HPY provides ‘transformational’ ore sorting upgrade at Fankou lead-zinc operation

HPY prides itself on being “the manufacturer of the world’s most diverse and efficient ore sorting product line” and, it says, this has been proven in the newest technical upgrades carried out on Shenzhen Zhongjin Lingnan Nonfemet’s Fankou Mineral Processing Plant and Construction Material Plant, in China.

Through the strategic use of all new models of HPY’s sensor-based sorting machines, Fankou’s Mineral Processing Plant has experienced a transformation in the sorting system, the company says. The mine can now sort coarse particle sized ores using HPY’s Golden Coal Series, elevating efficiency in the SAG mill, reducing the energy consumption of the whole system and significantly reducing the size of the mine’s tailings pond.

Previously, Fankou had registered a $2.9 million annual revenue increase following the introduction of four HPY Classic Series sorters. Currently, one Circle Series XRT sorter has the same sorting capacity as two conveyor belt-based sorting machines; the most recent technical upgrade allowed Fankou to replace four Classic Series sorters with two Circle Series sorters, reducing electricity usage by 14 times. These figures demonstrate the significant financial benefits that can be achieved using HPY technology, HPY says

In the article, “Maximising the benefits of sensor-based ore sorting machines,” published in April 2023, HPY Technology outlined how the cooperation project came together.

Fankou’s two process plants, the Mineral Processing Plant and the Construction Material Plant, are in Renhua County, Guangdong, China, and have a long history. Once one of Asia’s largest lead-zinc mines, this mine faced significant challenges as the years progressed. As Mr Luo, the plant’s General Manager, explains, “In its peak year, it could deliver approximately 180,000 tons of lead-zinc. However, after over 60 years of production, depleting resources and accumulating waste rock piles forced the mine to take drastic measures to modify the entire processing chain.” Such conditions underscored the necessity for solutions like HPY’s machines.

Fankou’s entire modification plan was ambitious; its total budget was estimated at $27.6 million since it needed to lay the groundwork and renovate the building, adding HPY’s ore sorting step to the process flow fitted nicely within its plan of upgrading its overall mining process.

At the end of 2017, Fankou’s executive team went to HPY Technology’s testing centre to carry out preliminary sorting tests. Mr Luo noted: “There were few companies in China that did sensor-based sorting at the time; in addition, Fankou’s lead-zinc was considered by many the ‘hard-to-sort’ type.”

Not long after, HPY and Fankou’s team decided to approach this project as a research project in 2018, the two parties agreed HPY would form a dedicated team to conduct specialised research on providing the most economical and technically responsible lead-zinc sorting solutions for the Fankou project. It did not take long for satisfactory results to start coming in. HPY successfully fulfilled its mission in 2019, and the machines were officially added to the plant thereafter.

Fankou’s mineral processing plant initially used four Classic Series P60-X1400 ore sorting machines. The machine processes the particle size range of +10-90 mm, which accounts for about 50% of the raw ore. This accounts for 2,600 tons of ore, rejecting 400-500 t/d of waste rock. After pre-concentration, the lead and zinc content in the waste rock is below 0.3%, and the sulphur and iron content is below 3.8%. Therefore, the ore sorting process enriches the ore grade by 1.08% for lead and zinc and 2% for sulphur and iron.

Figure 1: Four Classic Series P60-X1400 ore sorters in Fankou’s mineral processing plant

This sorter is the typical conveyor belt metal separator in China, and similar designs are seen elsewhere.

The project highlighted how HPY’s boosted machinery throughput had positively impacted the safety aspect of the mine’s mining practice; the mine can now mine more areas by vertical blasting, eliminating the risk of personnel working underground entirely, it says.

