In the late 1990s, De Beers Consolidated mines, the world's largest diamond company, found that the treatment plant at its Kimberley operation site, which had been built in 1955, was reaching the end of its useful life. With the help of new technology developments, including the Universal Relay (UR) from GE Multilin, based in Markham, Ont., De Beers discovered a profitable means to extend the life of the site by implementing a more efficient means to extract and process the remaining diamond resources.
The 50-year-old treatment plant at the site that had become uneconomical and inefficient for treating the dump material on the surface. In 1997, De Beers started to develop a new, more efficient and economical Combined Treatment Plant (CTP). A key design consideration was automating as many functions as possible to reduce downtime, manpower and maintenance requirements. De Beers also wanted to minimize capital expenditure, working cost and implementation time.
Substation automation was a key factor in the overall success of the project. This included networking the sites' substations over an Ethernet to allow for the automation of protection and control functions using the Universal Relay a world's first for a mining operation. The URs used at the Kimberley site include a combination of transformer protection relays, protection feeders for breaker protection and motor management relays. These are installed in the distribution substations at Kimberley that service the new Combined Treatment Plant. Implementation began in early 2000 and the plant commissioning started in January 2002.
By applying the latest automation equipment, Johan Smal, project manager for De Beers, estimates that the company should be able to extend the life and profitability of the mines by a magnitude of years, and make it financially feasible to mine the millions of dollars worth of existing diamond resources that were previously too expensive to extract and process. He estimates that, "At full production the plant could be used to treat 7.1 million tons of ore yielding 2.4 million carats, based on 1,050 tons per hour continuous operation at an 84% overall plant utilization a year. In addition, the vast potential of the existing tailing dump resources would extend our surface operations beyond 2030."
GE Multilin, a division of GE Industrial Systems, is a global leader in the design, manufacture, sales and service of protection, metering, control and automation systems, as well as telecommunication networks for utility, industrial and general industry applications. For more information, visit the website at http://www.geindustrial.com/Multilin