Tag Archives: Foresight

Filling the mineral processing flowsheet gaps

Crushing, grinding, flotation, solvent extraction, electro winning, tailings management…Metso Outotec covers it all.

The new mineral processing entity might be less than a week old, but many in the industry would have, no doubt, had some burning questions to ask since the planned merger was announced on July 4, 2019.

IM had a chance to put some of these questions to Stephan Kirsch, President Minerals business area, Metso Outotec, gaining an initial impression of what the combination of the two companies means for the Minerals business he heads up.

IM: What big mining industry challenge will the combined group be better placed to tackle? What equipment/solutions/expertise within the group are the most important in achieving these goals?

SK: One issue – although not technology-focused – is community engagement.

Some mining operations in the world face challenges in terms of engaging with local communities and returning benefits to them. There is a social responsibility for mining companies, as they are the operators, but also for mining industry supporters involved in such projects.

That said, the vast majority of the mining industry runs initiatives that ensure communities understand mining companies are not just there to extract the iron, copper or gold and make money from it. They give back to local stakeholders and help improve community standards.

Stephan Kirsch, President Minerals business area, Metso Outotec

From a technology perspective, an industry issue we are well equipped to tackle is tailings management. With our combined offering, we look very seriously into solutions that can involve dewatering, dry stacking, and the reprocessing of tailings.

You asked about the products involved in solving these challenges…that includes filtration technologies, bulk materials handling products for conveying and stacking, and then various ore sorting technologies for the reprocessing.

Another trend to highlight is the use of energy or, more specifically, the need to reduce power consumption. There is some work to do here.

When you go and buy a car, you tend to focus on the fuel consumption. The mining industry, however, aims for high installed power because there is a sentiment that more power in the mill means more product out of the mill, more fines and, as a result, better downstream recoveries. In a way that is true for technologies like horizontal mills, ball mills and SAG mills, but when you turn to different, newer technologies it is not always the case.

One of these technologies is HPGRs which were introduced in the minerals industry in the mid-80s. Today, HPGRs are used in high tonnage, competent, abrasive ore applications due to their lower specific power draw and other downstream benefits compared to conventional technologies.

One can add to this, conserving other natural resources such as water. Water scarcity is obviously a problem and we should look at the recycling of process water wherever possible (that is where the filtration technology comes into play again) at the same time as examining more energy-efficient flowsheets.

There is quite a bit we can do to solve some of these challenges from a mineral processing perspective, but, the problem is, the industry remains conservative and anything new takes time to be implemented sustainably.

IM: I know Metso has previously talked about creating a bulk ore sorting solution for industry. Considering this, do you as Metso Outotec expect to continue leveraging the agreement Outotec has in place with TOMRA to carry out more sensor-based ore sorting projects? Alongside this, will you continue with your own bulk sorting projects?

SK: Early removal of tailings/overburden from the processing plant feed has been the operator’s dream for probably a century! This concept of preconcentration has been a consideration for many years, but in the last 30 or so years, technologies with different sensors have been developed to help with this separation process.

It is the ability to use sensor technology to single out particles on a conveyor belt at an appropriate speed and quantity that is the industry challenge. After all, when it comes to mining, we are talking about bulk materials that must be processed, not single elements like you have in the recycling and food sectors where much of this sensor technology originated from.

You need to look at the operating economics of such plants. When I say economics, I am factoring in throughput and recovery rates: you want a high tonnage and you don’t want to waste your ore, which is already low grade compared with what was being mined, say, 30 years ago.

The answer to your question is that Metso has been looking into preconcentration technologies for some time – we have R&D projects and partners looking at it. The same is the case with Outotec. Going forward, we will analyse this and make a call on whatever is the best combination to continue with such work.

Personally, I am a big believer in segregating waste as early in the process as possible to save energy downstream. But there are technical challenges to this.

IM: Both companies have been expanding their modular offering in recent years (Metso with its flexible FIT™ stations and the smart Foresight™ stations/Outotec with its modular paste backfill plants and HIGmill): is a lot of your mining and metals R&D currently focused on reducing the footprint of your solutions?

SK: Our R&D budget – as you probably heard on the webcast last week – is quite significant when put together. As Metso Outotec committed to keep both of our budgets unchanged, the spend comes to about €100 million ($112 million). A market survey we carried out revealed that, in terms of R&D spend, we are at the top of the industry.

