that is in Egyptian territory , with the Sudanese preferring to call their smaller body of water...

 in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

 by slurry pipelines as Egypt is now deprived of 95% of its alluvium
Alluvium
Alluvium is loose, unconsolidated soil or sediments, eroded, deposited, and reshaped by water in some form in a non-marine setting. Alluvium is typically made up of a variety of materials, including fine particles of silt and clay and larger particles of sand and gravel...

that used to come every year. These projects to remedy the environment will be very beneficial to the damage caused by large dams and man-made lakes.