Forward thinking – the MissionZero Mine

An interview with Wayne Douglas, VP, Head of Mining R&D and Innovation, FLSmidth

Mining is faced with depleting reserves, decreasing ore grades, and pressure for sustainable operations. International Mining Editorial Director Paul Moore recently visited FLSmidth’s Technology Center in Midvale, Salt Lake City with Wayne Douglas, VP, Head of Mining R&D and Innovation.

He gave an in-depth insight into what is a world class R&D facility that helps the mineral processing major push the envelope when it comes to sustainability, productivity and recovery, right from the front of the flowsheet and ore characterisation, through comminution, flotation and of course tailings. Plus he emphasised that a lot of this work is done today in co-development with its key customers.

As mentioned, sustainability plays a central role today in FLSmidth’s approach – it is now over two years since FLSmidth announced MissionZero and everything that is developed today has this in mind – looking to achieve zero energy and water waste and zero emissions. At the core of this is the MissionZero Mine – FLSmidth’s vision to provide key minerals processing equipment for the sustainable gold and copper mines of the future.

Examples from the flowsheet include low impact grinding with the OK™ Mill, which has a 35% reduction in grinding energy as kWh/t; together with HPGR technology, eliminating SAG and ball mill grinding media saves up to 100,000 t of CO2e per year.

New flotation technology, collectively referred to as eco-beneficiation, involves improved recovery of coarse valuable particles, allowing for less fine grinding, so the energy input for grinding can be reduced by up to 30% while overall flotation energy demand is reduced by up to 60%. This includes the REFLUX™ Flotation Cell (RFC™ ), which dramatically shifts the performance curve by delivering faster flotation, higher recoveries, and better product quality – all in a compact footprint. FLSmidth’s coarseAIR™ offers improved recovery at coarser grind sizes. This technology expands what is traditionally thought of as “liberation classes” and achieves recovery of particles considered poorly liberated in a conventional sense. This means what were once considered difficult to float particles – that might have been lost to tailings – can now be easily recovered. 

However, while there are these benefits in each section of the flowsheet, a very real benefit will come from the combined impact of solutions and optimisations across the mine site. New ideas are also coming into mining from other industries, such as strong AI capabilities based on sensing,

Finally, the MissionZero in mining has moved from ideals at a corporate level to real results at a minesite level, and is now front and centre in flowsheet design and development conversations with mining and EPCM customers. This also reflects the realisation that a MissionZero approach doesn’t have to mean lower profits or higher cost per tonne for customers – it can actually reduce mining costs through improved metallurgical recovery and reduced energy costs amongst other benefits, and this has already been proven at major operations.

Forward thinking – the MissionZero Mine