Then, we must spend this money wisely wherever we see it being applied most economically for the benefit of our customers and for Metso Outotec. The modular crushing stations you mention are an area of interest we started developing years ago. We see good potential for this modular offering and will continue to develop it.

As for the percentage of the budget we will dedicate to it, this will – like all R&D projects – be analysed alongside others for crushing, grinding and all separation technologies with a strong focus on product innovations, digitalisation and sustainability.

IM: As you hinted at earlier, do you see tailings management being one of the combined group’s core strengths?

SK: It is one big focus area for us, but only one.

Crushing and grinding, which I mentioned earlier, is another strong area. We are a market leader in some of the crushing technologies we offer, and high up the industry when it comes to grinding technologies. We plan to really expand on this side.

I mentioned HPGRs where we have brilliant, world-class technology, but are missing the installed base. With 20-25 years of HPGR experience, I know we have the technology to make a difference, we just need to effectively bring it to market.

The whole re-grind space is really a future area for us to pursue due to industry-wide issues of falling grades, the need to reduce power consumption and fine grinding requirements.

Back to the original question, I expect Metso Outotec to be a strong player for dewatering and tailings management solutions.

IM: Outotec has a much more developed downstream business in areas like hydrometallurgy and smelting, etc in mining than Metso – will this remain a core part of the combined group?

SK: The front-end strength of Metso for mineral processing plants and the wet processing business focus of Outotec shows how well both companies complement one another. From a technical perspective, this is one of the reasons why the merger of Metso and Outotec makes much sense.

IM: In what segments of the mining and metals market do you see the most complementary solutions within Metso and Outotec?

SK: When we brought these two companies together it is amazing how many renowned international mineral processing experts came with it. We can provide much more comprehensive services to the industry because we can look at the entire flowsheet – from run of mine ore, to metal.

Why is this so important for our customers? You can bundle equipment together to make tenders and dealing with OEMs more economical for mining companies. But, more than that, we can bring a much larger pool of experts to a project to interact and talk with each other to provide the right innovations. This is the ‘one plus one equals three’ effect.

We can also look at balancing the equipment so, for example, the primary crusher is appropriately configured to produce the right ore for the secondary crushing process and the screens are amply sized to effectively carry out their job. That then leads to finding the optimal operating point for the HPGRs and milling equipment and then the downstream processing segment. This type of equipment balancing is highly interesting for the market, creating win-win situations for customers and us as an OEM.

IM: Do you see your relationship with mining customers changing because of this holistic approach?

SK: Yes and no. There are companies that will appreciate this wider offering and there are others that will continue to come to us as part of a more traditional way of tendering for mineral processing equipment.

I see a trend where larger companies are coming back to reliable OEMs because the availability, sustainability and reliability of equipment is much more important than saving a dollar in capex in the first place. That is a trend we have seen strengthen even more recently with COVID; we all know when a plant is not running, it costs operators hundreds of thousands of dollars per day in lost revenue.

Yet, there are always customers that say capex is king. They will do everything they can to tender it most competitively from a capital expense perspective, regardless of the long-term total cost of ownership benefits choosing another solution will have.

IM: How will your digital offering be strengthened through the combination?

SK: At Metso, we started, especially in South America, with a strong operation and presence in terms of remote control and remote operating and maintenance support for processing plants.

The service solutions that have been developed and established in some countries, specifically for Metso and for Metso equipment, in the new company will, of course, be transferred into the installed base of Outotec (for example, a facility previous owned by Outotec in Espoo, Finland, is now a Metso Outotec Performance Center facility).

We often heard from customers: ‘We have great equipment from the Outotec side, but we have never experienced the great Metso services.’

What is so encouraging to see is that there is demand from the industry for such a combination of equipment and services.

IM: Where do you see an overlap of solutions (for instance, possibly crushing and grinding equipment (SAG/AG/ball mills), vertical crushing tech (Vertimill/HIG mill)) or flotation (Outotec has a greater market share but Metso supplies some interesting options like column flotation, plus is the leader in flotation camera monitoring with VisioFroth)? Historically, have you been competing against each other for contracts in these market segments?

SK: As you know, for 12 months or so, there was intense scrutiny from the regulatory authorities to find out if the companies could merge or not because of an overlap, and the answer that came back is yes.

