Aggressive Sludge Treatment

Aggressive gold sludge: special pump technology delivers long service life without the addition of water

Global demand for gold and silver remains as high as ever. Precious metals are not only sought after by investors, but are indispensable materials in modern industry.       



However, mining these resources places machines under extreme stress and can increase the high price of the raw material. The sludge of crushed, gold-bearing stone that is transported for chemical extraction, for example, is extremely abrasive and can destroy pumping systems within a few days. Adding water does make it possible to convey the product, but also increases the effort required in the gold concentration process.  



In search of alternatives, a pump from another producer was installed in a mining region on a trial basis. However, the pump housing was completely destroyed within just two days. The high abrasiveness of the gold sludge was to blame. The stone particles in the sludge behave like sandpaper, particularly at high speeds, and wear away all surfaces extremely quickly – until the system fails completely.    



This effect can only be reduced by particularly smooth pumping at an economically viable volume, as further tests with a NEMO® progressing cavity pump demonstrated. To achieve a system with as long a service life as possible, despite heavy wear, the designers at NETZSCH selected tungsten carbide for the rotor. Tungsten carbide, with a scratch hardness of 9.5 on the Mohs scale, is almost as hard as diamond and is therefore scarcely affected by the grinding of the crushed stone. SBE, a nitrile material, was used for the stator. It is similarly extremely wear resistant, but also soft enough to prevent the points of contact with the rotor from wearing out too quickly. The progressing cavity pumps are also low power consumers and are easy to clean and maintain, which in turn reduces operating and maintenance costs. However, it is the durability of the pumps which is decisive when it comes to conveying gold. In the first test, the pump ran for three months without damage to the stator or rotor. The mine operator has since installed further three NEMO® pumps with an average service life of approximately 3.5 months. The service life exceeds the life cycle of earlier centrifugal pumps, which were completely worn out after three months, despite the addition of water.


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NETZSCHNEMO® progressing cavity pump
MediumGold sludge
Throughput volume10 m³/h
Rotations speed130 U/min
Pressure9 bar

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