What is calcium carbonate and how can it affect mining operations?
Calcium carbonate is a constant concern for water quality in mining operations. What it means for resources companies is outlined in this overview of calcium carbonate and how it can impact on mining.
What is calcium carbonate?
Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound, also known as limescale in its precipitated form, and can be a big problem for any water supply. The compound is commonly found in water that has passed through limestone rocks and strata that contain a high content of minerals. Rainwater has sufficiently low pH to drag calcium carbonate out of rocks and into the groundwater.
Calcium carbonate is beneficial as the active ingredient in agricultural lime, but is usually the principal cause of hard water which is typically an unwanted quality.
Under normal conditions, calcium carbonate is insoluble – which means that scale can build up in water pipes and infrastructure. On the other hand, in groundwater, calcium carbonate has undergone chemical alteration to be soluble, though it only remains dissolved as long as it is underground,
How does it affect mining?
Along with scaling of pipes and associated equipment, calcium carbonate is often the cause of premature failure of O-rings and box seals in drilling rigs and other mining equipment.
All mining operations require the use of water, a prominent example is heap-leach mining where water is used to dissolve minerals from ore.
A lot of mining equipment also uses water to keep cool enabling equipment to operate for extended periods of time. In most mining operations, water has to travel long distances from the source into the equipment that needs cooling.
If calcium carbonate is present, then the pipes carrying this water can easily become blocked by scale or corroded. It is clearly important to minimise the impact of limescale whenever possible.
What can you do?
Fortunately, there is a simple and effective solution for calcium carbonate problems in mining operations. A Hydrosmart water softening solution uses an electromagnetic field to break the bonds in calcium carbonate, and so unblocks pipes downstream of the treatment site while also preventing rescaling. This process improves the viability of water recycling operations and means that mines can make use of water supplies that were previously considered unusable.
This simple, low-energy and cost-effective technology can be fitted to existing infrastructure, making it the ideal solution for ongoing mining operations.