Tag Archives: CRC ORE

Orica to open access to the Integrated Extraction Simulator with JKTech deal

Orica says it has signed a landmark software licence agreement with JKTech Pty Ltd that will give it access to models developed by the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC) that are used in comminution and flotation simulation.

The agreement will open industry access to the Integrated Extraction Simulator (IES) with JKMRC models – by combining widely applied industry models into one integrated and collaborative cloud-hosted platform that simulates and optimises every step in the mining value chain, the company said.

At the back end of last year, Orica was selected as the commercialisation partner for the Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction’s (CRC ORE) IES, a cloud-based software platform designed to reduce the use of energy and water in mining through the application of simulation, optimisation and machine learning.

IES has been developed from the combined research of CRC ORE, The JKMRC and AMIRA, and, to this point, has been available free to CRC ORE 1 Participants (term 2010-2015) and CRC ORE 2 Participants (term 2015-2021) when used in research projects and site-based implementations.

Integrating and optimising drilling and blasting, crushing, grinding and flotation, IES provides mine managers with a cloud-based decision support platform that enables production departments to coordinate and optimise system value across all operational metrics.

“Mining operations have to process multiple material types simultaneously in their operations – so their simulator platform should be able to as well,” CRC ORE says. “IES has been designed from the ground up as a platform for multi-component modelling and the new generation equipment models are responding to the challenge. Trusted models from years of research have been upgraded to ‘multi-component’ capability and IES offers model developer’s sophisticated tools to facilitate multi-component processing.”

Orica Vice President Digital Solutions, Rajkumar Mathiravedu, said: “This partnership will allow us to continue to underpin advances in simulation and industry value creation, from orebody knowledge through to the final product.”

CRC ORE simplifies complexity for value

“There are a lot more variables to bulk ore sorting than just the technology,” Jon Rutter says.

The Principal Geologist of the Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE), Rutter knows his stuff. He has worked underground in both narrow-vein and mass-mining operations, as well as at large scale open-pit mines; in the base and precious metal arena.

During a presentation at International Mining Events’ IPCC Virtual event in early-February, he shared a slice of this knowledge while reviewing a recent installation project CRC ORE had been involved in at a platinum group element (PGE) operation.

“The intrinsic value of bulk ore sorting comes from the delivered heterogeneity,” Rutter said. “We have got to be able to sense and divert a higher-value pod of material versus an adjacent pod of lower-grade material on a conveyor.

“You essentially want to put more material into the mill that adds value – and not what destroys value.”

Looking at the wider bulk sorting opportunity in mining, Rutter explained the sensor diversion units (SDU) in bulk ore sorting were smaller than what the mine itself can typically offer in the form of a selective mining unit (SMU), which may be comprised of a dig block totalling around 15,000 t.

A truck offers a 100-300 t opportunity, while a shovel typically comes with a 50-100 t opportunity.

Even with a modest conveyor running at a 2,000 t/h rate, an on-board sensor (eg PGNAA or PFTNA) running at a 30 second integration time (the time to analyse one grade) would provide an SDU of 16.7 t. A sensor with lower integration time (eg XRF at 10 seconds) comes in at 5.6 t.

The ability to provide analysis down to this level has enticed several major companies into testing bulk ore sorting solutions.

Anglo American has trialled bulk ore sorting solutions at copper and platinum group metal mines, while BHP recently engaged CRC ORE to examine deployment of cutting-edge preconcentration techniques under its Grade Engineering® platform at the Olympic Dam mine, in South Australia.

The SDU with bulk sorting may be that much smaller than the SMU of a typical mine plan, but lab-level precision is not required for these solutions to work, according to Rutter.

“What I need is the ability to measure the metal content adequately,” he said. “When I say adequate, this incorporates the entire error bar of the system. That system includes the inherent geology, the mineralisation style and heterogeneity. We also need to consider the precision, accuracy and integration time – which is the technology constraint; but we also need to include the weightometers, the flop gates, the diversion gates, as well as that entire mining and materials handling process right from the start – from blasting, loading, hauling and dumping to the plant.

“But for bulk ore sorting what I end up requiring from this combined data is usually a binary decision: am I above or below a certain threshold?”

He expands on the bulk ore sorting (BOS) assessment process: “The other way of looking at this is simply considering it as planned ore loss and dilution. If we go back into that dig block, in that 15,000 t of material, I’ve already incorporated planned ore loss and dilution decisions or parameters into that SMU decision. So, if we look at bulk ore sorting, I am just talking about those different attributes – the error bars of a BOS system – as the inputs or parameters for BOS planned ore loss and dilution – it’s now just at a smaller and more precise opportunity.”

