As part of The Dewatering Institute ‘s commitment towards knowledge sharing, TDI is developing a series of monthly interviews of industry leaders, and professionals from different parts of the world. One of the month’s editions features Andrew Vietti who will also be presenting the Vietti Slurrytec webinar series on the 26th of July’23.
Can you tell us more about your work history and how you got into the dewatering industry?
I have a Masters in Science (microbiology) from the university of KwaZulu Natal, however my fist job was with the mining company De Beers, working in their R&D facility in 1990. We worked mainly on tailings dewatering technologies focusing on “Paste” disposal and it is where I gained my understanding of clay/water interactions. After leaving De Beers in 2005, I along with partners including Paterson & Cooke, established a specialist metallurgical laboratory focusing on solid/liquid separation mainly in mine tailings dewatering. In 2015 we established Vietti Slurrytec and we are involved in tailings dewatering projects around the world including the very large tonnage copper projects in South America. We have also broadened our service offering to include various products to assist in dewatering.
In your opinion, what has been the biggest development in the industry through the years?
Beginning in the late 1980’s and through the 1990’s, the development and introduction of so-called “Paste” thickeners was a major step forward in achieving better dewatering to generate high density tailings. More recently, several major tailings dam disasters have provided a major ESG incentive to force miners to either implement existing technologies to achieve drier tailings for disposal (filtration) or to invest in R&D to develop better (cheaper) technologies to achieve the same goal.
What are the biggest challenges that you’ve seen in the industry over the past few years, and what do you see as potential challenges in the future?
The current demand for metals and the decreasing grade/ore availability is driving larger and larger tonnage projects. Coupled with the now recognized need for drier tailings, it has created a bottle-neck in the available dewatering technologies in terms of equipment size and capital cost. Acceptable disposal of tailings is becoming very expensive. The current challenge is to develop technologies/methods to achieve this goal, but at lower cost.
How do you see technology playing part in the industry in the future?
The only way to achieve the goal mentioned above is through novel technology development. These technologies are often developed by private entrepreneurs at their own risk. Industry may have funds but the insight of specialist companies is often lacking. Platforms for collaboration between private specialists; mining industry; academia and Government is required.
What would you recommend to the new generations coming into this industry and why?
Tailings dewatering and disposal is a very wide subject which has developed significantly over the last 3 decades. The current syllabus in universities (and understanding within the industry in general) is antiquated and does not meet the needs for the new generation of “tailings engineers”. This is recognised by some academic institutions but it’s still early days.
What aspects of the industry do you think need improving?
An understanding of clay minerals is fundamental to solving dewatering problems. There is a lack of basic understanding of clay minerals and their colloidal/dewatering behaviour within the broad group of Tailings Engineers currently.
Why do you think The Dewatering Institute is important for the industry and how it can help the industry develop?
TDI is a platform for information sharing – the better we can reach a larger audience (even outside of the mining industry) the better we can serve the dewatering sector.
What is your life motto?