Tag Archives: Comminution

Glencore Technology, Global PAM formalise IsaMill agreement in North America

Glencore Technology has announced what it says is an important formalisation and commitment with Global PAM to deliver services to clients of IsaMill™ technology throughout North America.

Global PAM has significant capabilities in technology commissioning and asset management, according to Glencore Technology.

The company will support Glencore Technology through the installation, commissioning and service of its fine-grinding technology, IsaMill, predominantly in the US and Canada.

Glencore Technology says it has had a long-term relationship with Global PAM and some of the company’s key team members, but elevating to a formal commitment is seen by the company as providing its clients in the region with an alliance partner that is trusted.

Servicing IsaMill for three years, Global PAM has worked with Glencore Technology on installations in Corbin, Teck and Las Bambas operations.

The company has significant experience in stirred mills, SAG and ball mills and is widely respected as a general mill maintenance specialist, according to Glencore Technology.

IsaMill is seeing significant growth in North America, so Glencore Technology is keen to see clients receive
maintenance services from a local and respected provider, it said.

Mike Hourn, Glencore Technology’s General Manager – Business Development, said: “Glencore Technology has had a long-term relationship with Global PAM, and we want to extend this to our IsaMill clients in the region. It gives our clients a highly skilled partner we can trust and who shares our values.”

Tom Shumka, President of Global PAM, said: “We have solid experience in providing a complete mechanical mill inspection of IsaMill applications and we’re extremely impressed with the technology. We’ve delivered full installation and commissioning support throughout all stages of the equipment. So this formalisation is a natural progression for us.”

Global PAM intends to deliver maintenance and operational training for IsaMill applications as well as continuous improvement solutions to allow for improved operations of the fine grinding circuit, adding to its service, engineering and aftermarket scope.

Metso Outotec and TOMRA to supply particle ore sorting solutions for mining

Metso Outotec and TOMRA Mining have agreed to continue a non-exclusive cooperation to supply particle ore sorting solutions for the mining and metallurgical industries.

The collaboration expands Metso Outotec’s and TOMRA’s capability to offer leading-edge solutions that help increase the overall value of ore deposits by reaching new levels of energy efficiency and productivity, decreasing costs and extending the life of mining operations, the companies said.

“Separating ore from waste rock as early and as efficiently as possible is essential in minerals processing. The best result can be achieved by combining state-of-the-art crushing systems with advanced ore sorting,” Guillaume Lambert, Vice President, Crushing at Metso Outotec, said. “The combination of Metso Outotec’s crushing know-how and TOMRA’s particle ore sorting expertise is an excellent match, providing substantial benefits to our customers.”

TOMRA’s sensor-based sorting solution has proven itself in the mining sector through many major installations.

It can reduce specific energy consumption by 15%, as well as the amount of water used by three to four cubic meters per tonne of ore, according to the company. This makes it a cost-effective and sustainable solution that can benefit both mining operations and the environment.

Mathilde Robben, Key Account Manager at TOMRA Mining, said: “TOMRA, as an original equipment manufacturer, can add significant value to the process and engineering optimisation of sensor-based sorting inclusive solutions when engaging with our customers within a cooperation agreement framework.”

TOMRA Sorting Solutions and Outotec (prior to merging with Metso) struck a cooperation agreement to supply Outotec-branded sorting solutions for the mining and metallurgical industry all the way back in 2014.

Metso Outotec, Mineral Resources deliver the next generation of crushing

What will crushing plants of the future look like? Mineral Resources Ltd and Metso Outotec have pondered that question and have since gone on to answer it with the delivery of a modular, scalable and relocatable plant at an iron ore operation owned by one of the world’s biggest miners.

Called ‘NextGen II’, the solution represents a ground-breaking approach to delivering safe and reliable production to the hard-rock crushing industry, Mike Grey, Chief Executive of Mining Services for Mineral Resources, says.

And it all started with a test for one of the company’s most technically minded individuals.

“We were sitting around the boardroom table with David De Haas, one of our key engineers on this project, and gave him the challenge to come up with a crushing plant that we could literally relocate anywhere very quickly, build on a very small footprint, and have it plug and play,” Grey told IM in a recent IM Insight Interview.

