Image: Los Pelambres Project: Copper tailings and concentrate pipeline system

Minerals & Metals3 min read

Los Pelambres Project: Copper tailings and concentrate pipeline system

Coquimbo Region, Chile
Minera Los Pelambres
1996 - 2013

Minera Los Pelambres (MLP) is a major copper and molybdenum producer in Chile. Our relationship with MLP began in 1996, when we performed a design audit, construction support and commissioning services on the principle tailings pipeline. Our involvement continued to include work with the copper concentrate pipeline, tailings redirection project, and a ground-breaking system audit.

The unlined, 49 kilometre (km), 36/28-inch diameter copper tailings pipeline currently transports 62.3 mt/y of whole tailings from the thickener at the concentrator to Mauro Dam.

Operations also include a 120km, 7-inch diameter copper concentrate pipeline with throughput of 1.5 mt/y and a 60km, 32-inch diameter water reclaim pipeline with a flowrate of 3420 m3/h.

Tailings redirection

In 2001, tailings were being transported to Quillayes Tailing Dam, which was nearing capacity, via gutter from the concentrator plant to the cyclone station and other unique unloading points of the tranque. We were retained to evaluate the feasibility of delivering tailings to two new dams, Quebrada Seca and Mauro.

Our scope of work initially included laboratory testing of the tailings, conceptual design and cost estimates. Based on this work, we were subsequently selected to perform basic engineering when Mauro Dam was selected as the new disposal site.

Our scope in the redirection project also included:

  • Trade-off studies to select project configuration
  • Hydraulic design of system options: open channel flow and closed pipe system
  • Design of a tailings dredge/reclaim system in the Quillayes Dam
  • Design of the tailings pipeline, including pump and choke stations
  • Design of the water reclaim pipeline, including two pump stations
  • Construction support
  • Start up

Our control systems group also designed the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and telecommunications systems for the entire project, including tailings distribution within the new Mauro Dam.

This phase was completed in 2008.

Software solutions

In 2008, we installed our proprietary Pipeline Advisor™ software package on the copper concentrate pipeline system for leak detection and operations optimisation. The following year we installed the Advisor on the tailings pipeline system as well.

System expansion

In 2006, MLP began work to increase the system mineral processing rate from 120 kt/d to 175Kt/d. Our involvement in this phase of the project included:

  • Basic, detail engineering, construction support and commissioning of a new 28-inch tailings transport system
  • Basic engineering, detailed engineering, construction support and start-up for a booster station at km 80 on the concentrate pipeline
  • Modification of choke station on existing tailings pipeline

The expansion was commissioned in 2010.

Pipeline integrity audit

In 2009, we continued our involvement with MLP when we were selected to perform a ground-breaking pipeline integrity audit — the first such audit to be performed on a tailings and concentrate pipeline system in Chile.

The audit included recommendations for updates which would optimise operations and minimise the pipeline’s impact on the community and environment.

Initially, our work included conceptual design and CAPEX for the recommended updates.

We were subsequently chosen to perform basic and detailed engineering for the pipeline system updates resulting from the study as well as technical inspections during construction.

Debottlenecking study

We further added to our list of services provided to MLP with a debottlenecking study on the concentrate pipeline system, which was completed in 2011.