Super Sponge

Super-Sponge-Mining-Monthly

Publication: Australia's Mining Monthly

Date: July 2013

Picture 1: Before: Proof Engineer's Jordan Handel testing the immediate absorption rate of the Geosorb product in water.

Picture 2: After: Reynolds Soil Technologies' Paul Heimburger holding the fully absorbed end result.

A formula capable of absorbing water 400 times its weight has been launched to the underground mining industry.

Australia's Mining Monthly readers may remember we featured Queensland company Reynolds Soil Technologies (RST) in our June edition. The dust management and soil stabilisation firm, together with Proof Engineers, had launched a suite of "superabsorbent" products. The Geopolymer range was developed specifically for the mining, resources and civil industries.

RST designed its latest suite of products using absorbent crystal solutions as binding and solidifying agents. For technical validation, Gold Coast based company Proof Engineers provided their engineering skills to further develop the structural capabilities of the Geopolymer range. One of the Geopolymer products developed specifically for underground mines and site water management was the Geosorb.

This super-absorbent polymer formula is capable of absorbing water 400 times its weight. Geosorb is biodegradable and environmentally friendly and can be applied to swillies, to solidify watery sludge or slurry for disposal.

Swillies are separate portions of coal strata, developed in underground and wet areas. With most underground mines turning to hydraulic pumps, RST's business development manager Paul Heimburger said Geosorb would provide an alternative material handling solution for underground mining companies experiencing unwanted water.

"Underground water ingress is a huge problem for most mining companies in operation and the removal of the excess water can be extremely costly;' Heimburger said. "There are many different dewatering applications, all of which are dependent on the mine's geological characteristics, including the mine's type and depth.

"Geosorb was designed for applications where watery sludge, slimes or slurries located in operational areas contain too many solids, and pumping is impractical or solids are too diluted in density to be excavated or conveyed:'

Although there are specific pumps for removing water-based slurries, RST said they're heavy and bulky and are not easy to transport for deep and expanding mines. Geosorb is said to be a cost-effective and easily implemented dewatering solution for underground mines. Underground mines require fast-acting and effective solutions to manage ground water issues.

Geosorb can be applied to thicken or solidify the material for immediate disposal.

Due to its non-water releasing encapsulation technology, slurries will be solidified and contaminated fine particles removed from the mine. Heimburger said the process ensured the safety of mine workers and the surrounding environment.

"The solidified waste can then be carried out of the mine and disposed of without impeding production," he said. "Only a minimal amount of Geosorb is required to solidify a large amount of water based material - depending on the size, depth and density of the water or slurry:' Geosorb can be applied to any watery slurry, despite its density, with immediate results. Consequently, mining companies will not experience dewatering system failure, which can cause production downtime and is expensive to fix.

Underground mining product specialist CQMS Razer has trialled the Geosorb technology at various mine sites throughout Australia.

CQMS Razer business manager Glenn Toner said they had successful results from the trials and the Geosorb product was an easy-to-use material handling solution.

"As a result of our client's trials, we've found Geosorb has two key differences in volume and content characteristics, in comparison to other applications on the market and products they've previously used," Toner said.

"Clients tell us they want a product that can be easily transported and applied underground and is safe to handle. We've found Geosorb is meeting this demand:' Toner said Geosorb had been well received by mine sites, with underground coal mining companies already looking to utilise the technology in their regular water management system.

RST's head office is based at Burleigh Heads, Queensland, with an additional office in Carlisle, Western Australia.

vetti.kakulas@aspermont.com