In 2004, Rio Tinto Industrial Minerals was investigating the development of a salt deposit at the Potasio Río Colorado Mine (PRC) in the Mendoza Province of Argentina for the production of potash.
Ausenco was selected to perform a conceptual study to evaluate two transportation options.
The first option comprised the transport of a heated potash brine solution approximately 277 km through a 26-30 inch diameter pipeline from the mine site to an evaporator/KCL crystalliser plant located at the railhead.
An intermediate heating station was included in the design to maintain the brine solution temperature above 40°C and keep all salts dissolved, thereby eliminating the need for dilution water.
In the second option, potash slurry from an evaporator/crystalliser plant located at the mine site was pumped through a 9.625 -10.750 inch diameter pipeline along the same 277 km route to a filter/drying plant at the terminal. This system required three pump stations housing three piston-diaphragm pumps (two operating, one standby). The second option also included a 277 km, 10.750 -12.750 inch water (brine solution) return pipeline. The return water system also included one pump station with one operating and one standby multi-stage vertical turbine pump.
Our study included hydraulic design, system component selection and sizing, pumping assessment, heating requirement determination and order-of-magnitude (OOM) estimates of capital and operating costs.
In 2009 Vale acquired the mining project from Rio Tinto and was expected to invest $5.9 billion in the project. Start-up was scheduled for 2014, and mine life was expected to exceed 50 years. However, in January 2013 Vale suspended works indefinitely.