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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Innovating lithium ore sorting: HPY Technology teams up with Zhicun Lithium

HPY Technology says it has provided a customised ore sorting solution to Zhicun Lithium, assisting the company in achieving efficient and environmentally friendly pre-concentration of its spodumene-based orebody, saving energy and reducing carbon emissions during the mineral processing process.

Located in Yichun City, Jiangxi Province, Zhicun Lithium has large-scale production capabilities when it comes to battery-grade lithium carbonate, lithium hydroxide and rubidium cesium salts from lithium resources. According to 2021 data from the Asia Metal Website, Zhicun Lithium topped the national production in terms of battery-grade lithium carbonate. It has a projected output of 200,000 t/y in 2023.

HPY Technology, meanwhile, holds an 80% domestic market share in China and services over 100 mining customers worldwide, the company says. It specialises in developing and manufacturing sensor-based ore sorting machines.

In late 2022, as part of its expansion project, Zhicun Lithium enlisted HPY Technology to develop an efficient lithium ore sorting solution. The team tested ore samples provided by Zhicun, which were determined to be granite pegmatite spodumene. Using these insights and considering the ore properties and on-site production volume, the Insight Series ore sorting machine was deployed for pre-concentration and waste removal testing.

The use of sensor-based sorting technology, HPY Technology says, provides a way to accurately distinguish ore from waste rock by measuring properties such as colour, texture and density. This technological application not only enhances mining efficiency but also significantly reduces the environmental impact of mining activities by reducing waste and the inflow of tailings into the tailings pond, according to the company.

The Insight Series, equipped with VIS HD dual-sided imaging, X-ray imaging, laser imaging and more, allows detection methods to be combined freely depending on various mine characteristics, costs and benefits. HPY Technology claims it offers the best detection combination solution based on the customer’s mine mineralisation properties.

The machines also leverage a multi-dimensional AI algorithm for fast image acquisition and high-resolution imagery, alongside time delay integration technology to avoid image distortion, offering a solid resistance to imaging interference.

The technology underwent a rigorous testing phase, first at the HPY testing centre, then at the mine site. The HPY engineering team provided swift and effective support throughout this phase, helping to achieve remarkable results that meet Zhicun Lithium’s technical specifications, it said.

With HPY Technology’s ore sorting machine, the results demonstrated a significant increase in ore grade, reaching over 2.5% Li2O, and an enrichment ratio exceeding two times.

Zhicun Lithium Group Co., Ltd. ore sorting results
Particle size: +10-60 mm
Processing capacity: 40-60 t/h
Raw ore grade: 1.27% Li2O
Waste rock grade: 0.6% Li2O
Concentrated ore grade: 2.63% Li2O
Rejection rate: 67%
Recovery rate: 68.35%
Enrichment ratio: 2.07

In 2023, HPY Technology plans to extend the use of the Insight Series to two more mining projects: one in a molybdenum mine in Luoyang, China, and the other in a gold mine in Tajikistan.

The company concluded: “This indicates a promising future for HPY Technology’s sensor-based ore sorting solutions, contributing to increased mining efficiency and sustainability.”

HPY ore sorting tech helps Xintianling Wolfram Mine achieve sustainability goals

Xintianling Wolfram Mine in China has partnered with HPY Technology to upgrade the ore content and reduce the amount of tailings being processed at its operation in China.

Established in 2008, Hunan Nonferrous Metals Xintianling Wolfram Mine Co., Ltd. (Xintianling Wolfram Mine) represents the largest individual producer of tungsten concentrate in China. With a processing capacity of 1.5 Mt of ore, the mine produces 5,000 t of tungsten concentrate annually. The company is engaged in mining, beneficiating and tungsten ore sales, along with molybdenum and bismuth recovery.

Xintianling Wolfram Mine is a subsidiary of China Tungsten and Hightech Materials Co. Ltd., which is the management and operation platform for the tungsten industry owned by China Minmetals Corporation. A Fortune 500 company, China Minmetals manages and operates a complete tungsten industry chain that integrates mining, smelting, processing and trading. Its management area contains 1.23 Mt of tungsten resources, representing approximately 11% of China’s identified tungsten resources, according to the company. Its annual production capacity for tungsten smelting reaches 20,000 t, constituting 10% of the total capacity for ammonium paratungstate in China.