From a regulatory authority perspective, there is no overlap, and, from a technical perspective, I view it in a similar way.

One prime example to give would be the Vertimill (below, left) and the HIGmill (below, right). If you look at both in detail and you talk to customers – which has happened when we have our project meetings and negotiations – you often find that the applications being examined are so specific that both mills, although close when it comes to operating process, have their own sweet spots.

                      

Most of the cases where we, as Metso and Outotec, won or lost a tender, the argument was not around price or sentiment; it was always technical where, for example, the feed was too coarse for the HIGmill, or the end product needed to be so fine that the Vertimill was ruled out.

We, therefore, want to continue offering both technologies; we will not shelve one because we believe there is room for both solutions.

IM: Could this combination then enable you to offer a more customised solution for customers?

SK: That is where the benefit (from the combined Metso Outotec) for the industry really kicks in; our customers are not just getting standard solutions; some tailoring is involved. They will be able to get more specific and solution-oriented, performance-balanced pieces of equipment.

IM: Would you like to add anything else?

SK: I need to say that I am quite excited about the opportunities for the new company, Metso Outotec. There are benefits for both us and the wider industry.

Personally, I am humbled to be elected to run such a large organisation of industry experts and high-quality equipment. It is exciting times ahead.

Metso strengthens equipment, processes, technology and people connections

Now more than ever remote assistance is needed to keep the lights on at many mining operations across the globe.

The onset of COVID-19-related restrictions has focused the industry’s attention on just how far it can and should automate operations and – nearer term – how it can keep downtime to a minimum at its processing plants.

Metso has been investing in the development of new technologies and digital solutions to aid this cause for decades.

Think of how VisioRock™ and VisioFroth™, combined with Advanced Process Control OCS-4D™, have helped operators monitor rock sizes and flotation efficiency, and optimise production overall, from control rooms far away from where the action is happening. More of its products – such as the recently launched VPX™ filter for tailings dewatering and the Foresight™ smart mining crushing and screening stations – can also be connected to various devices to help monitor equipment.

This wide portfolio of technologies to collect, analyse, and act on data from minerals processing plants was recently combined under its Metso Foresight digital portfolio, which consists of cloud-based IoT and on-premise solutions that collect and analyse machine and process data.

The move has consolidated tools such as the Metso Metrics core remote conditioning monitoring solution and the recently acquired capabilities of HighService Service – which has been providing maintenance and remote monitoring for gearless mill drives for over 20 years – into one integrated solution that mining companies can tap into.

Johanna Newcomb, Vice President, Performance Solutions at Metso, says these recent organic and inorganic investments reflect the company “doubling down” on its digital focus.

“In 2018, we launched Metso Metrics and, in 2019, the acquisition of HighService Service added remote maintenance services to our offering,” she told IM as part of a recent IM Insight Interview.

This year, the company launched its Metso Performance Center solution to keep up this rapid digital momentum.

These centres, currently in Santiago, Chile, and Changsha, China, have been established at just the right time, helping mining companies troubleshoot and carry out maintenance tasks remotely when bringing experts to site may not be possible.

Newcomb explained the rationale for their introduction: “Remote monitoring and analytics, combined with on-site assistance as needed, provides a new, proactive way for Metso to support our customers; to reduce variability of their processes, to optimise the processes and to maximise the use of their assets.”

The creation of the centres has been geared towards leveraging the vast expertise and experience within Metso of equipment, minerals processing and carrying out servicing on a global basis, according to Newcomb.

“The Metso Performance Centers are a new way of funnelling that expertise and data-driven analytics for the benefit of our customers globally,” she said.

While improving process stability, asset reliability and process efficiency and sustaining the improvement over the long term are the key aims of these centres, this type of remote service support could see the philosophy of on-site maintenance teams shift tremendously.

Instead of carrying out ‘firefighting’ tasks, they can focus on proactive elements that optimise the processing plant over the long term, according to Newcomb.

Metso has been able to facilitate such a shift using many of its digital solutions that reside at customer sites such as advanced process control systems, Visio and Audio systems, ore tracking platforms, and others.

But, how do these service centres make the most of these digital solutions?

