FLSmidth launched the MissionZero Mine in 2021.
At its center is the idea of sustainable productivity, which requires flow sheet solutions that support zero water and energy waste, as well as zero emissions. Since the launch, the company has been working hard to progress the MissionZero ‘concentrator of the future’ vision, as Lucy England, FLSmidth innovation manager, explained.
I am proud to be part of a company that is delivering on its promises and enabling a sustainable mining industry.
Low impact grinding
“A major development since 2021 is the acquisition of TK Mining in 2022,” England began. “The deal strengthens our position in HPGR, where we now lead the market with 160 units installed. It also expands our IPCC installed base and offering, including the Rail-Running Conveyor™, which further lowers the carbon footprint of IPCC”.
“We are now exploring HPGR for dry “finish” grinding,” continued England. “In addition, we are looking to apply the OK™ mill to mining. This vertical roller mill (VRM) technology is proven to deliver energy efficient grinding in the cement industry. A dry grinding VRM test facility is under construction in Salt Lake City with commissioning expected later this year.”
FLSmidth is leading the EcoFlot project, which aims to scale-up the coarseAIR™ coarse particle flotation cell technology and deliver an economically viable demonstration plant with throughput of up to 2640 tpd. Backed by a €6.6 million grant from EIT RawMaterials, the project consortium includes mining companies KGHM and Boliden, as well as research partners Minviro, University of Padova, and Imperial College London.
“Coarse flotation is central to the MissionZero Mine, as it enables us to reduce grinding circuit energy, minimize raw water requirements, produce coarser tailings, and decrease the flotation circuit and solid liquid separation footprint,” explained England. “Importantly, the technology is expected to be applicable to many metal ores needed in the green transition.”
The resulting coarse concentrate requires regrinding before further flotation to achieve required grades in the final concentrate. FLSmidth offers two technologies for modern regrind circuits: FTM a vertical agitated steel media mill, and the VXPmill, a vertical stirred ceramic media mill. “Both are proven to reduce energy and grinding media consumption when compared to horizontal ball mills for the same grinding duty, while also significantly reducing mill footprint and concrete foundation mass,” said England.
The largest FLS FTM (3356 kW) was recently installed at a top-tier gold supplier in Dominican Republic, while in Canada, another gold supplier took delivery of the largest FLS VXPmill (3000 kW) in May 2023.
A second EIT RawMaterials-funded project – due to finish in 2024 – is working to commercialize the REFLUX™ flotation cell (RFC). “RFC delivers fast and effective flotation, which raises the standard when it comes to concentrate grade and recovery, along with throughput capability,” England said. The current project has proven RFC significantly shifts the grade and recovery curve by up to 8%, while reducing energy consumption by 60% and increasing throughput up to 10%. The first commercial RFC units are now available with significant interest from customers in a range of commodities and geographies.
Learn how a single REFLUX™ Flotation Cell could replace up to 10 conventional flotation cellsLEARN MORE
Water and tailings management
Coarse flotation – with its coarser tailings – opens up opportunities for innovation in tailings disposal, such as EcoPaste, which focuses on improving safety and increasing process water recycling. “Coarse tailings are filtered using vacuum filtration and then mixed with finer, thickened paste tailings and waste rock/overburden to form geotechnically stable tailings,” explained England. “In laboratory testing, we have achieved coarse tailings with very low moisture. We have also added coarse particles to the fine tailings and seen dewatering rates dramatically improve.”
For mines with lower strip ratios, “the use of filtered coarse tailings could reduce the amount of waste rock/overburden needed in the paste,” continued England. “Meanwhile, for mines adopting ore sorting, we can use reject material from that process in the EcoPaste. All these options are being considered in the MissionZero Mine and for mines that want to move away from wet impoundments.”
FLSmidth has also developed an innovative thickener spiral rake blade, which was installed at a large copper mine in Kazakhstan, where it increased underflow densities by 11%, reduced tailings volume by 15%, and increased water recovery at the plant by 15%. Meanwhile, an improved automatic filter press (AFP) design offers the “highest filtration surface area and cake volume of any 2.5 m filter, reducing energy consumption, filter weight, footprint and wash water compared to the previous design,” said England.
See how we increased tailings dam stability and water recovery at a large copper mine in KazakhstanLEARN MORE
Digital and future MissionZero Mine flowsheets
Digital solutions to support the MissionZero Mine are also being developed with FLSmidth investing in advanced process control (APC) systems, online condition monitoring and process optimisation services across the full flowsheet. “We have already seen some impressive results,” noted England. “In Chile, the implementation of an APC system on the tailings thickener resulted in 14% less water going to tailings, equating to 5.1 million m3/year of water, at an estimated cost of USD 18 million, that would otherwise have been lost to tailings.”
Discover how we achieved more than five million m³ reduction in water to tailings at a Chilean copper-moly mineFIND OUT MORE
Flowsheets for other battery metals and gold are also coming soon. The latter will include solutions that improve and/or fully automate key operations in a traditional gold circuit, including cyanide-free production of gold and alternatives to the current reliance on activated carbon. These improvements will enhance sustainability, lower energy consumption, and reduced overall emissions.
“We live in a world where words are no longer enough; we need action – and action now,” concluded England. “I am proud to be part of a company that is delivering on its promises and enabling a sustainable mining industry.”