Mr Luo commends HPY’s updated ore sorting machine for completely changing the way Fankou mines: “Due to the depletion of mineral resources and the Chinese government’s increasing emphasis on the ESG aspect of the big mines, we did underground mining before discovering the option of HPY sensor-based sorting. However, not only is the production rate not ideal, but because the space in the underground channels is very narrow, we need personnel to attend to the errands, which makes the mining production very low and extremely unsafe.” He added: “After vertical crater retreat and large blasting, a large number of tailings and the unnecessarily high cost generated in the mills during the processing can be significantly reduced with an ore sorter; all we need to do is send in carts, have it shoveled onto the bin, and have it crushed, screened and cabled to the sorters.”

Since its installation, HPY Technology has upgraded its entire product line. With an enhanced sensor detection system and a remodelled module design that allows for easy maintenance, HPY’s machines’ processing capacity significantly improves compared with the older models. By March 2023, after using HPY’s machines for four years, Fankou – now a ‘royal customer’ – was open and excited for another round of machine upgrading to increase the amount of sorted material.

Upon HPY’s advice, the Fankou Mineral Processing Plant switched its four Classic Series to two Circle Series and one Golden Coal Series (See Figure 2). The Golden Coal Series was previously made to sort coal; after some updates and redesign by the HPY R&D team, it is now made specially for large particle-sized ore sorting. In Fankou’s case, +40 mm-90 mm sized ores will enter the Golden Coal Series for pre-concentration. As for the two Circle Series on the side, their expertise lies in their accuracy in sorting and large processing capacity that could replace two typical conveyor belt-based sorters with one machine. Their particle size ranges from +10-40 mm, considering those are the major distribution sizes produced during the initial screening process in Fankou. However, according to Mr Luo, Fankou is still in the process of optimisation now that the upgraded machines could process greater size distributions: “In the past, ores that are larger than 90 mm will enter straight into the SAG mill process, we plan to increase the Circle Series particle size to +10-60 mm and feed the +60-150 mm to the Golden Coal Series, this will help us increase the efficiency of the semi-autogenous mill process even more.”

Figure 2: Left being the Golden Coal Series, the middle and the side ring-shaped machine being the Circle Series

The ore sorting process modification consists of first removing one Classic Series and replacing it with a Golden Coal Series. The installation and training process took one month, and, by June 2023, the Golden Coal Series was running at total capacity. The two Circle Series’ implementation stretched longer as the mine could only halt its production for installation during more extended holidays in October 2023 and February 2024. Therefore, it took the entire Fankou Mineral Processing Plant a year to update all of the ore sorting machines (see Figure 3).

As mentioned before, the processing capacity prior to the update was around 2,500-2,600 t/d; after the machine update was completed, it went up to 3,500 t/d. A benefit of this update is that the Circle Series has less power consumption; thus, more revenue is generated from the sorted ore. The circular vibrating material layout maximises the symmetrical mass of the disc, requiring minimal excitation force to drive the ore toward the circumferential direction evenly. This significantly reduces energy consumption compared with traditional feeders, which rely on excitation force to move under their own weight, HPY says. Compared with belt-type ore sorting equipment with a width of 1.4 m, the energy consumption of this 1.5-m diameter disc feeder machine can be reduced from 7.5 kW to 0.75 kW.

HPY Technology | Fankou lead-zinc Mine, Mineral Processing Plant
Machine used One Golden Coal Series | Two Circle Series
Processing capacity 3,500 t/d
Particle size +10-150 mm
Concentrated ore grade (Pb+Zn) 12% (most economic ore grade)
Waste rock grade (Pb+Zn) <0.3%
Grinding grade (Pb+Zn) increased by 1.08%
Rejection rate 16-17%
Figure 3: Before and After with the HPY machine update in Fankou

The Chinese government has ordered Fankou to close its tailings pond by 2025. Thanks to the support of HPY Technology Golden Coal Series coarse particle sorters, Fankou is able to effectively decrease its tailings pond and have 58% leftover tailings for backfill, it says. In the close circuit of the Fankou Mineral Processing Plant, every resource is used and no ore has gone to waste.

“At HPY, we are focused on exploring paths that may revolutionise the mining of natural resources and pushing forward sustainable extraction through our expertise in resource management,” Coral Lin, Manager of HPY Branding Department, says.