Mineral Resources, which counts CSI Mining Services (CSI) as a wholly-owned subsidiary, was in a unique position to deliver on this.

A provider of world-class tailored crushing, screening and processing solutions for some of the world’s largest mining companies, CSI specialises in build, own, operate (BOO) projects where it provides both the capital infrastructure and the operational expertise to ensure these crushing plants operate to their potential on site.

It carries out crushing services for Mineral Resources’ own mines, as well others across the mining sector.

Crushing collaboration

When offering such ‘crushing as a service’ type of contracts, the service must be underpinned by the best equipment possible.

Enter Metso Outotec.

Having initially commenced discussions with the global OEM in early 2019 (when it was still Metso), Mineral Resources, later that year, agreed with Metso on the design and delivery of a new type of crushing solution.

The pair recognised early on in these conversations that the industry was changing and they, as service and solution providers, needed to change with it.

The largest bulk commodity operations in the world are made up of multiple pits that get mined over time. As these operations expand, miners are left with a dilemma: extend the haulage time from the pit to the plant or build another plant.

The NextGen II crushing plant has provided a third option.

(Credit: Mineral Resources Ltd)

De Haas, collaborating with Metso Outotec, has delivered on the board’s brief with the design for a crushing plant able to produce 15 Mt/y using a modular design made up of several stations. The plant can move with the mining, being erected and taken down quickly without the type of in-ground services that can scupper such moves.

The first plant delivered under this collaboration is now operating in the Pilbara at a very well-known iron ore operation.

Customised crushing

Guillaume Lambert, Vice President of Crushing for Metso Outotec, provided some specifics.

“The NextGen II is a crushing and screening plant to crush iron ore and produce lump and fine products,” he said in the IM Insight Interview. “The process starts with a primary station made up of a Metso Outotec apron feeder (below left), followed by a vibrating grizzly scalper.” Then starts the size reduction process with a Nordberg C150 jaw crusher (below middle).

From this primary station, the ore goes to three secondary crushing stations, each comprised of an MF3072 banana screen (below right) and Nordberg HP400 cone crusher.

(Credit: Metso Outotec)

Fines and lump are the products from this secondary station, with the oversize arranged in close circuit with the screen, Lambert said.

The screen was designed specifically for the project – offering the compact dimensions that could fit inside the station’s footprint. Other customised add-ons included specialised cooling rooms for the lubrication units and extensive steel fabrication works.

Lambert added: “Really, the tailoring of design is around the modularity of the different stations. Each station is made up of several modules. All those modules can be pre-assembled and tested in a factory and transported by road to the site. This has been established to enable a fast erection process.”

This turned out to be the case with the very first NextGen II installation.

Despite a timeline setback caused by the global pandemic, the 1,500 t of steel needed for the plant construction was built in 16 weeks, starting in March 2020 and ready by July 25 of that year. It was shipped to CSI’s Kwinana facility in Western Australia for pre-assembly before delivery to site.

Final commissioning took place in early 2021, and the crusher has been working well since.

(Credit: Mineral Resources Ltd)

R U OK?

A distinctive blue colour, the plant reflects Mineral Resources’ commitment to mental health awareness and support, carrying the phone number and colour of Lifeline, a Western Australia-based charity formed to prevent suicide, support people in crisis and reduce the stigmas which can be a barrier to seeking help.

“It is really important for us to promote mental health; our fly-in fly-out workforce has matured over some years, but the challenges around working remotely remain,” Grey said. “It is important that we demonstrate we have the support mechanisms in place to support our workers and their families.

“The NextGen II plant is at the forefront of that – it is the first thing people see when they come to work and the last thing they see when going home. They can always reflect and make sure their work mates are OK.”

(Credit: Mineral Resources Ltd)

Support and service

The plant’s operating success has been helped by a local service and support network from both companies, with Metso Outotec providing critical spares and all large “rotable refurbishments” serviced by CSI’s Kwinana facility.

This is underwritten by a remote condition monitoring service that can see personnel and parts from both companies deployed to site at a moment’s notice.