The company took a two-phase approach to the BOS opportunity at the PGE operation in question.

The first phase involved carrying out heterogeneity analysis of the orebody; correlation analysis of PGEs to base metals; selection of sensor technologies (XRF and PGNAA were selected in this case), design, layout and equipment selection for the bulk ore sorting plant; natural deportment analysis of the orebody; development of a preliminary business case; the ore type selection and sampling strategy; and project planning and management.

CRC ORE and the company in question settled on a solution where a Caterpillar 992 wheel loader dropped material off to a system using a combination of grizzly, feeder, sizer, conveyors, diverter, stackers and associated equipment from MMD, used in conjunction with an ore sensing system equipped with both PGNAA and XRF sensors to continuously measure the elemental composition. The PGNAA sensor provided a “penetrative” analysis calculation whereas XRF provided a “surface” sensing calculation, Rutter explained.

An incline conveyor ahead of the diverter gate and the accept/reject stream provided the 30 second integration time the PGNAA analyser required.

Phase two of the project involved online and offline (pre-install) work; sensor calibration; proving the technology; and proving the technology can drive physical separation.

Rutter said the completion of static calibration of the sensors saw the PGNAA sensor 20-30% calibrated, and the XRF sensor 70-80% calibrated.

This outcome harked back to Rutter’s assertion that “bulk ore sorting implementation is not a plug and play opportunity”.

A dynamic calibration in online mode completed under normal conditions was required to get the PGNAA sensor up to speed. This process, meanwhile, solidified the operation of the XRF sensor.

While the two sensors were calibrated in different ways, Rutter showed data that confirmed both were in unison when it came to reading the ore/waste that came through the conveyor (see right-hand graph below).

“The two sensors are independent of each other and fundamentally very different, but they can work well together, or separately,” he said.

CRC ORE was able to prove the technology by running the same sample through the circuit a number of times, as Rutter explained: “We fed 15-20 t of run of mine material into the hopper and repeated the process 15 times, putting the same 15-20 t sample through the system. We could then start to determine the precision and accuracy of the sensors and the system.”

For further verification, the sample was crushed, sub sampled and assayed.

“We wanted a binary response to ore and waste to build confidence,” Rutter added.

Phase three involved the ramp up to production scale, going from, say, 500 t/h to 1,000 t/h; carrying out validation by campaign; and finally integrating with the operation.

There were several lessons all mining companies – and bulk sorting vendors – should keep in mind from such a project, Rutter said.

Operations need to assess the impact of mixing across the entire materials and mining handling process as soon as possible, for one.

“The earlier we can put this data into the system, the better,” Rutter said. “Without a heterogeneity signature, we cannot implement bulk ore sorting.”

He also stressed the importance of timely feedback. Sensor calibration, a secondary crushing/sampling plant and assaying were all required to build confidence in the solution.

Rutter added: “The proper calibration of sensors does require a considerable and ongoing effort…but that is no different from any other process plant or equipment.”

Operators also need to be wary of where they set these solutions up in mines, recognising this heterogeneity dynamic.

“Bulk ore sorting is quite unlikely to be universally suited to the entire deposit,” Rutter said. “The analogue for this is a flotation plant; there are ore types in the mine where you achieve better performance in the flotation plant and others where you get worse performance.”

Orica to take CRC ORE’s IES cloud-based simulation technology global

Orica has been selected as the commercialisation partner for the Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction’s (CRC ORE) Integrated Extraction Simulator, a cloud-based software platform designed to reduce the use of energy and water in mining through the application of simulation, optimisation and machine learning.

The award followed a competitive selection process, with the global mining explosives and services giant set to take the reins of the platform’s growth strategy from July 2021, with plans for global expansion of the technology.

Orica’s interest was initially driven by IES’s introduction of blast simulation into the mineral processing value chain, CRC ORE said. While mine operators can use controlled blasting techniques as an effective augmentation of the rock breakage process, Orica also saw the wider application of IES as an obvious fit with its expanding digital solutions offer across the whole mining value chain.

“By harnessing the virtually limitless scalability available through cloud computing services, mining companies can now use IES to configure multiple design options for a mineral processing plant,” CRC ORE said. “IES then tasks each design and simulates its performance for every day of operation over the life of a mine. This high-resolution simulation of each design leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of optimal mineral processing.”

Orica intends to expand this capability into a global solution for mining companies, enabling them to design their mineral processing using IES, and then leverage IES’s capability every day to drive continual operational improvements.

