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Each week we feature special technologies. Take a moment to view the other Tech of the Week articles, you may find one that meets a present need.
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 Tech of the Week

High-Production Suction Head for Alluvial Mining, Mud, Sludge, and Sewage Dredging

Licensing Technology Network

Alluvial mining suction head

This technology features a uniquely designed suction head that eliminates problems typically experienced in alluvial diamond mining, mud, sewerage pumping or dredging operations. It can also be used for river and sea bed cleaning operations. In marine diamond mining, mid-water mining is limited to fine weather days and good water visibility for divers that operate the suction hoses. These hoses often get blocked causing long delays and resulting loss of income. Similar problems occur in mines with slurry and mud, or in sewage treatment plants. This patented system offers a proven solution where no divers are required, and which can be operated from the deck of the ship in the shallow–, mid-water, and deep-water operations for 24 hours a day — even on foul weather days. Successful alluvial mining at sea has been done up to sea state 5 (2–4m swell). Where a traditional diver with suction hose can produce about 1 ton of gravel per hour, this advanced suction head can produce up to 20 tons per hour. It is further designed to prevent solids, like rocks, from blocking the suction head/hoses, provide a visual record of areas that are mined, and provide greater control over diamond pilfering. This patented system is designed and built in a modular format to ensure mounting flexibility on any sea-going platform. The body of the mining head and valve is a casting, designed for the toughest of applications and abrasive gravel. The unique jet nozzle system cuts through clay, mud and previously unobtainable conglomerated diamond gravel. Underwater lights, cameras and sensors can be installed for night work and conditions of low visibility. This technology, while initially designed for marine diamond mining, is ideal also for river diamond mining, and a variety of other applications where solids are pumped.

Multiple application areas

Pumping systems where sand, gravel, mud, sewage, or sludge is pumped, all experience similar problems. One of the major problems is blockage of the inlet to the suction pipe. This inlet is normally protected by a metal grid to prevent larger solids from getting stuck inside the pipe. When solids like rocks collect at the grid, they remain there due to the suction force, and this reduces the inflow of material and liquid into the pipe, greatly compromising the productivity of the operation.

Alluvial mining system

This technology creates a whirlpool at the entrance of the head. This means larger solids that do not pass through the grid at the entrance, will rotate, still allowing liquids and smaller solids to enter the pipe. Should blockages at the grid occur, then this technology has a grid clearing system that can be operated remotely to clear the grid again.

Therefore, even though the technology was developed for alluvial diamond mining, it also offers benefits to other applications where underwater dredging or pumping of solids and sludge is to be conducted.

The technology reduces risks to divers, produces greater output per hour, works longer hours than a dive team can, and works in adverse diving conditions.

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