In its early years, Xintianling Wolfram Mine used shorthole blasting as the primary mining method. While this method leads to low ore depletion rates, it comes with drawbacks such as low mining efficiency, high costs, low mechanisation and high safety risks. In response to these challenges and production requirements of a 4,500 t/d reform and expansion project, the mine transitioned to medium-deep hole blasting methods for mining. This change, however, introduced issues of higher depletion rates, decreased ore grade and increased beneficiation production costs.

A significant challenge faced by the Xintianling Wolfram Mine is the production of over 1.3 Mt/y of tailings, consuming over 1 million sq.m of tailings reservoir capacity. With the existing tailings pond projected to meet production needs for only five more years, the mine needed to enrich the raw ore grade, reduce the amount of tailings entering the tailings pond, and lower the amount of material entering its grinding and flotation processes to adhere to its commitment to sustainable mining.

To tackle these problems, Xintianling Wolfram Mine partnered with HPY Technology in early 2021, seeking a method to solve its technical challenges and for a more sustainable process. HPY’s sensor-based ore sorting technology could help with these aspects, the technology company says. X-ray Transmission (XRT) detection is commonly used in the mining industry to analyse the atomic density differences in ores. XRT relies on the principles of X-ray absorption and attenuation to differentiate between various materials based on their atomic densities. The tungsten ore is first crushed into a smaller particle size, with the material then fed into the sorting machine, which uses X rays to detect differences in the ore. By measuring the degree to which the X rays are absorbed by the ore, the machine can distinguish between different types of material. As tungsten absorbs X rays very strongly due to its high atomic number and density, it is relatively easy to be identified through this method, according to HPY.

Even so, the raw ore of the Xintianling Wolfram has its own special characteristics. The mineral composition of the raw ore at the Xintianling Wolfram Mine is quite complex. Various minerals in the raw ore can be imaged under radiation, including tungsten minerals, metallic sulphides, iron minerals and denser gangue minerals. However, the most finely embedded tungsten cannot be captured and effectively identified in the image due to the varying particle sizes in the raw ore. Solving this problem requires high-precision imaging capture and ore identification by a sensor-based ore sorting machine. At the same time, the raw ore itself has a small particle size. Therefore, the image of the ore is relatively small, resulting in an increase in the amount of ore to be processed for the same processing capacity. It was a technical challenge for HPY to improve the processing capacity while maintaining a low waste rock grade and rejection rate.

HPY conducted on-site research, sampling, testing, simulation and analysis at the Xintianling Wolfram Mine. The Classic Series was used during the early stages of the experiment. The middle and later stages saw the introduction of the Circle Series – HPY Technology’s ring-shaped structure design that, the company says, allows for exceptional processing capacity within a compact frame. Through continuous optimisation of the software, modification of equipment adaptability, and fine-tuning of the artificial intelligence-based algorithm, the engineers succeeded in reducing the rejection rate and stabilising the waste rock grade, the company said. As a result, the experiment reached its desired goals and Xintianling Wolfram Mine was satisfied with the sorting results.

Ganzhou HPY Technology Co., Ltd., is a high-tech enterprise specialising in the development and manufacture of ore sorting machines. The company’s AI technology includes perception technology, human-computer interaction and deep learning. The performance of HPY’s technology in the Xintianling Wolfram Mine project demonstrates its effectiveness in addressing the challenges of sustainable mining, the company says.

Xintianling Wolfram | HPY Technology

Particle size +10-35 mm Raw ore grade  0.15%-0-40% WO3
Rejection rate 25% Waste rock grade 0.04% WO3
Recovery rate >94% Processing capacity 80-90 t/h
Enrichment ratio >1.4    

Maximising the benefits of sensor-based ore sorting machines

Ore sorting has been shown to provide both economic and environmental benefits, but many mines are not yet fully utilising this technology, according to HPY Technology.

Yet, the company’s ore sorting machines are providing a breakthrough solution for Fankou, one of Asia’s largest lead and zinc mines, resulting in an annual revenue increase of around $9.22 million.

Located in Renhua County, Shaoguan City, Guangdong Province, Fankou is owned by Shenzhen Zhongjin Lingnan Nonfemet Co Ltd. The mine has been producing lead and zinc for over 60 years. However, with new underground mining processes, such as vertical crater retreat and large blasting, more waste rock is being introduced into the crushing, grinding and flotation processes, resulting in higher production costs and energy consumption.