This comprehensive offering has seen close collaboration between Metso Outotec’s Minerals (capital equipment) business, Service business and MRL’s own service team.

Understanding the challenges and potential delays for parts deliveries due to MRL’s remote location, the companies agreed to a specific consignment inventory close to the site to ensure parts availability and exclusivity for MRL to better support the operation.

In addition, a Metso Outotec service expert is present for maintenance and shutdown events to provide expertise and support to the MRL maintenance team.

Grey and Lambert said the collaboration has been a win-win for both companies.

“Working with Metso Outotec on this project has allowed us to define the scope together, rather than remotely,” Grey reflected. “That allows us to ensure we deliver to the timelines and then make any necessary changes on the run, hand-in-hand. We deliver the solution together.”

Lambert added: “Metso Outotec is an indisputable leader in crushing and screening technology, as well as plant. However, working with MRL, we learned a lot about improving the design of our station to maximise safety and improve accessibility in a very, very compact environment for high-capacity plant.”

In demand

This is unlikely to be the first and last next generation crushing plant to come out of the OEM/service provider collaboration.

While iron ore was the commodity of choice for the first installation, Lambert said there was potential for these types of plants featuring in base and precious metal operations.

“The NextGen II plant is very flexible,” he said. “Each station is individually plugged into the solution, and we can easily upgrade the crusher, the screen, etc throughout the year depending on capacity needs.”

Adding or removing some stations could see the throughput reduced or increased, with Lambert even talking about the ability to construct a 30 Mt/y plant that can be built, erected and relocated in the same way as the first 15 Mt/y plant.

“In addition, NextGen II, today, is designed for iron ore applications with lump and fine products,” he said. “If we want, we can add a tertiary crushing stage in order to produce only fines for iron ore. This can match with copper and gold operations also.”

There are plenty of gold miners extracting ore from multiple pits that could provide a strong business case for the installation of such a plant. Similarly, there is potential for this working at major open-pit copper mines.

Lambert concluded: “There is, for sure, global demand for modular crushing plants. Today, having a fast and safe erection process is a must in many countries and locations. In addition, we have more and more short-term operations emerging in very remote locations, so having the possibility to minimise civil works is key for a lot of our customers.”

To watch the full IM Insight Interview on ‘Mining’s next generation of crushing solutions’, click here.

Condor Gold looks to GRES’ Hanlon for SAG mill advice at La India

Condor Gold says it has selected Hanlon Engineering & Associates to develop a feasibility study level design for a new processing plant built around its recently acquired SAG mill at the La India gold project in Nicaragua.

A wholly owned subsidiary company of GR Engineering Services Limited (GRES), Hanlon is based in Tucson, Arizona. As lead engineer for this study, Hanlon will be responsible for the engineering designs, the capital cost and operating costs of the processing plant to a FS level of design.

Condor, earlier this year, entered into an agreement to purchase a completely new Metso Outotec SAG mill package from First Majestic Silver to serve La India.

The feasibility study design will develop costs to a +/- 15% level of accuracy for the design, capital expenditure and operating expenditure of a fully engineered processing plant package, which is normally a mandatory requirement of debt financing. The processing plant will be designed to a nominal capacity of 2,300 t/d, but have the built-in capacity in several key areas to potentially upgrade throughput to 2,850 t/d. At the 2,300 t/d rate, initial production is expected to be 80,000-100,000 oz/y of gold.

Hanlon is due to deliver the FS level engineering designs for a new processing plant within 12 weeks, working in conjunction with its GRES and using their extensive global experience with the design, construction and expansion of gold processing plants.

Mark Child, Chairman and CEO, said Hanlon Engineering was previously engaged by First Majestic Silver, the vendor of the SAG mill, to help design the new SAG mill recently purchased by Condor.

“Their knowledge of the SAG mill and involvement with many similar process plant designs completed to date will help fast track the delivery of the feasibility study design,” he said.

NioCorp working with Weir Minerals, NRRI on Elk Creek HPGR test work

NioCorp Developments Ltd is to initiate testing of Elk Creek project ore using high pressure grinding rolls (HPGR) technology from Weir Minerals.