CRC ORE Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ben Adair, said having a company the calibre of Orica as commercialisation partner is testament to the enormous opportunity and benefits that the simulator provides to the mining industry.

“We have worked with our Participants over many years to refine our simulation platform,” Dr Adair said. “As a foundation Participant in CRC ORE, Orica shares our commitment to optimising resource extraction and our passion for the continued development of the simulator.

“The scale offered by Orica’s global reach, in addition to its sustained investment in research and development and unwavering focus on innovation, makes it the ideal custodian of IES.”

Orica has been evolving towards its vision of an integrated ore extraction mining services company, with this vision including investing in digital solutions where continuous innovation and open integration with other industry systems across the mining value chain are key to the delivery of whole of mine optimisation for customers, CRC ORE said.

Orica Chief Commercial and Technology Officer, Angus Melbourne, said Orica is primed to take the simulator global and continually evolve the technology to meet the ever changing needs of the industry.

“This is a great example of industry collaboration developing solutions to industry level problems, and we are extremely proud to be part of it,” he said. “It is a fantastic opportunity to continue Orica’s 11-year relationship with CRC ORE and further expand our digital solutions offering by combining our blasting domain expertise with this leading simulation technology to customers and beyond worldwide.”

Orica Vice President Digital Solutions, Rajkumar Mathiravedu, said: “From a technology perspective, we see enormous synergies with our existing blasting and measurement solutions, including BlastIQ, FRAGTrack and ORETrack. We are also excited to integrate our automated, data science enabled blast design technology and solutions with IES, offering end-to-end digitised workflow solutions from orebody knowledge through to mineral processing in an open, secure, and connected platform.”

CRC ORE’s team of developers and consultant engineers will integrate into Orica from July 2021 and will continue to be led by CRC ORE’s current General Manager for the simulator, Nick Beaton.

Beaton said: “IES is now at the right point in its development to become commercially sustainable while continuing to develop new capabilities. It will be thrilling to continue this with Orica.

“We have demonstrated that the simulator can improve the value of major mine sites by some 5-6; this is significant for the mines using the simulator and for the whole industry.

“Optimisation of processing operations by use of IES will also enable step-change reductions in power and water consumption, while greatly improving recoveries of marginal ores, all contributing to the future sustainability of mining operations.”

The transition of the IES business to Orica will take place in the middle of 2021 when CRC ORE’s term comes to an end. In the meantime, CRC ORE and Orica, together with industry partners, will continue developing innovations to drive continual improvements throughout the mining industry. Continuing this innovation, Orica looks forward to IES participation in the next iteration of the Amira P9 project.

Hatch to commercialise CRC ORE’s Grade Engineering services

CRC ORE says it has taken an exciting step forward with Hatch, signing a deal that allows the multidisciplinary management, engineering and development consultancy to commercialise its Grade Engineering® Consulting Services.

Developed by the Brisbane-based Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE), Grade Engineering enables miners to reduce their energy, water and waste signatures while enhancing the productivity and profitability of their operations, according to CRC ORE.

It is an integrated approach to coarse rejection that matches a suite of separation technologies to ore specific characteristics and compares the net value of rejecting low value components in current feed streams with existing mine plans as part of a system-view.

Grade Engineering makes it possible to more efficiently treat lower grade ores and waste to extract valuable minerals, significantly increasing the life of mines and reducing their environmental footprint.

Achievable outcomes for mines, when deploying Grade Engineering at production scale, include significantly improved return on investment and lower capital intensity, according to CRC ORE.

BHP recently engaged CRC ORE and the Grade Engineering solution at its Olympic Dam mine, in South Australia, a location where the mine is actively examining bulk ore sensing and sorting opportunities.

“As Hatch adopts Grade Engineering and extends its reach into the mining industry, the value of such outcomes will increase for operations, clients and communities globally,” it added.

CRC ORE Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ben Adair (pictured signing the agreement on the left), said: “Hatch is a valued a long-term participant in CRC ORE and has actively championed Grade Engineering and its benefits to the industry. As a CRC ORE innovation, we are pleased that Grade Engineering will continue to be delivered by such a capable and engaged team.”

Dr Adair added: “At CRC ORE, our goal has been to develop our solutions to the highest possible standard and then ensure these are then managed by the most capable practitioners to take them to industry. Hatch is the perfect partner to ensure the long-term future of Grade Engineering.”

Under the terms of the commercialisation arrangement, Hatch will use Grade Engineering Intellectual Property for its consulting services.

