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Dredging of evaporation ponds

Faena: SQM Salar

Deadline 24/10/2023

Closing Time 4:00 pm

Technological solutions are sought that allow the dredging of slurry from evaporation ponds to a reception tank in the proximity of the pond, reducing operational discontinuities, ensuring the quality of the slurry, without causing damage to the existing infrastructure and in a safe way for the personnel involved. Solutions are expected in different technological areas such as: mechanized or robotized systems for dredging, handling, removal or vacuuming of the pulp, operating from the surface (rafts or ad hoc equipment) or below it (underwater equipment), among others.

  • Operation with free brine height between 20 cm and 100 cm (at the top of the well). If it can operate in a lower range, it is still of interest.
  • Operation with salt height between 10 cm to 80 cm (at the bottom of the well). This salt height is irregular and could vary between +/- 5 cm.
  • Treatment capacity between 50 to 100 m3/h.
  • Product with a stable solid % and close to 40%.
  • Mobility inside the evaporation ponds: It must be able to cover over 80% of the well area for dredging.
  • Mobility outside the evaporation pond: The solution must have facilities for its transfer to different ponds. It is estimated to travel up to a distance of 10 km per day.
  • Minimize the requirement of personnel for its operation. A remotely controlled, remote (control room) or automated solution is desirable but not excluding.
  • Compatibility with the characteristics of the brine (high salt content) and salt: P80 between 300 and 1,000 [um] and density between 1.5 and 2.0 ton/m3.
  • Ensure the physical integrity of the evaporation ponds, controlling eventual impacts or application of forces on the insulating material.
  • Robustness to endure brine handling, demanding operational and environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, particulate material, others).
  • Advising, consulting and process engineering studies.
  • Solutions that consider only centrifugation or filtration of the material.
  • Solutions involving changes in the chemical or physical characteristics of the brine.
  • Solutions involving relevant changes in the production process.

SQM’s current process is carried out by concentrating brines in evaporation ponds ranging from 5,000 to 100,000 m2. This is a batch process, since when the well is filled with salt it is necessary to remove it from operation in order to harvest it. In this process, heavy machinery enters the well to extract the salt. The consequences of the harvesting process include

  • Loss of well availability due to the harvesting process.
  • Generation of breaks in the impermeable base of the well.
  • Loss of the impregnated brine that accompanies the salt.

No se han probado tecnologías según lo requerido.