HPGR technology is considered an energy efficient and low-emission alternative to conventional processing for reducing the size of the ore to enable the recovery of niobium, scandium, titanium, and potential rare earth products, NioCorp said.

The use of this technology in the project reinforces the company’s commitment to the environment and designing a sustainable operation, it added.

The testing is being conducted at the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, in partnership with Weir Minerals. During the testing, which is expected to take several weeks, around 3 t of Elk Creek drill core will be reduced to the 1-mm size needed for hydrometallurgical test work.

Working with Weir Minerals, NRRI acquired an industrial-scale Enduron® HPGR to carry out testing on a variety of ores with this process back in 2020. This is the only large scale HPGR dedicated to research in the US, NRRI claims.

“The network is expected to provide key data that will be used to properly size the HPGR unit for the potential ore throughput at the Elk Creek project, once project financing is secured and the project is operational,” NioCorp said.

The company is currently evaluating the next steps in its overall metallurgical test work program, which will focus on optimising and streamlining the existing processing flowsheet as well as establishing process routes for the potential recovery of rare earth products. The rare earth products that are of most interest to the company are, at present, neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) oxide, terbium oxide and dysprosium oxide. As previously announced, the company has launched a review of the economic potential of expanding its currently planned product suite from the project to also include rare earth products.

An April 2019 feasibility study on Elk Creek, in Nebraska, USA, estimated average production of 7,220 t/y of ferroniobium, 95 t/y tpa of scandium trioxide and 11,642 t/y of titanium dioxide over the 36-year mine life.

Scott Honan, NioCorp COO, said: “After witnessing testing at NRRI, I was impressed with how the HPGR was able to handle the Elk Creek ore quickly and efficiently, with minimal noise and dust.

“We look forward to completing this phase of the test work and moving on to look at further improvements to the existing flowsheet, including our new emphasis around the rare earths.”

Metso Outotec ball mills, Vertimills heading to Mapa’s Liberia and Burkina Faso gold mines

The Turkish conglomerate, Mapa Group, has awarded Metso Outotec a contract for the delivery of key grinding technology to its gold mine expansion projects in Liberia and Burkina Faso.

The value of the order is approximately €19 million ($23 million), and it has been booked in the company’s Minerals June quarter orders received.

Mapa is a major conglomerate working in various industrial and construction sectors, including mining.

Mustafa Bülent Karaarslan, COO of the Mapa Group, said: “For us, good support, reliable project execution, and sustainable equipment and process performance are essential. Alongside the existing good relationship between the companies, they’re the reasons why we selected Metso Outotec for these projects.”

Metso Outotec will deliver identical grinding lines to both sites, consisting of state-of-the-art Premier™ ball mills (one pictured) and energy-efficient Vertimill® VTM-3000 stirred mills, each line featuring a capacity of 400 t/h. The deliveries are expected to take place in January 2022.

Mert Katkay, Head of Minerals Sales for Metso Outotec in the Middle East and Turkey, said: “We are excited that Mapa has chosen us to deliver the key equipment for the expansion of these two projects in Liberia and Burkina Faso. Previously, we have delivered the key crushing, screening and grinding equipment to these two mines.”

TruckMetrics and the true costs of lost crusher production

The importance of optimising blast parameters to reduce the cost of comminution and cut back on energy use is often stressed across the industry, but effective blasting can also reduce the likelihood of crusher obstructions, Motion Metrics says.

Most unplanned plant downtime is crusher-related and primarily due to blockages caused by oversized feed. These events can cause mines to incur significant financial losses due to unplanned downtime, a decrease in throughput, or an increase in energy use, according to the company.

When boulders are larger than the opening of the primary jaw crusher, they can build up in – and eventually block or obstruct – the crusher. In this case, production must be temporarily stopped to break down or remove the boulder. But even boulders small enough to be processed by the primary jaw crusher can cause problems as breaking down large rocks requires a great deal of energy and can result in power spikes, slower production rates, and wear and tear of the crusher liner, Motion Metrics says.

Even brief crusher delays can have massive effects over time.

“For example, one of our customers is a large copper mine in Kazakhstan that experienced average crusher delays of approximately seven minutes per incident,” the company said. “Although these delays were short, they add up to an estimated total cost of $650,000 in lost production each year.”

