Copper tailings and concentrate pipeline system

Los Pelambres Mauro/Quillayes Dam
1996 - 2013
Industry Sector
Minerals & Metals
Coquimbo Region, Chile
Minera Los Pelambres
Service Area
Pipelines; Process Plants; Project Delivery
Basic & Detailed Engineering; Feasibility Studies & Concept Design; Operations Control Systems; Start-up & Commissioning; Tailings Pipelines; Tailings Management & Metal Recovery; Commissioning; EPC/EPCM Contracting; Construction Management; Program Management

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 original 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 Dam, which was nearing capacity, via a 36-inch diameter, 39.5 mt/y pipeline. We were retained to evaluate the feasibility of delivering classified tailings (cyclone underflow) 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

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 2003.

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 2004, MLP began work to increase the system processing rate from 39.5 Mtpy (114 Kt/d) to the current 62.3 mt/y (179 Kt/d).

Our involvement in this phase of the project included:

  • Water reclaim facilities upgrade, including adding pump stations
  • Basic engineering, detailed engineering, and start-up support for a booster station atkm 70 on the concentrate pipeline
  • Construction QA and start-up for a 36-inch diameter tailings pipeline and pumping system
  • Modification of choke station on existing tailings pipeline
  • Integration study

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 or 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.