Hatch Managing Director Australia and Asia, Jan Kwak (pictured signing the agreement on the right), said it was an honour to provide Grade Engineering consulting services.

“Being able to offer Grade Engineering as service is an exciting and positive step forward for Hatch and the mining industry,” Kwak said. “Grade Engineering enables miners to reduce their energy, water and waste signatures while enhancing the productivity and profitability of their operations.

“It also brings us a step closer to our vision for process intensification.”

The Grade Engineering team at Hatch will be headed by Dr Sevda Dehkhoda who has been working closely with CRC ORE since 2019.

“We look forward to continuing the legacy of CRC ORE by enabling the mining industry to intensify operational performance and minimise environmental footprint of the process by refining less waste,” Dr Dehkhoda said. “Adopting Grade Engineering into Hatch’s end-to-end value chain optimisation service offering strengthens Hatch’s position and its commitment to making positive change for mining operations and their communities.”

To facilitate the transition, CRC ORE’s Grade Engineering team will relocate to Hatch’s Brisbane office, supporting Hatch with current and potential users of Grade Engineering.

BHP engages CRC ORE for Olympic Dam bulk ore sorting study

BHP has engaged the services of Australia-based research consortium, the Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE), to examine deployment of cutting-edge preconcentration techniques.

Olympic Dam, 560 km north of Adelaide, is one of the world’s most significant deposits of copper, gold, silver, and uranium. This large BHP site is made up of underground and surface operations and conducts fully integrated processing from ore to metal.

The South Australia operation is one of the locations where BHP is actively examining bulk ore sensing and sorting opportunities – techniques within the CRC ORE Grade Engineering® suite of preconcentration technologies.

Grade Engineering is an integrated approach to coarse rejection that matches a suite of separation technologies to ore specific characteristics and compares the net value of rejecting low value components in current feed streams with existing mine plans as part of a system-view.

CRC ORE was requested by BHP to assist in the assessment of bulk ore sorting opportunities at Olympic Dam, it said.

BHP Principal Technology, Lee Bolden, said that as a CRC ORE participant, the diversified miner had watched with interest the sorting and sensing work that CRC ORE is undertaking in open-pit and underground operations.

“It made sense for us to have CRC ORE provide us with valuable insights on this work and input into our bulk ore sorting plans,” Bolden said.

BHP received a high-level bulk ore sorting deployment strategy from CRC ORE for Olympic Dam, along with a framework and calculator for the quantification and ranking of bulk ore sorting strategies at the operation.

CRC ORE also identified the critical work and data required to strengthen the evaluation of bulk ore sorting with the Olympic Dam Project team.

CRC ORE Chief Operating Officer, Dr Luke Keeney, said there were several deployment options among the opportunities assessed.

“We explored sublevel open stoping under the current mining environment, along with block caving as part of future-state mining options,” Dr Keeney said.

As part of the assessment, BHP received a high-level estimate of value from these deployment options.

Dr Keeney said the engagement of CRC ORE at Olympic Dam demonstrated the commitment of big miners to apply innovation to their processes.

“With the need for valuable minerals continuing to grow and mining these minerals becoming ever more difficult, mine operators need to think differently,” Dr Keeney said.

“Bulk ore sorting, and other Grade Engineering opportunities become increasingly competitive and complementary solutions where mined grades decline and mining dilution increases.”

CRC ORE’s Kal Hub integrated into Curtin University’s WA School of Mines

The Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mining Innovation Hub, an initiative of the Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE), has, this week, transitioned to be part of Curtin University’s Western Australian School of Mines (WASM).

The Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mining Innovation Hub has been operating out of the Chamber of Mines and Energy (CME) office in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, since 2018. It was established in the renowned Goldfields mining community thanks to a partnership between CRC ORE, Curtin University, the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia, the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and CME.

CRC ORE Chief Operating Officer, Dr Luke Keeney, said he was pleased that the Kal Hub has become part of WASM and will continue this collaborative innovation.

“We are proud of what has been achieved through the Kal Hub since its inception and look forward to seeing great things under its new stewardship,” Dr Keeney said. “It is an optimal outcome that Curtin University, one of our valued Research Participants and key partner in the hub to date, is ensuring the future of the Kal Hub as a centre of mining innovation for Western Australia and beyond.”

Curtin University Kalgoorlie Campus Director, Sabina Shugg, said the Kal Hub is a welcome addition to the local campus.

“The Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mining Innovation Hub is growing in stature and already has strong ties to the University, WASM and the local community,” Shugg said. “It is fitting that the Kal Hub is now operated locally to focus on innovations and solutions for the local mining industry.”