Another Motion Metrics customer, a Peruvian mine that is one of the largest copper producers in the world, experiences an average loss of $5.73 million/y, Motion Metrics says, while, at an iron ore mine in Brazil, production interruptions cost roughly $3.65 million/y.

“Mines have traditionally taken a reactive approach to mitigating the problems associated with oversized material,” Motion Metrics says. “A boulder obstruction is typically identified by monitoring trends in crusher throughput – a falling trend indicates that material is not able to pass through the crusher. At this point, the blockage or obstruction has already occurred. Mine personnel must halt production to dig out the boulders, or use rock breakers to clear the obstruction, creating a bottleneck and further decreasing production.”

Motion Metrics says a common misconception is that a grizzly can eliminate the problem of oversized material.

“It is true that, with a grizzly in place, boulders are less likely to enter the primary crusher, however, a grizzly is still susceptible to blockages – mine personnel need to remove oversized material or schedule rock breaking,” it explained.

The best way to manage oversized material is to avoid the situation entirely but, failing that, mines should aim to mitigate problems caused by boulders as early in the process as possible.

Motion Metrics developed TruckMetrics to prevent oversized material from reaching the processing plant in the first place.

Mounted on a gantry above the mine road, TruckMetrics monitors each passing haul truck to detect boulders and analyse particle size in real time – without interrupting production. Using artificial intelligence and stereo imaging, the system automatically analyses the truck bed, segments each visible rock, and identifies any oversized material. If a boulder is detected, the system automatically alerts dispatch so that trucks can be diverted.

“TruckMetrics, therefore, provides a two-pronged approach to mitigating problems caused by oversized material,” Motion Metrics said. “First, it helps keep boulders out of the crusher by identifying trucks that contain oversized material and diverting them before they reach the plant. Secondly, the particle size data TruckMetrics captures can be used to optimise blasting parameters so that fewer boulders are produced in the first place.”

TruckMetrics is just one of several services within the Motion Metrics ecosystem that boost productivity and energy efficiency without compromising on safety, the company says.

Weir-backed report highlights decarbonisation opportunities in mineral processing

An independent report, commissioned by the Weir Group, has highlighted the global mining industry’s energy usage, illuminating where energy is consumed and linking it with opportunities and pathways for sector-wide decarbonisation.

The report analyses mine energy use from over 40 published studies, centred on five commodities – copper, gold, iron ore, nickel and lithium. For these five metals, it finds comminution – the crushing and grinding of rocks – alone accounts for 25% of final energy consumption at an ‘average’ mine site. Extended across all hard-rock mining, this is equivalent to up to 1% of total final energy consumption globally.

The report reconfirms comminution as a key target for energy and emissions reduction efforts.

These findings align with the mission of the Coalition for Energy Efficient Comminution (CEEC), a global initiative to accelerate eco-efficient minerals, with a focus on energy-efficient comminution. It also extends on previous CEEC messaging, indicating up to 3% of global electrical energy is used in comminution when considering all mined commodities, quarrying and cement production.

In addition to optimising comminution, the report also highlights other energy and emissions reduction opportunities such as the redesign of grinding circuits at greenfield sites, improved drill and blast approaches, pre-concentration, and the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve decision making.

The report emphasises the mining industry’s crucial role in supporting the transition to net zero emissions, needed to limit global temperatures in line with the Paris Agreement, CEEC says. This includes more efficient and sustainable technologies if the industry is to meet the challenge of decarbonisation.

“Despite the scale of the challenge, the report underlines that small improvements in existing mines can lead to large savings in both energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” CEEC said.

Report author, Marc Allen, states a 5% incremental improvement in energy efficiency across comminution could result in greenhouse gas emission reductions of more than 30 Mt of CO2e.

Allen said: “A relatively modest 5% improvement in comminution across the industry may result in emissions reductions close to the total emissions for New Zealand (35 Mt CO2e).

“A more robust energy audit process and implementation of low-cost opportunities across a mine and process plant may result in total energy savings of up to 10-15% and overall emissions reductions of over 200 Mt of CO2e per annum, depending on the source of electricity.

