One company taking advantage of these technologies is building a new mine and associated infrastructure in the Pilbara, Western Australia. The project includes a new processing facility with a rail connection to Port Hedland.

Rapid, high quality reliable analysis of plant, train and blasthole samples is essential for the efficient operating of the mine. By carrying out analysis onsite, the new laboratory eliminates the need to transport samples to Perth, more than 1500 km away. This further reduces safety hazards, cuts the carbon footprint, and significantly lowers the risks associated with the chain of custody of the samples. In addition, having a dedicated laboratory on mine ensures that the mine samples receive priority, resulting in a massive reduction in turnaround times of analytical results. It also avoids having to manage external contractors and jostle for priority turnaround times between vendors

Drawing of the facility
When it comes to laboratory automation, FLSmidth is the world leader, with an impressive portfolio of solutions and the largest number of installations around the world. This particular customer already has four automated laboratories supplied by FLSmidth and has enjoyed these benefits with millions of samples processed during the past decade.

Why automate laboratory work?

Laboratory automation offers numerous benefits, including the ability to:

  • Improve health and safety for laboratory personnel. Automation eliminates or significantly reduces operators’ exposure to dust, repetitive manual tasks, handling of hot samples, chemicals and fumes. 
  • Improve quality of analytical data (precision and accuracy). 
  • Eliminate human errors influencing laboratory results.
  • Increase laboratory efficiency, reduce sample turnaround times.
  • Reduce costs per sample.
  • Minimise the laboratory footprint.
  • Avoid the environmental and monetary costs of transporting samples to commercial laboratories thousands of kilometres away, as well as the associated chain-of-custody risks.

With faster, more accurate analytical results returned to the plant, mine owners can optimise their process, resulting in lower production costs, less waste, increased efficiency, less damage to the environment and greater profitability. Fewer staff are required compared to a manual laboratory, meaning less fly-in/fly-out, with the associated cost and carbon footprint savings. All this adds to the sustainability of the mine. Rapid accurate analytical results are also instrumental in understanding and balancing metal accounting.


Faster, more accurate sample processing

This customer was targeting 29 samples measured at the XRF per hour and 695 samples per 24 hours. Less than 100 samples per day are production samples. These must be processed on site due to the very short turnaround times required. Without significantly increasing the number of laboratory personnel to process and report the 100 samples, the automation allows the excess capacity to be used to process and report resource definition and blasthole samples. This brings significant economic benefits to the mine.


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Designing the perfect laboratory

Thanks to our existing relationship and the customer’s satisfaction with its existing FLSmidth laboratories, they came to us for a plan for this new site. Having studied the customer’s requirements, we were able to design a fully automated analytical laboratory that guarantees the desired level of productivity and precision and will remain relevant for years to come.

The laboratory setup encompasses:

• Sample Preparation

• Sample Fusion system

• XRF and TGA Analysis

Our services included the provision of a full turnkey solution, including project management, design, supply, installation and commissioning of the equipment and training of laboratory and maintenance personnel.

The result is a site-based facility capable of processing samples from the blasthole, train and plant to give both the mine operator and their customers a comprehensive picture of product quality.

Once fully commissioned, we demonstrated during the acceptance test that the new automated analytical laboratory was able to exceed its designed throughput capacity and achieve or exceed the high quality standards demanded by the client.

We are very proud to be associated with this project and of the continued close relationship with our customer. 

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