Reflecting on the hub and its achievements while operating as a node of CRC ORE, Dr Keeney said the flagship Integrated Screening and Particle Sorting project was a standout.

“This collaborative study with Australian mining companies BHP, Norton Gold Fields and Saracen on the integration of screening and particle sorting techniques is delivering benefits across the resources sector,” Dr Keeney said. “Run through the hub, this study developed a robust and scientifically rigorous framework for collecting, testing and reporting results for integrated screening and particle sorting techniques in a variety of ore domains.”

Dr Keeney said the hub creates opportunities for innovation, collaboration, employment and education.

“We’re particularly proud of being able to engage students – mining’s future brightest minds, with the hub through the vacation student program,” he said.

As part of the transition, Kal Hub Technical Adviser, Dr Laurence Dyer, now works full time for Curtin University. He divides his time between hub projects and his existing role as Curtin’s Discipline Lead for Metallurgical Engineering.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to support collaborative innovation throughout the Goldfields region and beyond,” Dr Dyer said.

Curtin University is planning several new initiatives for the Kal Hub including scaling up an existing major water management project and new partnerships with leading mining technology providers.

CEEC Medal recipients recognised for pushing lower footprint mineral processing

Two standout research and field work contributions that have the potential to improve environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance across industry have been awarded the highly respected CEEC Medal for 2020.

Attracting a record 23 high-quality nominations from across the globe, the shortlisted Operations and Technical Research papers showcased exciting site improvements and innovative ideas for future technologies, according to the Coalition for Energy Efficient Comminution (CEEC).

Now in its ninth year, the CEEC Medal recognises the best published papers that raise awareness of comminution research findings, alternative comminution strategies and installed outcomes.

CEEC Director and Medal Evaluation Committee Chair, Dr Zeljka Pokrajcic, said this year’s nominations reflected industry trends to install renewables, consider embodied energy and emissions, and the continued embracing of technologies such as pre-concentration and coarse flotation.

“It’s rewarding to see how industry leaders and experts are collaborating to forge improvements that make good business sense and proactively improve efficiency,” Dr Pokrajcic said.

The 2020 recipients are:

Operations

Peter Lind and Kevin Murray of Newmont and Alan Boylston and Isaias Arce of Metso Outotec, (formerly Metso), for their paper titled, ‘Reducing Energy and Water Consumption through Alternative Comminution Circuits’. This was presented at the 7th SAG Conference in Vancouver, Canada, in 2019.

Technical Research

Dr Grant Ballantyne (pictured), for his paper titled, ‘Quantifying the Additional Energy Consumed by Ancillary Equipment and Embodied in Grinding Media in Comminution Circuits’. This was also presented at the 7th SAG Conference in Vancouver.

Dr Pokrajcic said the winning Operations paper from Newmont/Metso Outotec documents a successful miner/vendor collaboration on how to assess the comminution circuit options in a low energy and water environment.

The paper considers a typical case of a low grade, bulk tonnage copper-gold orebody in an arid climate (Chile, South America) with significant energy costs. It brings together important solutions – including energy-efficient comminution, ancillary equipment, preconcentration and flotation – and presents compelling economic comparisons.

CEEC CEO, Alison Keogh, said of the paper: “This global knowledge sharing offers real value for decision-making across the globe. The paper’s practical, systematic technology approach, which incorporates all-important financial analysis, has the potential to accelerate industry’s progress to deliver lower footprint minerals.”

The paper’s co-authors, Lind and Boylston, explained that the work was the result of collaboration between many innovative thinkers, with ideas and approaches built over many years.

“We wanted to make a difference, to bring technologies together to show that you can save energy, save water and save money as well. This was a group effort, not only by our extended teams at Newmont and Metso Outotec, but also involving Steinert and Scantech in working through how to apply technologies,” they said.

The CEEC Medal Evaluation Committee praised the winning Technical Research paper from Dr Ballantyne as being “an impressive approach to capturing and quantifying energy consumption of ancillary equipment and energy used to manufacture and transport grinding media”.

The paper shares insights on embodied energy using data collected from sites and presents results on the CEEC Energy Curves.

“The research presents a broader approach that considers the impacts of not just energy used in particle breakage but also embodied energy in the manufacture and transport of grinding media, and energy used in the operation of ancillary equipment such as conveyors and pumps,” Dr Pokrajcic said.

“Bringing this spotlight to embodied energy has strategic value. Many companies are including investigation of supply chain in their procurement decisions.”

