Leinster in Western Australia lies 368km north of Kalgoorlie and is often described as an oasis in the desert. The Northern Goldfields town forms part of the Nickel West operation, owned by BHP Billiton. Like many remote parts of Australia, the community relies on bore water for their water supply. This water also needs to be pumped out for the mines, however corrosion to the steel riser pipes required a new and innovative solution.

The nickel mine at Leinster uses about 30 bores for the operation of the mine and also to supply water to the local community. The pipes are connected to submersible pumps for bore water pumping. These were originally installed using steel but have steadily corroded and also created maintenance issues every time the pump needed to be serviced.

The corrosion had caused holes in the pipe as well as causing the threads to seize. This required hours of labour and specialised equipment in order to install or refit – meaning it was time to look at a new solution.

That solution was Flexibore; a flexible riser used for ground water pumping. By integrating thermoplastic polyurethane into a woven textile fabric of high tenacity polyester, the hose is produced. This process gives the hose flexibility while sustaining the weight of a submersible pump.

In order to assist with the installation of a new system, Francois Steverlynck, the Managing Director of Crusader Hose was flown to Leinster by BHP to ensure that the Flexibore was installed correctly.

“‘It is important to secure the electrical cable firmly,” Mr Steverlynck said, “and this needed to be checked as the casing was tight.”

For the installation, a crane was hired and the entire process took only 3 hours. The 60m of 3″ flexibore was installed in one continuous length and only three operators were required for this

Edward Lees, the mine’s water manager decided on Flexibore as a long term solution, opting to take advantage of the corrosion resistance and excellent hydraulic flows. “We need to ensure we have continuous water flow for the mine”, Mr Lees explained, “and with the Flexibore system, we feel confident of getting 20 years of trouble free pumping. With the program of preventative maintenance at BHP Nickel West, Flexibore is the ideal choice. We plan to upgrade all our bores to this system.”

Flexibore does not corrode and due to its inherent swell characteristics, there is no iron bacteria build up on the inside of the hose.

As Mr Steverlynck explained, “Just like cholesterol which can build up inside the arteries, so can iron bacteria build up inside steel pipe. This causes the heart to work harder due to restricted flow which illustrates how the submersible pump also needs to work harder in order to maintain flow.”

Flexibore is Australian-made and serves the entire mining industry across Australia through its distributor network.

About Nickel West

Nickel West is the world’s third largest producer of nickel-in-concentrate, providing 16% of global production. All operations are based in Western Australia. They include the Mt Keith Operation and Leinster Nickel Operation, the Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter, the Kambalda Nickel Concentrator, the Kwinana Nickel Refinery and the Ravensthorpe Nickel Operation.

Nickel West is a member of the BHP Billiton Group.

Servicing a global market, the majority of the refinery’s products are shipped overseas where they earn Australia in excess of $1.3 billion in exports each year.

Since it began its operations in 1970, the refinery has significantly improved production and more than quadrupled output while maintaining a responsible approach to safety, environmental issues and the well being of its workforce and the surrounding community .

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