“Large-scale introduction of renewable energy provides the potential to reduce emissions significantly in the industry – hundreds of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gas savings when there is widespread adoption of renewable energy and energy storage.”

CEEC CEO, Alison Keogh, commended Weir for commissioning this timely work, and all industry leaders taking proactive steps to reduce mining’s footprint. She said outstanding CEEC Medal winning work and 700 published advances have already shared good options for miners to consider, thanks to CEEC sponsors, volunteers and authors.

She urged industry to collaborate to accelerate decarbonisation steps.

“More open knowledge sharing helps speed installations of renewables and energy-efficient approaches across all of industry,” Keogh said. “Benefits also include increased productivity, shareholder value, and financing as companies demonstrate performance towards net zero emissions sooner.”

She cited three key collaboration actions vital to success: (1) sharing best practices, to ensure existing mines and processing plants are better informed and take actions earlier to become more energy and water efficient; (2) sharing new technologies, designs and innovations; and (3) supporting test work and pilots of novel technology on sites and at increasing scales.

Keogh called for greater industry dialogue, noting: “This report highlights both a challenge and an opportunity to revitalise cross-industry discussion and actions on decarbonisation and ESG solutions. Weir is one of many visionary CEEC sponsors supporting public good initiatives like CEEC; we invite industry leaders to actively contribute and collaborate through mining-vendor-research partnerships and share knowledge, site case studies and net zero plans via independent organisations such as CEEC.

“Together, we can accelerate improved energy, emissions and water footprint across industry faster.”

Weir Group Chief Executive, Jon Stanton, commented: “Mining needs to become more sustainable and efficient if it is to provide essential resources the world needs for decarbonisation while reducing its own environmental impact. This report is an important contribution to that debate which we hope will spark thoughtful conversations around the world on the way forward.”

The Axora take on crushing and comminution

As we are continually told, comminution is one of the most energy intensive single steps in the resource extraction business.

One estimate is that it accounts for 36% of all the energy used in the extraction of copper and gold, which is only a shade over the 30% proposed as an average by another industry expert for all mining and mineral processing industries.

It also accounts for an estimated 3% of the global energy requirement for metal production.

These energy requirements are shocking from a sustainability and greenhouse gas emission perspective; they are also extremely costly regarding operating expenses on site.

It is with this in mind that IM touched base with Joe Carr, Industry Innovation Director of Mining at Axora.

A spinoff from the Boston Consulting Group, Axora has emerged as a business-to-business digital solutions marketplace and community for industrial innovators. It says it allows industrial companies to discover, buy and sell digital innovations and share knowledge in its community, powered by an advanced marketplace.

“We exist to transform industries to be digital, safer, more sustainable and efficient,” the company states on its website.

Having recently gone to press with the annual crushing and comminution feature (to be published in the IM April 2021 issue), IM spoke with Carr to find out what the Axora marketplace has to offer on the comminution and crushing front.

IM: What are the main issues/concerns you continuously hear from your mining clients when it comes to designing and maintaining comminution circuits? How many of these problems/issues can already be solved with existing technology/solutions?

JC: One of key issues in this area we hear from our customers at Axora is the blending quality of the input ores.

Joe Carr, Industry Innovation Director of Mining at Axora

This could be particularly relevant in the sulphide space, for instance.

I did some work years ago on Pueblo Viejo for Barrick. When I was there, one of the things we were working on was blending the sulphides as we were feeding the mill from numerous satellite pits with very different sulphide grades. Because we were processing the ore with an autoclave, high-grade sulphides would cause a temperature spike and the low-grade sulphides would lower the temperature. This constant yo-yoing of the feed into the autoclave was terrible for the recovery of metals against the plan.

Generally, the old school way of blending is setting up stockpiles of ore based on whatever variable you want to manage at your operation. You would put a defined amount of each into the primary crusher on the understanding this would create a ‘blended’ feed for the processing plant.

With the information we have at our fingertips today, this process seems outdated.

You could, for example, use HoloLens or another VR system in tandem with the shovel operator to be able to see exactly what material he or she is excavating. That can then be linked back to the geological block model, with this material then tracked in the trucks and onto the run of mine stockpile, before heading to the plant.