Dr Ballantyne, previously a Senior Research Fellow at the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC), and now with Ausenco, noted that his work started in 2012, building on earlier concepts shared by industry at a CEEC workshop in Australia. These concepts were developed further following industry input at the 2015 SAG Conference in Canada.

“I also acknowledge the inspiration and collaboration of Chris Greet (Magotteaux), Evert Lessing (formerly Weir, now Metso Outotec), Malcolm Powell (formerly The University of Queensland) and Greg Lane (Ausenco) for contributing expert input and data to the work,” Dr Ballantyne said.

“New research ideas and collaboration with industry are key to industry innovation,” he said. “Support and mentoring from these suppliers as well as experts from Ausenco and The University of Queensland ensured these new ideas could be published for industry to progress thinking.”

In addition to the two CEEC Medals awarded in 2020, three publications received High Commendations.

High Commendations – Operations

Ben Adair, Luke Keeney, and Michael Scott from CRC ORE, and David King from Minera San Cristóbal operations, for their paper titled ‘Gangue rejection in practice – the implementation of Grade Engineering® at the Minera San Cristóbal Site’. This was presented at Physical Separation 2019, in Cornwall, United Kingdom.

This paper shares the prediction and outcomes of a Grade Engineering pilot at Sumitomo’s Minera San Cristóbal operations in Bolivia. The work identifies ore amenability and levers to optimise up-front rejection of gangue before processing.

Keogh said: “This approach highlights the scale of the opportunity for mining leaders to invest in unlocking hidden value for shareholders through productivity step-change while significantly reducing impact on the environment.”

High Commendations – Operations (continued)

Malcolm Powell, Ceren Bozbay, Sarma Kanchibotla, Benjamin Bonfils, Anand Musunuri, Vladimir Jokovic, Marko Hilden, Jace Young and Emrah Yalcin, for their article titled ‘Advanced Mine-to-Mill Used to Unlock SABC Capacity at the Barrick Cortez Mine’. This was presented at the 7th SAG Conference in Vancouver.

This work was a collaboration between three organisations: JKMRC at The University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute, Barrick’s Cortez mine and JK Tech. It shares an advanced mine-to-mill approach that unlocks improved SABC production capacity at Barrick’s Cortez mine in Nevada, USA.

Dr Pokrajcic said the article was an excellent review of the dynamic between SAG and ball mills, illustrating how mine-to-mill, with the consideration of blast movement as well as fragmentation, and operation-wide optimisation could empower sites to identify and sustain long-term improvements.

“It highlights the opportunity of operationalising cooperative ore blend control to balance energy use across the milling circuit, reducing specific energy consumption while benefitting from increased production,” she said.

High Commendation – Technical Research

Paul Shelley and Ignacio Molina (Molycop) and Dimitrios Patsikatheodorou (Westgold Resources), for their paper titled ‘SAG mill optimisation insights by measuring inside the mill’. This was presented at the Procemin-Geomet Conference in Santiago, Chile, in 2019.

In a first for industry, this innovative approach aims to collect data from sensors inside the grinding balls within grinding mills, CEEC said. It brings potential application for high frequency measurement of temperature and impacts inside the mill.

Dr Pokrajcic said: “If this early work can be successfully commercialised and scaled up, it could bring new insights that link to operational and energy efficiency improvements.”

Keogh said nominations for the 2021 CEEC Medal were now open, and she encouraged the submission of relevant, ground-breaking articles from online events and industry presentations.

“Because of disruptions to physical events, we have extended the closing date for submissions to October 30, 2021.”

Details of the application process for the 2021 CEEC Medal can be found here.

Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mining Innovation Hub uncovers a fraction of processing value

Extensive testing conducted by a Kalgoorlie, Western Australia-based research hub has found Western Australian Goldfields mine sites can add value to their operations by focusing on small size fractions.

In recent decades, the primary driver to maximise profitability of mining operations has been to mine and process as much material as possible to exploit economies of scale. This has led to bigger equipment, higher throughput and greater production, but not necessarily efficient use of resources.

With the concerns of declining grades, more complex orebodies, greater haulage distances, higher energy costs and water usage, any approach that can alleviate the impact of these issues is highly desirable.

The Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mining Innovation Hub recently explored use of a pre-concentration technique known as “Grade by Size Deportment”.

“This technique exploits the propensity for some ores to exhibit preferential breakage leading to concentration of minerals in specific size fractions,” it explained.

Several sites within the Goldfields region of WA showed significant potential for separation by size to provide value to their operations, according to the hub. This is particularly the case where either marginal grades are present or growing distances from face to surface, or, from mine to mill, are subject to increasing transport costs, it said.