Furthermore, under the “zero waste” target set by the Environmental Protection Law of China, Fankou’s tailings pond needs to be closed by 2025. As of 2018, the mine’s annual processing capacity was 1.5 Mt, with 600,000 t ending up in the tailings pond. In addition, Fankou’s waste rock piles had reached approximately 2 Mt. With the continuous addition of around 200,000 t/y of waste rock, these piles grew larger. With the pressure to meet the zero waste target, Fankou was under pressure to make a change.

In 2017, Fankou conducted exploratory tests of sensor-based ore sorting machines with Ganzhou HPY Technology Co Ltd. The result of the initial tests showed promise and addressed the problems the mine was beginning to face, according to HPY Technology. As a result, Fankou decided to add HPY Technology’s ore sorting machines to the industrial design plan of their mineral processing plant in 2018, and HPY Technology’s machines were officially added to the plant in 2019.

The Fankou lead-zinc mine currently produces about 1.4 Mt/y of ore, and it is expected that more than 105,000 t of waste rock will be pre-rejected from the raw ore throughout the year. Ore sorting technology can discard a large amount of waste rock from the raw ore before it is fed into the flotation system, reducing the amount of waste rock entering the mill and saving on electricity costs.

Fankou’s mineral processing plant uses four Classic Series P60-X1400 ore sorting machines. The machine processes the particle size range of +12-90 mm, which accounts for about 50% of the raw ore. This accounts for 2,600 t of ore, rejecting 400-500 t/d of waste rock. After pre-concentration, the lead and zinc content in the waste rock are below 0.3%, and the sulphur and iron content is below 3.8%. Therefore, the ore sorting process enriches the ore grade by 1.08% for lead and zinc and 2% for sulphur and iron.

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

After sorting the waste rock from the raw ore, this waste rock can be sold as construction aggregate to bring further economic benefits to the Fankou mine. This has also seen the amount of tailings decrease and the service life of the tailings pond extend significantly, resulting in remarkable energy savings and consumption performance, while also enhancing the mine’s societal value, HPY Technology says.

Mr Wang, Project Manager of Fankou Mineral Processing Plant, said: “We are proud to be one of the world’s first lead and zinc mines to utilise ore sorting fully. We see significant economic benefits for using HPY Technology’s ore sorting machine, especially for low-grade mines. China has huge lead and zinc ore reserves, the second largest in the world. But the grade of the deposits is generally low, with many poor and few rich ores. The average grade is about 1.5% for lead and 2.5% for zinc. Reserves with a grade below 5% account for more than 90% of lead ore, and reserves below 8% account for more than 85% of zinc ore. We hope to continue contributing to the mining industry’s progress and are willing to recommend HPY Technology’s ore sorting machine to our peers.”

The Classic Series used in Fankou’s mineral processing plant is a benchmark in the ore sorting industry, according to HPY Technology. This machine uses dual-energy X-ray technology, combined with high-speed air jets to sort ore from waste rock. The X-ray technology penetrates the ore and creates a grayscale image that distinguishes between target and vein minerals. This image is then processed by an artificial intelligence algorithm, which uses the information to accurately sort the ore and waste rock. The Classic Series has undergone numerous iterations, ensuring stable and efficient operation, HPY Technology says. It is currently the most widely used ore sorting machine in China’s mining industry, according to the company.

Fankou Lead-Zinc mine, mineral processing plant

HPY Technology | Fankou lead-zinc mine, mineral processing plant

Machine used Four Classic Series P60-X1400
Processing capacity 2,600 t/d
Particle size +12-90 mm
Concentrated ore grade (Pb+Zn) 12%
Waste rock grade (Pb+Zn) <0.3%
Grinding grade (Pb+Zn) increased by 1.08%
Rejection rate 16-17%

Fankou’s mineral processing plant can save more than $2.9 million/y by using HPY Technology’s ore sorting machines, resulting in an annual profit margin of more than $7.8 million, considering the comprehensive benefits of increased plant capacity, tailings reduction and construction aggregate sales.