Soledad Barbera, Head of Metso Performance Centres, explained: “The services are available globally and provided by a multi-disciplinary team of experts. There are two centres in operation, one in Santiago, Chile, currently supporting all time zones, and one in Changsha, China, which services the Chinese market area.”

In the ‘first line of defence’ at these centres, specialised engineers monitor connected equipment and processes. This sees them scrutinising analytics, interpreting data, and delivering insights and recommendations for actions. Customers – and potentially an on-site team of Metso technicians – receive this information.

Barbera says Metso is in the process of expanding the first line of monitoring in different market areas, increasing the network of monitoring engineers and adding market area satellite locations. “This will provide an interface to get closer to our customers and speak to them in their own language as much as possible,” she told IM in the IM Insight Interview.

In the centre’s ‘second line of defence’ – incorporating more complex problems – expert advisors with broader operational experience and knowledge of the customer’s applications will be drafted in to solve issues.

The ‘third line of defence’ will see the company’s global network of experts mobilise to help support long-term solutions development. This includes reliability engineers and product experts.

Proactive performance

These remote services help Metso ensure desired performance is reached in deliveries and that this performance is sustained or improved further through a long-term service offering, according to Newcomb.

“By closely connecting the remote services with our existing offering, we are able to mobilise required assistance, changes, parts, etc faster, and elevate the level of proactiveness in our deliveries and services overall,” she said.

This has had a tangible impact on operations at the processing plants connected to these centres, according to Barbera.

“With remote diagnostics now offered through the Metso Performance Center, we have helped customers reduce unplanned downtime by 30%,” she said, referencing an example from the company’s gearless mill drive monitoring division (acquired with HighService Service). “We have also helped cut in half the on-site time needed to resolve failures through this remote monitoring service.”

Metso ensures all customer data is protected throughout the exchange, according to Newcomb.

“We have secure, modular connectivity options and fully respect the privacy of our customers’ data,” she said.

This broad offering has already attracted many customers to the centres, with Barbera saying around 100 pieces of equipment and solutions are currently being serviced through the remote facilities. “They are critical assets for our customers,” Barbera explained.

Expect this number to increase in the very near term, with Metso looking to further broaden the centre’s offering.

“We are expanding the analytics and digital solutions for different types of equipment and services,” Barbera said.

This expansion is very timely.

“The world has changed, and we are living a new way of doing business,” Barbera said. “Many customers want us to support them remotely and continue to be able to give them advice and recommendations.

“With the help of remote services and the latest technologies, Metso is still able to offer expert support to our customers, without a delay.”

This interview is an extract of an IM Insight Interview that will be published later this month

Metso adds crushing & screening flexibility to the process flowsheet with My Plant Planner

Metso is looking to increase access to and improve the visualisation of mining process flowsheets with a new tool that could ultimately see more of its equipment end up at mine sites.

My Plant Planner offers engineering customers and mining end users the ability to model a flowsheet after inputting certain key parameters of their orebodies. They can then also visualise this plant layout in a platform that is free to use.

Metso, along with other OEMs, has provided visualisation tools to the industry for many years.

The company’s Bruno simulation software has over 7,000 users and has been helping customers select the right equipment for their mines since 1994. This software includes all the necessary Metso equipment, such as feeders, crushers and screens, and shows outputs for different end products, providing users with the data they need to make informed decisions on the right equipment.

My Plant Planner utilises this simulation expertise, but does so at a much earlier stage of the equipment selection process.

With the tool, customers can pick and choose different types of crushers, screens and conveyors to get the perfect balance for the circuit and identify bottlenecks to understand where extra capacity is needed, according to Metso.

Important factors, such as capacity, load, and power draw, are updated in real time as the circuit is designed and the parameters updated. At any point, it is possible to download a report that gathers together all the details about the plant being designed. It includes details on the chosen crushers, screens, conveyors and their parameters, including power consumption.

“We decided to develop this tool as we were seeing different types of requirements from our customers and EPCMs (engineering procurement and construction management) at the time around prefeasibility studies and we wanted to be more reactive to this,” Guillaume Lambert, Vice President of Metso’s Crushing Systems business line, explained to IM.

Prior to using such a tool, these EPCM firms were developing flowsheets for economic studies – the type of documents investors use to gauge the potential profitability of a mine development – over a matter of months or years in tandem with OEMs, before moving onto obtaining quotes based on their mining customers’ budgets.