Research and test work by the hub show that natural grade by size deportment during coarse rock breakage and screening is a key lever for generating high-value coarse separation, it said. This, in turn, can drive better productivity and returns for mine operators.

The Kal Hub, established in 2018 by the Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE), enables focused collaboration between researchers; mining equipment, technology and services suppliers; and mining companies to unlock value for Australian mining through technology development.

CRC ORE Chief Operating Officer, Dr Luke Keeney, said: “In a short amount of time, the hub has been able to bring together some of the most innovative people in industry and research, enabling collaborative innovation to occur.

“This collaboration is good for the Goldfields, and for the wider mining industry, as it demonstrates the benefits mine sites can experience by deploying various aspects of Grade Engineering®, including grade-by-size deportment.”

Grade Engineering is a system-based methodology developed by CRC ORE designed to reject low value material early in the extraction value chain and pre-concentrate processing plant feed. A key lever for successful Grade Engineering is grade-by-size deportment, the hub said.

The Kal Hub Technical Advisor, Dr Laurence Dyer, said the objective of the Grade-by-Size Deportment project was to undertake initial representative sample testing to determine natural deportment Response Rankings at a range of deposits in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder region.

“This project provided an introduction for industry participants to Grade Engineering and an indication of potential opportunities that grade-by-size deportment may present,” Dr Dyer said.

“A number of companies came on board and we were able to obtain diamond drill core and reverse circulation (RC) drilling samples from a variety of sites in the Goldfields to crush, screen and assay to develop a snapshot of responses to this approach.”

Samples were crushed where necessary and screened into up to six size fractions, with a finer set of screens used for the RC samples to accommodate the difference in particle size distribution.

As expected, gold sites displayed significant variation in response, while all nickel sites tested showed significant upgrade in the finer fractions of both nickel and cobalt, the hub said.

“RC samples were a compelling sample option due to their prevalence and self-preparation for screening, however there remains a question as to the legitimacy of the results they generate,” it added.

Dr Dyer said: “Gold samples produced varied data with the majority of sites producing low to moderate upgrades on average.

“The RC samples generated greater variation and often decreased in grade at the finest size fractions, likely due to particles being below liberation size, creating issues with the response ranking fit.”

The Kal Hub research also showed nickel produced far more consistent behaviour with all sites producing moderate to high responses for both nickel and cobalt. While for some samples the nickel and cobalt response rankings matched well, in others, the nickel upgraded significantly better, it said.

BHP, Norton Gold Fields and Saracen join forces for screening and particle sorting study

A collaborative study with Australia mining companies BHP, Norton Gold Fields and Saracen on the integration of screening and particle sorting techniques is set to deliver benefits across the resources sector, according to CRC ORE.

The Integrated Screening and Particle Sorting Collaborative (ISPS) study aims to develop a robust and scientifically rigorous framework for collecting, testing and reporting results for integrated screening and particle sorting techniques in a variety of ore domains.

The study, which began in August 2019, is currently underway at BHP’s Cliffs nickel mine, Norton Gold Fields’ Paddington gold site and Saracen’s Carosue Dam gold operation, all in Western Australia. It is expected the study will further expand during its 15-month tenure to include an additional two sites, according to CRC Ore.

CRC ORE ISPS Study Program Manager and Discipline Lead – Metallurgical Engineering at Curtin University’s Western Australian School of Mines, Dr Laurence Dyer, said the opportunity existed to use particle sorting to upgrade ores.

“Trials have recently been conducted at several gold mining operations in the Goldfields region of Western Australia,” Dr Dyer said. “What commonly fails to be taken into consideration is the benefit of first assessing the natural deportment of metal to a size fraction through grade-by-size screening test work, prior to undertaking particle sorting test work.”

He added: “Missing this step has two impacts. First, there is a risk that particle sorting test results will be misinterpreted as being representative of the full sample without considering the mass balance impact of high-grade material that might have been lost in the fine fraction. This fine fraction will not be detected through the particle sorter.

“Secondly, the opportunity may exist to upgrade feed first through determining if there is a concentration of high grade to the fine (or coarse) fraction which can be separated through screening. Undertaking screening in the preparation stage of the particle sorting process will enable analysis and separation of the fine or coarse fractions of a rock mass.”

Dr Dyer said the study outcome would be a blueprint for understanding the opportunity for upgrading ore feeds, including an assessment of operational impacts, economic valuation and implementation approaches.

