Sunken Treasures From ¡VAMOS! At Silvermines

Overview of the ¡VAMOS! test operation in the Magcobar Pit, Silvermines, Ireland

Last week, I was at a test site for the ¡VAMOS! project. It was in the abandoned Magcobar Pit1. Well, only in ancient times, people have been digging for silver at this location. In 1963 the site was opened for a large scale operation to mine Baryte2. A mineral used in the oil industry. After the veins ran out in the open cast mine, they continued underground, extending the tunnels almost to the next mine in an adjacent area. Then they had to stop operation altogether and the pit got filled with water from a small river that now enters in an attractive waterfall. So far the historic perspective of this site. Currently the forgotten mine is bustling with activity. So many people and equipment was brought in from all corners from Europe, it looked like a circus has come to town.

The ¡VAMOS! road show on its way to Silvermines, Ireland

When I came there, the team had already set up camp and assembled the Launch and Recovery Vessel. The Mining Vehicle was ready to be deployed and we could commission and test the special drive we had provided for the project3. Another item we had to commission was the dewatering facility. Well, it is a fancy name for a dump area. Basically, it is a reclamation area, where we can collect the material that has been cut by the mining vehicle and was pumped through the discharge line to the shore. We had one pond for collecting the cuttings and one pond for containing the fines. Eventually all effluent water was skimmed trough an overflow box.

Overview of the dewatering facility

As there might still be some very fine material contained in the overflow water, we wanted to dispose the water at a lower level than where we were going to do the cutting tests with the mining vehicle. This would ensure clear visibility and an undisturbed background turbidity for the effects measurements. A submerged pipe line for dredging is a well-known component in the dredging industry. If e.g. a discharge line of a cutter suction dredge has to cross a busy fairway, the discharge line is submerged under water, so the traffic can pass without interruption.

Example layout of a submerged dredge line

There are several issues to pay attention to. Selecting the right diameter is the first to consider. You definitely don’t want to block the submerged dredge line. In order to reduce the critical velocity and increase the mixture velocity, the diameter of the submerged pipe is usually chosen a bit smaller than the rest of the pipe. Furthermore, you don’t want any air get trapped in the submerged line. Air inside the line will make the pipes float again, usually at the most inconvenient moment and probably damage the line. Positioning the submerged line can be done by actually having the air in the line slowly escape. The line will lose buoyancy and settle on the bottom. Injecting compressed air will float the line again.

Deployment of a submerged dredge line

The mining we are doing at the Magcobar Pit is solely for scientific purposes. The material we gather and sample will not be used. But, we hope our technology will revive some disused mines again to their former glory. At least get some people back at work. There are a lot of little villages that fully depended on the activity of the mine. The little town of Silvermines is still remembering those good old times with a little monument to commemorate a glorious past4.

Memorial for the mining industry in the town of Silvermines

References

  1. ¡VAMOS! preparing for second field tests in Ireland, ¡VAMOS!
  2. Baryte, Wikipedia
  3. Dual Stage Dredge Pump and Double Action Pump Drive for ¡VAMOS!, Discover Dredging
  4. Silvermines, Wikipedia

See also

Perspective on Commissioning – Connecting the DOP’s

DOP pump and power pack, ready for commissioning

A DOP pump1 and it’s drive go together like a horse and carriage, you can’t have one without the other. Basically one product, but two units. Whether hydraulic or electric driven. OK, in some cases, you could use the extra power take off from the excavator or crane, but you still have to hook them up, before they can do any useful work.

And connecting the DOP to its drive is an elementary job, that can cause some headaches, when not done carefully. The modern electric drives require some more certified wizardry, that is beyond the scope of this post. Hydraulic power packs have their own peculiar quirks, that are worth mentioning here.

Usually, the hydraulic hoses come supplied with Snap-tite® connections2. These are quick and prevent most oil spills in the environment. They come with a disadvantage in price and resistance. Ultimately, the DOP should be connected to the power pack like this:

Hydraulic diagram DOP pump and power pack

So, even with such a simple diagram, still things can go horribly wrong. Off course, don’t switch the ‘Pump’ and ‘Return’ line, you will blow some seals on the motor. Most common is a failed connection of the Snap-tite®. When it is not completely tight, the internal valve is not completely open and you have a lot of resistance. So a lot of power on the power pack gets converted to heat on the connection and no performance on the DOP pump. Another common problem is the resistance in the leak line. This can cause terrible things on the hydraulic motor.

One client followed all the instructions in the manual and all advise from the service department, but still could not coach his new DOP to work. Lots of flow at the power pack, but almost no pressure. And the impeller could still be turned by hand. (Warning: never put your hand in an impeller when there is power on the drive!) One of our engineers went over to have a look on board. Well, here is an impression of the situation on deck.

Situation on board during commissioning

He quickly began cleaning up the mess on deck and uncovered how the hydraulic hoses were actually connected.

How the DOP pump was connected (not), actually

Well, that makes sense! Now it was easy to see, why the DOP was not working. Solution, connect the lines correctly and dredge away. Oh, and educate the crew about a tidy workplace.

Ship shape and ready to rumble

Well, after this first basic lesson in connecting the DOP, you are ready to connect your own DOP project. It’s easy as child’s play.

Connect the dots to set up a DOP project yourself (pdf version)

References

  1. Hydraulically driven submersible dredge pump DOP, Damen
  2. Quick Disconnect and Valve Division, Parker Snap-tite

See also