Copper Mine Optimizes Water Recovery with Honeywell Wireless | Automation.com

Copper Mine Optimizes Water Recovery with Honeywell Wireless

Copper Mine Optimizes Water Recovery with Honeywell Wireless
November 3, 2010 - Codelco is the world's largest copper producer, generating around 1.8Mt per year or 15 percent of the world’s annual copper output. The Chilean, state-owned copper mining company is headquartered in Santiago and owns the world’s largest known copper reserves and resources. The Norte division consists of three open pit mines producing approximately 896,000 tons of electro-refined and electro-winned cathodes.

Codelco needed to optimize the water recovery process of the thickener pools at its Norte mine in Chile. Water used in mineral processing is recovered for reuse and the thickeners need to gauge the levels accurately as well as communicate the information from the field to the central control room. Because they could only measure pool levels manually, Codelco could not retrieve accurate or timely water levels of both the dark (untreated) and recovered (clean treated) water. Without accurate measurement, pools were often left empty, leaving insufficient clear water levels for proper recovery. In addition, the topography of the region, including climate and distance challenges, presented many obstacles in achieving measurement accuracy.

In lieu of accurate data, Codelco’s multivariate predictive application could not optimize the water recovery process. Therefore, issues of gauging the level of several thickeners, the ability of communicating data and process optimization required a reliable and cost-effective solution.

“The former inability of gauging online and the high cost of maintaining the wired traditional network, which was frequently broken by heavy trucks and machinery, caused very low availability of measurement,” said Guillermo Cortés, Concentrators’ Automation Leader, Codelco.

Codelco chose Honeywell’s OneWireless Network to connect new field devices in the Codelco Norte mine to its existing control system as well as the mine’s existing programmable logic controllers (PLCs). The PLCs were then used to manage equipment and instruments installed at each tank and pool. Since installing the wireless network, the use of water is much more efficient through increased accuracy of the level of water in the thickeners.

This wireless network is composed of industrial wireless access points called multinodes that self-discover to create a redundant, self-healing mesh network. One gateway is used to send the Modbus data collected from the PLCs to the control system. This information can be fed into an application to optimize process control of the facility.

“We chose the OneWireless system from Honeywell because it offered the most dependable solution for both our complex operation and the advanced control application, since it provides a higher capacity to support real-time gauging and instrumentation,” said Cortés. “Our desert zone has many challenges including topography, the long distance between the thickeners and control room, and the extreme environment conditions of radiation, wind and temperatures. We are very pleased with the reliability of the Honeywell solution.”

The wireless network provides a communications network and protects investments by integrating third-party products. In addition, these solutions are guaranteed to migrate to emerging wireless standards. Much more than just avoiding the cost of wire, the breakthrough value lies in the ability to integrate valuable data into existing control systems and advanced applications, while also sharing that data with other networked applications.

After the successful implementation of the network to support PLCs, Codelco decided to install Honeywell XYR 6000 high level analog input transmitters to monitor the level of the clear and dark water using ultrasonic transmitters. The information is automatically transmitted to operators who can make sure water levels are accurate.

“Honeywell OneWireless has given us meaningful benefits in several issues, from gauging multiple variables and transmitting them in real-time with high availability until the consequent improvement in our water recovery process,” said Cortés. “We can now gauge and manage the thickeners’ levels and flows and the efficiency of the whole process has greatly improved.”

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