This is where something like Machine Max comes in. Machine Max is a bolt-on IoT sensor that tracks where your trucks are in real time – where they have been and where they are going. The processing piece requires block model integration into a mine plan system. If you have the building blocks in place – the networking, sensors, additional infrastructure, etc – Machine Max could, when integrated with this model, allow you to attempt real-time ore tracking.

“If you have the building blocks in place…Machine Max could, when integrated with this geological block model, allow you to attempt real-time ore tracking,” Joe Carr says

The issue is not that the technology doesn’t exist, but that the mining industry hasn’t yet cracked putting all of this together at an industry-wide scale, available to all miners.

You can carry out a project like this or go totally the other way and have a machine-learning or artificial intelligence algorithm in the plant that is constantly reading the incoming feed. These could be based around the block model inputs, or a digital XRF solution, which is able to constantly tweak or adjust the plant settings to the feed specifications. Process plants are generally setup to handle one type of feed. This is usually only tweaked in retrospect or for short periods of time when the mine plan moves into a different mining horizon.

We also have a comminution solution that understands the feed coming in and optimises the mill and power settings to get the optimal grind for flotation, maximising recovery at the back end. While the input is typically set up to be grind quality and hardness for optimal flotation, there is no reason why you couldn’t configure it for, say, sulphides going into an autoclave, tweaking the autoclave heat settings dependent on the feed.

Once that system is set up, it becomes a self-learning algorithm.

Saving operational costs is another pain point for mining companies we always hear about.

We have a solution on our marketplace from Opex Group, which is looking to optimise production while reducing power. Coming from the oil & gas space, this AI algorithm, X-PAS™, offers the operator an opportunity to adjust the settings while still achieving the same required outputs. This is tied to CO2 reduction, as well as power cost reductions.

Opex Group’s AI algorithm, X-PAS, offers the operator an opportunity to adjust the plant settings while still achieving the same required outputs

In mining, the plant is your largest drawer of power, hands down. Generally, if it is not powered on the grid, it is powered by diesel. Opex Group’s solution can save up to 10% of power, which is a significant amount of fuel and CO2.

The solution reads information from your pumps and motors, analyses the planned output of your plant using all the sensor feeds, and tweaks the variables while sustaining the required output. The algorithm slowly learns how you can change configurations to reduce power, while sustaining throughput. This results in lower power costs, without impacting the output.

Importantly, instead of automating the process, it offers the saving to the operator sat in the control room. Operators, in general, are incredibly reluctant to pass over control to an AI algorithm, but when faced with such power saving opportunities, they will often elect to accept such a change.

And, of course, plant maintenance is always on the agenda.

This is where Senseye, which has been used in the car industry by Nissan and the aluminium sector by Alcoa, is useful.

Essentially, this provides predictive maintenance analytics. It is also a no-risk solution with Senseye backed by an insurance guarantee. It is sold on the basis that if you do not earn your money back within the first 12 months, you get an insurance-backed refund.

There could also be openings in the plant for Razor Labs’ predictive maintenance solution, which is currently increasing the uptime of stackers, reclaimers and car dumpers for iron ore miners in the Pilbara.

IM: When it comes to future comminution equipment design, do you expect digitalisation, wear liner innovations, or equipment design to have more of a bearing on operational improvements at mine sites? Phrased another way; is more emphasis being given to refining and extending the life of existing products with digital technologies and wear solutions, than the design of brand-new equipment?

JC: We believe there is always going to be a focus on retrofit and extensions. Once a mill is built, changing the equipment, upgrading, etc is very hard and time consuming. The logistics of getting a new SAG mill to site, for example, are mind boggling. New technology will always come for new sites, but most of the world’s mining capacity is already in place. I would expect most digitalisation to focus on two areas:

  1. Getting more and longer life from all the assets. For example, extending liner life, reducing operating costs and shortening downtime between refits; and
  2. Drawing insights from the existing asset with a view to sweating it. No mill ever stays at nameplate; there is always an increase in production. One or two percent more throughput can put millions onto the bottom line of a company. No mill wants to be a bottleneck in the cycle. In a mine there are always two goals: the mine wants to produce as much ore as possible to put the pressure on the mill, and the mill wants to run as fast as possible to put pressure on the mine.

