System Integration & Control Systems Design

Process Dynamics: automating the processing of tailings increases bottom line for mine

December 2013 System Integration & Control Systems Design

Tailings dumps and tailings dams or ponds are a common site in South Africa. In an effort to reduce their environmental impact and with the added benefit of additional downstream revenue, mines have increasingly moved towards the reclamation of minerals and metals from the tailings and the resultant rehabilitation of the landscape.

A large mining operation in Mpumalanga realised that in order to maximise the benefits from reworking its tailings in a brand new processing plant, it would need to implement a high-tech control system to automate the sophisticated technology used to process the tailings. The company subsequently issued a tender for the design, supply and installation of a process control design that would incorporate a PLC system and the requisite software.

System integrators, Process Dynamics, were awarded the contract to supply, install and commission a Siemens Simatic S7-300 and Wonderware control software for the new tailings plant. The choice of elements used was prescribed by the mining house due to its standardisation on the system.

Kobus van Niekerk, managing director of Process Dynamics, said that the company received the contract due to its experience in the process control field within a number of industry sectors. “The choice of the Simatic 300 series was perfect for this project. While the 400 series would be required in many other projects, the functionality of the 300 series was more than ample for its requirements in this specific instance.”

The contract was awarded in mid-2012 with implementation of the system taking place over a two-month period, which commenced in February 2013. After commissioning the system, the Process Dynamics team spent a week training the plant’s operational team. “To date we have had only compliments from the mining house, who are completely satisfied with the high degree of automation provided by the system. It is achieving all the pre-specified goals and there has been absolutely no downtime,” said van Niekerk.

“We would have preferred to have more flexibility in the choice of system used in the project. In any project it is advisable to appoint a common source for hardware and software, such as a systems integration company. Unfortunately, in instances where the client chooses to source third-party systems and software directly from a number of sources, cognisance is not always given to the integration capabilities of each of the various elements. A reputable systems integration company is able to design, engineer and implement the best practice solution for each individual application to ensure maximised productivity and return on investment, with minimal downtime.”

For more information contact Kobus van Niekerk, Process Dynamics, +27 (0)11 394 5412,,


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