In addition to the four Classic Series P60-X1400 in the mineral processing plant, the Construction Materials Plant has three HPY Technology ore sorting machines to process the waste rock from the mineral processing plant and its existing waste rock piles. The waste rock is taken to the construction material plant for another round of sorting, with the remaining waste rock being used for construction aggregates. The three machines at the construction materials plant also process the 2 million cu.m of waste rock initially stockpiled in the tailings pond.

Mr Luo, Project Manager of Solid Waste Treatment, said: “In the past, we could only transport solid waste back to the shaft for filling. After using HPY’s ore sorting machines, we can now sort out all the ore from solid waste and recover the value of the resources. The remaining waste rock can be sold as construction aggregates, which is a win-win solution. Currently, we are also sorting waste rock that was stored before using HPY’s ore sorting machines. The ore grade is about 3%. Sensor-based sorting technology enriches the ore grade to 12-14%. Sorting results show that the rejection rate exceeds 95%. In the global mining industry, Fankou is one the first to successfully apply intelligent ore sorting technology in lead and zinc mines, achieving maximum resource value recovery and is great for the environment.”

According to Mr Luo, waste rock that was initially made into construction aggregates now yields more than 1,500 t/y of lead and zinc metal, which has been able to be recovered through the Construction Materials Plant. In addition, the ore sorting process reduces the waste rock’s sulphur content. This substantially improves the grade of the construction aggregates, increasing its sales price. As a result, the waste rock made into construction aggregates generates about $977,000/y in economic benefits. In addition, the recovered ore generates over $2.8 million/y in benefits.

Fankou has utilised sensor-based ore sorting to its full extent, HPY Technology says, using it during the comminution process to pre-reject waste rock to increase its lead-zinc ore grade. The company also sees benefits from pre-rejected waste rock in reduced costs in its grinding process. With pressure to control the amount of tailings, the pre-rejected waste rock lowers the amount of tailings entering the tailings pond to help the company in its aim of closing the tailings pond in 2025. In addition, sensor-based ore sorting has allowed the company to gain additional revenue through the recovery of lead-zinc from their waste rock piles, while also utilising these piles for construction aggregates. Overall, the introduction of ore sorting has allowed the company to expand its resource recovery. By pre-rejecting and enriching low ore grades, Fankou can now mine areas previously deemed un-mineable due to having low grade ore, allowing them to increase the processing capacity each year.

Fankou lead-zinc mine, Construction Materials Plant

HPY Technology | Fankou lead-zinc mine, Construction Materials Plant

Machine used One Insight Series | Two Classic Series
Concentrated ore grade 12-14%
Waste rock grade Pb 0.04%, Zn 0.10%
Concentrate recovery rate Pb 96.76%, Zn 92.8%
Rejection rate 95%
Enrichment ratio Pb 9.68, Zn 9.28
Particle size +10-50 mm

The Insight Series used in Fankou’s Construction Materials Plant adopts a combined detection method comprised of a VIS HD dual-sided imaging system and X-ray technology, which can be customised according to the physical characteristics of different ores. The machine can collect the ore’s internal and external information simultaneously and with an AI algorithm, which can significantly improve the accuracy of ore sorting and better for sorting complex ores.

Compared with traditional ore sorting machines, which use a belt, the upgraded Insight Series utilises a vibrating feeder and short belt that leads to ore free fall, HPY Technology says. With the optimised mechanical design, the ore falls more evenly, avoiding ore overlap that affects recognition accuracy. In addition, the machine has various feeding widths (1,600 mm, 3,200 mm), which leads to processing capacities of 40-150 t/h (+10 mm-80 mm) to meet the needs of different mines needs during the beneficiation process.

As one of Asia’s largest lead and zinc mines, Fankou has taken steps to maximise the economic value of its process. Through the utilisation of sensor-based ore sorting, the company has seen significant increases in revenue and savings. Having worked with HPY Technology for over five years, Fankou looks to continue this partnership to further the research on the benefits of ore sorting machines. As HPY Technology continues innovating and revolutionising mineral processing, the benefits will only continue to grow, it says.

HPY Technology Co Ltd says it is a leader in the development and manufacture of ore sorting machinery, achieving excellent results in the ore sorting of tungsten, tin, antimony, lead, zinc, copper, molybdenum, gold, phosphate and over 30 other ore types, revolutionising the traditional mineral processing process and significantly promoting the technological progress of the global mining industry. With over 400 machines in use in over 100 mines, the company says it looks to continue revolutionising mineral processing.