As time has gone on, these firms have been asked by their mining customers to factor in more requirements into these studies. One may require a reduced plant footprint due to the proximity of indigenous communities; another may request that energy consumption is reduced in line with existing available power infrastructure in the region.

The requests vary depending on the size of company, the location of the project, the commodity and many other elements.

This is where the three-dimensional aspect of My Plant Planner is very important, according to Lambert, providing customers with not only a visualisation of the flowsheet, but also a gauge of the physical constraints that cannot be represented in 2D form.

This means companies assessing brownfield assessments can factor in height and width restrictions of existing infrastructure against capital expenditure requirements.

The turnaround time for the type of analysis being carried out by My Plant Planner is also a key selling point, allowing companies to generate results in a matter of hours, as opposed to waiting two to three weeks for a flowsheet assessment.

This speed could allow customers to explore multiple processing flowsheets in a simplified form as part of their due diligence process – for example weighing up a three stage conventional crushing and screening flowsheet against a HPGR circuit.

So far, the crushing and screening portion of the process flowsheet will be covered with the launch of My Plant Planner, but, based on customer feedback, the company plans to expand to the filtration process and other downstream elements.

As to why the company started with crushing and screening, the answer is an obvious one, according to Lambert.

Metso already has Bruno and VPS software (mine to mill assessments) in place – “we don’t have to reinvent the wheel in this regard”, Lambert said – and it is the area of the flowsheet that tends to come with the most equipment options.

“You can have three crushers in parallel, or one big one; a large screen in close circuit, or a smaller one in open circuit, etc,” he said.

It is this flexibility that miners require today. New projects coming to the table are very rarely 20-plus year developments that require a uniform comminution process over their lifetime.

Capex-conscious miners and their investors are instead bankrolling developments that tend to come with less than 10 years of life and are conservative when it comes to throughput. This is with the idea that they will fund the mine life extensions and expansions from existing cash flow when the operation is at full tilt.

These growth plans will inevitably come with the need to amend the process flowsheet down the line – which is where the plant footprint visualisation ability of My Plant Planner could come into play.

Flexibility such as this is also coming into Metso’s equipment line-up, with the company, only last week, launching its flexible FIT™ and smart Foresight™ crushing and screening stations for mining.

The FIT stations are designed with a focus on speed and flexibility, with two stations to choose from – Recrushing station and Jaw station – while the Foresight stations are equipped with smart automation technology including Metso Metrics™, VisioRock™, level sensors and crusher variable frequency drive.

These modular solutions are geared towards reducing capital expenditure and providing shorter lead times. In other words, they offer more flexibility.

It is tools such as My Plant Planner that will highlight just how important this flexibility could be over the life of mine of a chosen operation, providing users with the visibility to help navigate choppy commodity cycles and ensure their operations remain profitable over the long term.

You can find more details on My Plant Planner by clicking here.

Metso goes modular with new crushing and screening plants

Metso is introducing two new modular “game-changing solutions” for mining crushing and screening plants that, it says, will provide significant resource and time savings for mines.

The flexible FIT™ stations and the smart Foresight™ stations offer a wide range of flexible solutions with ease of maintenance and time savings for any operation, according to the company.

Guillaume Lambert, Vice President, Crushing Systems at Metso, said: “We have the experience in delivering crushing and screening plants with over one hundred installations globally. We also understand the needs of customers today in the evolving industry. That is why we are using our legacy and expertise to introduce these modularised crushing stations that focus on capital expenditure reduction and shorter lead times.”

The FIT stations are designed with a focus on speed and flexibility. There are two stations to select from – Recrushing station and Jaw station. The steel structures are supplied in modules that fit easily into containers for transportation, according to the company, which also reduces on-site welding usually required and allows for quicker start-up. Container delivery reduces delivery time by up to 25% compared with similar crushing and screening plants, while erection time is also reduced by up to 15%.

The Foresight stations are equipped with smart automation technology including Metso Metrics™, VisioRock™, level sensors and crusher variable frequency drive. These features enable optimised crusher speeds, preventative maintenance and optimised production levels up to 6,000 t/h, the company says. The MP cone crusher station features a scalping MF™ screen and an MP™ Series cone crusher.

Both stations come with proven Metso equipment and technology to deliver maximum productivity for even the most demanding mining applications, the company said.