The three mining companies would benefit from insights and improvements generated from other sites, while CRC ORE will benefit from developing a broader understanding of the application and opportunity for applying particle sorting on a range of deposit types, he said. In CRC ORE’s case, this will be integrated with natural deportment grade-by-size screening opportunities to maximise value for mining operations, he said.

The ISPS study forms part of the CRC ORE Grade Engineering® program, which is focused on extracting metal more efficiently by separating ore from waste before the comminution process commences.

“Current industry perception is that declining feed grade is an unavoidable consequence of ore deposit geology and mass mining technologies for increasingly mature mining operations,” the CRC ORE said.

In typical crush-grind-float operations, value recovery only takes place at around the 100-micron particle size involving three to four orders of magnitude size reduction compared with run of mine feed, according to the organisation.

“For increasingly low-grade deposits, the cost of energy and capital intensity required to process and reject worthless material at micron scale drives poor productivity,” it said. “An alternative is to deploy a range of coarse rejection technologies.”

Grade Engineering is an integrated approach to coarse rejection that matches separation technologies to ore specific characteristics and compares the net value of rejecting low value components in current feed streams with existing mine plans as part of a system view, according to CRC ORE.

Dr Dyer said the Grade Engineering program and the ISPS study would be conducted through CRC ORE’s Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mining Innovation Hub and Curtin University’s Western Australian School of Mines.

“Particle sorting is an important lever of Grade Engineering,” Dr Dyer said. “Through this project, CRC ORE is looking to develop a better understanding of the value of particle sorting to upgrade mill feed, particularly when combined with grade-by-size screening.”

A not for profit organisation funded by the Australia Federal Government and the global minerals industry, CRC ORE commenced in mid-2010 and, after its initial five-year funding term, was awarded a further six years of funding until July 2021.

CRC ORE and Canada’s NRC to move LIBS mineral analysis to the mine site

The Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE) and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) have partnered on a project to bring the benefits of laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) chemical element analysis to the mine site.

LIBS, a rapid chemical element analysis technique, is used in a variety of applications including analysis of soil, effluents, scrap metal, alloy and molten metals. It works through a focused laser pulse striking the sample surface and removing an amount of material to generate a high-temperature plasma plume. Atoms and ions are excited to higher energy levels and, while returning into their ground state, emit characteristic energy signatures for each element.

The robustness of LIBS is well suited for real-time minerology analysis and at all stages of the mining production cycle, according to CRC ORE, with commercially available laboratory-based quantitative mineral analysers (QMA) – such as QEMSCAN and MLA – historically used in mining.

“However, these technologies are not suited for in-stream or on-belt applications due to their meticulous sample preparation and measurement protocols,” the centre said. The analysis is limited to costly lab-based sampling, which requires the extraction of extensive samples and the transport of these to lab facilities, sometimes many hundreds of kilometres away from the mine site, according to CRC ORE.

To provide a timelier solution to the mining industry, the CRC is working with the NRC to explore the use of LIBS sensor technology for applications such as mineral characterisation across a conveyor belt. Additionally, the use of LIBS is being examined as an industrialised elemental and mineralogical analyser for scanning coarse rock streams.

CRC ORE Program Coordinator, Dr Greg Wilkie, said the two organisations are taking LIBS use in the mining industry to the next level by putting the technique to use in operating mine sites.

“By applying LIBS in a real-time application, such as across an operating conveyor belt, operators are empowered with high volumes of rapid analysis provided in real time,” Dr Wilkie said. “Analysis in real time speeds up the mineralogy process, providing operators with detail they may have previously had to wait days or weeks to obtain.”

He added: “We are proudly putting the minerology back into process minerology.”

The NRC’s Senior Research Officer, Dr Alain Blouin, said the NRC and CRC ORE are working on a long-term LIBS project, which is nearing the end of an intensive two-year study.

“We are developing a novel application of a LIBS rapid on-line mineralogical characterisation instrument suitable for deployment on mine sites,” Dr Blouin said. “LIBS can measure a large number of elements simultaneously with the ability to detect light elements beyond the capability of many other techniques.”

Dr Wilkie said since LIBS can perform analysis several metres away from what it is measuring and still detect extremely low concentrations it is well suited technology for the mining industry.

“Beyond cross-belt scanning, LIBS can work in a variety of settings from in-pit muckpiles, underground draw points and on-line slurries,” Dr Wilkie said.

It is anticipated that the real-time LIBS solution be used in conjunction with CRC ORE’s Grade Engineering® – an approach to the early separation of ore from waste material. Grade Engineering is minimising the impact of declining grades and productivity in the Australian and global minerals sector, according to CRC ORE.