When it comes to extending liner life, we have a solution worth looking at.

One of the companies we work with out of Australia has an IIoT sensor all tied to wear and liner plates. It is a sensor that is embedded into a wear plate and wears at the same time as the wear plate itself wears. It provides this feedback in real time.

So, instead of the standard routine changeout, it gives you real-time knowledge of what it is happening to these wear parts.

We have a great case study from Glencore where they installed the sensors for around A$200,000 ($152,220) and it saved several million dollars. The payback period was just weeks.

Where I want to take it to the next level is pairing the wear plate monitoring technology on chutes and ore bins and looking into SAG mills and crushers. Relining your SAG mill or primary gyratory crusher is a massive job, which takes a lot of time and cuts your productivity and output by a huge amount. Wear plates are made as consumables, so if you can use 5% less over the space of a year, for instance, there are huge cost and sustainability benefits. You can also more accurately schedule in maintenance, as opposed to reacting to problems or sticking to a set routine.

IM: When compared with the rest of the mine site, how well ‘connected’ is the comminution line? For instance, are gyratory crushers regularly receiving particle size distribution info for the material about to be fed into it so they can ‘tailor’ their operations to the properties of the incoming feed?

JC: Generally, not really. The newer, better financed operations tend to have this. Taking the example above, when designing a plant flowsheet, the close side settings are used. But are they updated on the fly to optimise the plant? Not really. Most processes are designed with a set number of conditions to operate at their maximum.

Most plants dislike, and are not set up to handle, variation in their system, according to Carr

Most plants dislike, and are not set up to handle, variation in their system. They like consistent feed quality and grade to achieve maximum recoveries. Over the next few years, the companies that develop the best machine learning or AI models to run plants in a more real time, reactive way will see the biggest growth. A mill will always say it’s the mine that needs to be consistent, but the nature of geology means that you can never rely on this. As one geologist I knew said, “geology, she is a fickle mistress”.

IM: Where within the comminution section of the process flowsheet do you see most opportunity to achieve mining company sustainability and emission goals related to energy reductions, water use and emissions?

JC: In terms of emissions, at Axora we are actively looking at technology that can help across the entire plant. There was a great paper published in 2016 around this specific topic ‘Energy Consumption in Mining Comminution’ (J Jeswiet & A Szekeres). The authors found that the average mine used 21 kWh per tonne of ore processed. Given diesel produces 270 g per kWh, this means a plant produces 5.6 kg of CO2 per tonne of ore processed, on average. For a 90,000 t/day site, this might represent 510 t of CO2 per day (186,000 t/y), just for processing. To put that into context, you would need 9.3 million trees to offset that level of carbon.

If the industry is serious about lowering its carbon footprint, especially Scope 1 and 2 emissions, then the focus has to come into the process. There are easy wins available from proven solutions in other sectors for companies that want to take them.

Metso Outotec to supply Vertimills, cone crusher to IAMGOLD’s Côté project

Metso Outotec is to supply key comminution technology to IAMGOLD Corporation and Sumitomo Metal Mining’s joint venture Côté gold project, in north-eastern Ontario, Canada.

The delivery consists of two energy-efficient Vertimill® 4500 grinding mills (pictured) and one MP1250 cone crusher for the Côté gold project.

Andy Lingenfelter, Vice President, Minerals Sales, North & Central America, Metso Outotec, said: “Low energy and wear part consumption, as well as process flexibility, were decisive factors for the Côté gold project team when selecting the comminution equipment.

“Metso Outotec was consulted during the prefeasibility study and supported IAMGOLD on several projects. IAMGOLD’s technical team had solid confidence in the Vertimill technology, and they were also familiar with the high-performance capability of the MP crushers.”

The value of the order exceeds €10 million ($11.9 million) and has been booked in Minerals’ March quarter 2021 orders received.

Côté comes with estimated contained gold reserves of over 7 Moz. Construction of the gold mine commenced in late 2020, and is expected be completed in mid-2023.