Most of the high grade, easy to process ores have long been worked out. Deposits currently being worked are lower grade, harder, finer grained and mineralogically more complex. Water availability and quality is often an issue. Added to this are the ever rising cost of power, labour and plant consumables, increasingly expensive sustainability and environmental responsibilities, new taxes and a worldwide shortage of experienced plant and process engineers.
Process design for successful exploitation of these ores is becoming increasingly more challenging; particularly when trying to keep these operations on track once they have started up and are pushing tonnage. Maximizing performance during the lifetime of an operation is key – now more than ever in light of spiralling costs.
How we can help
The combination of mineralogical-metallurgical process optimization studies is the most cost effective way to maximize performance. The last ten to fifteen years have brought major breakthroughs for mineralogy in the emergence of automated mineral analyzers. These include automated scanning electron microscopes with special software and hardware to perform quantitative mineralogy, particle size analysis, liberation-locking analysis and size by size mineralogy on ore and process samples including material balances to validate the mineralogy. These in conjunction with X-ray diffraction analyses using Rietveld refinement techniques and high speed quantitative near infrared analyses, provide reliable quantitative mineralogical profiling. Combining these technologies with expert metallurgical assessment and verification testing along with the application of sound process knowledge is an extremely powerful and effective tool.
How we collect information
The essential components of a plant optimization survey are listed below and can all be addressed when the survey team are on site but to get the best out of this opportunity it is recommended that as much pertinent information as possible is sent on well ahead of the team’s visit to site so that all involved can be as well prepared as possible:
- After the safety induction, introduction to all involved at site explaining what we will be doing followed by a walk-through of the complete operation accompanied by key plant personnel
- Review of the complete flow-sheet including overall plant availability and utilization
- Review of general process performance and benchmark where appropriate
- Discuss the mine plan and extent of ore characterization
- Detailed area-by-area review of the process plant aimed at identifying process constraints in terms of equipment and operating practice. This also includes a review of any process water related issues and tailings management. Target areas for in depth investigation.
- Design, plan, set up and carry out an appropriate, statistically robust plant sampling campaign around key areas of the flowsheet. This spreads over several days and may also involve additional sampling of key ore types if this is an area where more information is needed. Samples are required for both ore characterization diagnostic metallurgical testing. For the duration of the sampling campaign it is extremely helpful if all plant and assay data including information from the control room are made available to FLSmidth.
Samples are prepared either by the FLSmidth survey team or in accordance with their instructions and shipped to the FLSmidth Minerals Testing and Research Center in Salt Lake City for the next stage.
Analysis, metallurgical testing and preparation and issue of report
As soon as the team and samples return to FLSmidth’s Mineral Testing and Research Center, collation and analyses all the process information obtained from site and the analysis work and metallurgical testing will commence.
After analysis, a full report is proviced which will include all our findings, suggestions and technical recommendations.
Further to discussions with our customer we are available to advise on the implementation of any recommendations and arrange a follow-up visit to assess improvements.