Process Mineralogy Today

A discussion resource for process mineralogy using todays technologies

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Category: Grade Recovery


Operational Health Check Suite

Over the last few months, MinAssist has progressively launched a series of “Operational Health Checks” that have been developed as suite of off-the-shelf process mineralogy studies targeted at giving rapid performance gains for a minimum of fuss.  Each of these fit in to a Suite of programs that are focused on bringing cost savings, recovery improvements and general risk reduction through improved understanding of ore types.

 

Key points within the processing circuit have been identified, and a mineralogical testwork program developed to:

     – target the typical challenges encountered

     – indicate overall circuit efficiency

     – identify possible areas for improvement

 

The sample points have been pre-determined, the analytical testwork process developed, and the critical information to examine identified.  This removes much of the hassle for a busy plant metallurgist looking to undertake a process mineralogical study.  It also reduces the overall time-to-result: providing a concise, metallurgically focussed report of the mineralogy in a meaningful time frame.

 

HC Benefits

The Health Check suite is ideal to for:

     – the busy process metallurgist looking to get the best from a circuit

     – taking a quick look at the health of a circuit to make sure things are running as they should be

     – as a prelude to a more in-depth study based on the findings of the health check

 

A Health Check can be run as a one-off study, or on a routine basis to build up a complete picture over time.

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When to invest in process mineralogy

Over the past few months we have explored the value of investing in Process Mineralogy in some detail.  We have established that best practice dictates that every site should include some Process Mineralogy in their continuous improvement plans but when is the optimum time to start?  The answer is right now.  With budgets stretched due to lower commodity prices this may seem a difficult proposition but in reality it is in difficult times that we need our plants to operate at their optimum efficiency and even a simple Process Mineralogy program can genuinely help an operation run more smoothly, and lead to larger savings, for a relatively small investment.

 

Sadly the value of process mineralogy is often poorly articulated or understood, not least because it can be difficult to directly link to the bottom line.  Its not easy to quantify: “we do process mineralogy routinely, and it saves us $xxx per year” (the blog on 13th August 2013 does highlight some cases where companies have attempted to do this).  It is therefore inevitable that when the financial decision makers are casting an eye around for areas to trim, particularly with a limited budget as so often is the case, process mineralogy can seem an easy target to drop (and therefore be even harder to start!).  In today’s market place, modern mining companies work very hard to lower overhead costs and be careful with expenditure in order to extract ore economically – however the old adage ‘you have to spend money to make money’ does hold true in this instance.

Open Cut Hauling

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What is the Return on Investment of using Process Mineralogy?

In this week’s blog, we seek to respond to a common question that we hear at MinAssist: what is the return I get on investing in process mineralogy?  The short answer is it is not always easy to quantify in reality as there are often many factors at play at any given time, but an effective benchmarking study is of course always a good place to start to give you some indication of the ‘before’ picture – against which to measure changes.  The same benchmarking study can be used to also provide a good indication of where to go next with regards testwork, modelling and flowsheet design.

 

Here, by way of example, we have highlighted 3 recently published case studies that highlight how process mineralogy has been successfully integrated with geometallurgy and metallurgical testwork to provide tangible benefits.  One is from Xstrata based on the Nickel Rim South deposit, one from Rio Tinto’s Kennecott operation, and the third from the Anglo Platinum group’s operating concentrators.

 

ROI Case Studies

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Liberation and Free Surface Area in the Float Feed

The importance of the liberation of target minerals in the feed to a flotation circuit is well recognised and understood by process metallurgists.  This blog seeks to introduce some of the concepts around:

 

– how liberation is defined

  • – what the important parameters to understand are

– how liberation is defined by process mineralogists

 

Liberation measurements estimate the volumetric grade distribution of a mineral as a measure of the quality in a processing stream (Spencer and Sutherland, 2000).  Put simply, it is based on the area % of the mineral grain in the particle:  which brings us to the first key question – what is the difference between a “grain” and a “particle”?

 

The second critical question is to ask whether area % alone is enough to help predict how a particle will behave in a flotation cell – what about free surface area?  A grain may be defined as 90% liberated, but have no free surface area… so will this recover more quickly or more slowly to the flotation concentrate than say a grain that is 60% liberated but has a high free surface area?

 

What is the difference between a “Grain” and a “Particle”?

 

Typically, a “grain” is classed as a single mineral, whilst a “particle” is made up of one or more mineral grains.  The figure below provides an example of a single “particle” that contains four mineral “grains”.

 

Example of a “particle” containing five mineral “grains” (4 black and 1 white) Example of a “particle” containing five mineral “grains” (4 black and 1 white)

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Flotation Circuit: Concentrate Grade and Recovery

The texture of particles within a flotation cell play a pivotal role in both mineral recovery, and the grade, in the flotation concentrate.  Theoretical curves can be generated based on particle mineralogy and texture to indicate the maximum grade-recovery possible for a given feed ore.  Comparing this ‘theoretical’ curve to actual grade recovery will provide insight in to the efficiency of the flotation circuit.  Inevitably the ‘actual’ curve will plot below the ‘theoretical’; the question is how far below and can that gap be reduced (Figure 1)?

 

During day-to-day plant operation, deviation of the actual grade/recovery curve from this theoretical curve can be considered to be the result of either a change in the feed texture and mineralogy, or less than optimal operating conditions.  A comprehensive understanding of the controls on this will feed decision-making and reduce operational risk.  MinAssist has therefore added the Flotation Health Check to its suite of off-the-shelf process mineralogy studies; making it quick, simple and cost effective to use the theoretical grade recovery to help identify potential circuit optimisation.

Figure 1.  (A) Ore texture defines the theoretical grade recovery curve.  Particle images are used to show how high target mineral recovery will typically also mean recovery of gangue, reducing the grade. (B) If actual grade/recovery is less than the theoretical, then operational conditions may be changed to improve this (1).  If grade/recovery above the theoretical curve is targeted, then the texture of the feed will need to change (2). Figure 1. (A) Ore texture defines the theoretical grade recovery curve. Particle images are used to show how high target mineral recovery will typically also mean recovery of gangue, reducing the grade. (B) If actual grade/recovery is less than the theoretical, then operational conditions may be changed to improve this (1). If grade/recovery above the theoretical curve is targeted, then the texture of the feed will need to change (2).  Developed in conjunction with Professor Dee Bradshaw of JKMRC.

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