Tag Archives: NextOre

Metso Outotec aims for higher capacities as ore sorting offering develops

The entry of Metso Outotec into the bulk ore sorting space arguably heralds the beginning of a new stage of market adoption – one that is focused on significant throughputs across multiple commodities.

In May, the mining OEM announced a collaboration agreement with Malvern Panalytical, a company that has been using Pulsed Fast Thermal Neutron Activation (PFTNA) technology onboard its cross-belt analysers to analyse and help divert ore and waste streams with improved accuracy.

Up until that announcement, Metso Outotec had mooted the benefits of bulk ore sorting in several industry articles. On the smaller scale, it had also renewed its ongoing agreement with particle ore sorting major player, TOMRA.

The company said its agreement with Malvern Panalytical, which has previously worked on bulk sorting projects with Anglo American among others, brought together its expertise in crushing and bulk material handling solutions with Malvern Panalytical’s ore analysis nous to offer an industry-leading portfolio of solutions for bulk ore sorting.

Rashmi Kasat, Vice President, Digital technologies at Metso Outotec, said in the press release that the pact with Malvern Panalytical would allow the company to meet the industry’s increasing sustainability and resource efficiency needs in an enhanced way in the early comminution stage.

“Sensor-based bulk ore sorting and data-driven analysis upgrades low grade or waste stockpiles, making them economical and far less energy-intensive to treat,” she said.

There are obvious positive benefits up- and down-stream of sensor-based sorting too, with the ability to carry out a low-cost mining method (upstream), as well as reduced capital investments in downstream equipment already shown with early-adopter projects.

That is before considering the relative energy and water reduction requirements that come with applying the technology.

Kasat later told IM that the company’s existing portfolio of material handling modules, crushing stations or mobile crushing equipment, as well as bulk material handling solutions, already “complement” the concept of bulk sorting.

“The addition of the bulk sensor is easily achieved,” she clarified. “The diversion mechanism will be included as well to be able to offer the whole plant out of one hand.”

With crushing stations – at least in the in-pit crushing and conveying (IPCC) space – that can go up to 15,000 t/h (see the company’s Foresight™ semi-mobile primary gyratory station), the prospect of Metso Outotec making a concerted effort to get into the bulk ore sorting space bodes well for the rising throughputs of projects.

NextOre recently claimed it had commissioned the world’s largest bulk ore sorting system at First Quantum Minerals’ Kansanshi copper mine in Zambia. This installation, which uses the company’s magnetic resonance technology, comes in at a 2,800 t/h-rated capacity.

Scantech, meanwhile, recently confirmed it has a GEOSCAN GOLD installation using prompt gamma neutron activation analysis technology for bulk sensing/sorting up and running that uses a diversion system at conveyed flow rates of more than 6,000 t/h.

Kasat, without naming a range, confirmed Metso Outotec was targeting “higher capacities” in line with the sensors available on the market. She also clarified that the agreement with Malvern Panalytical was “non-exclusive”.

“We will choose all our sensor/analyser partners strategically,” she explained. “Malvern Panalytical has a leading position and history in this field with proven technology for ore sensing. We will leverage our and their Tier 1 position in the industry for our bulk ore sorting offering.”

Malvern Panalytical uses Pulsed Fast Thermal Neutron Activation technology onboard its cross-belt analysers to analyse and help divert ore and waste streams with improved accuracy

As the type of sensor to be employed varies based on several factors including mineralogy, plant capacity, application of bulk ore sorting, etc, Metso Outotec will identify the right partners for the right need, she explained.

The major constraints for these sensors are often measurement times and sensor penetration, according to Kasat.

“There are very few sensors out there that can do sensing of a 500-mm-deep bed of rock on a conveyor belt, moving at 5-6 m/s,” she said. “But our current and future prospective partners are working on developing the technologies to reduce measurement times without compromising the accuracy of measurement.”

The mining OEM is looking to, in most cases, provide ‘plug and play’ flowsheets for bulk ore sorting and then carry out the required customisation per sensor.

This plan reinforces Kasat’s assertion that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ concept in bulk ore sorting applications.

For new projects, the process could see the company start with metallurgical testing, progress to mobile/fixed pilot plants in the “backyard” to test the accuracy of the sensors for the given application, and then find the right solution for the customer’s use case.

Renato Verdejo, Business Development Lead for Bulk Ore Sorting at Metso Outotec, added: “For existing plants, we will install the sensor over the belt conveyor and analyse the results after selecting the right sensor for this sorting application.”

Metso Outotec intends to focus on major commodities like copper, iron, nickel and gold, among others, with applications such as waste/ore sorting, low grade re-crushing and beneficiation process optimisation.

Within this wide remit – and in line with its non-exclusive agreements with Malvern Panalytical and TOMRA – the company is also considering the combination of both bulk and particle sorting in flowsheet designs.

Metso Outotec, in 2021, renewed its ongoing agreement with particle ore sorting major player, TOMRA

“The combination of the superior throughput of a bulk application with the selectivity of particle sorting in a rougher-scavenger setup is something that can bring sorting to high volume mines in the future,” Kasat said.

“Plant concepts and flowsheets have already been conceptualised and we expect the first deliveries to be in pilot stations to test the sensors on site,” she added, saying that the tonnage requirements for bulk ore sorting sensor validation meant a bulk sensor would have to be piloted in the field to get statistically meaningful data about the properties of the deposit.

Metso Outotec’s crushing system offering will form the “base” for these solutions, with ore sorting optionality available to all customers, she said.

This sensor-based optionality also overlaps with another in-demand part of Metso Outotec’s business: IPCC.

The company’s dedicated team in Germany are responsible for this area, developing projects backed by comprehensive studies.

They – like most of the industry – are aware of the potential application for sensor-based ore sorting in IPCC projects.

Markus Dammers, Senior Engineer of Mine Planning for Metso Outotec and one of the team members in Germany, said there were applications for both bulk and particle sorting in IPCC applications, with the former likely integrated after primary crushing and the latter after secondary/tertiary crushing.

“Bulk ore sorting in an IPCC application should be integrated after primary crushing in order to recover marginal material determined as waste in the block model, or reject waste from the ore stream,” he said.

Bulk ore sorting in an IPCC application should be integrated after primary crushing in order to recover marginal material determined as waste in the block model, or reject waste from the ore stream, according to Markus Dammers

If integrated after secondary or tertiary crushing, it becomes less effective, with the ore’s heterogeneity decreasing every time the ore is rehandled, transferred, crushed, blended, etc.

“In this manner one can take advantage of the natural variability in the deposit, rather than blending it out, with bulk ore sorting,” he said.

After secondary and tertiary crushing, particle sorting may be applied as a “standalone or subsequent ‘cleaner’ process step”, he added.

With Metso Outotec open to the inclusion of ore sorting in fully-mobile, semi-mobile and stationary crushing stations within an IPCC context, the company has many potential customers – existing and new – out there.

And that is just in IPCC applications.

The company also has hundreds of crushing stations on fixed plant installations that could represent potential sorting opportunities.

Metso Outotec, on top of this massive install base, has a few advantages over traditional ore sorting vendors in that it understands the plant that goes around the analysis and diversion process associated with ore sorting; knows how important uptime is to its customers; and, through sophisticated modelling, realises what impact changes in the flowsheet will have up- and down-stream of such equipment.

“The key point here is to have all the equipment to handle and process the ore to feed the sorter and, later, having the technology to divert the material and retain the availability of the plant without changes,” Kasat said.

Energised by its Planet Positive aims of responding to the sustainability requirements of its customers in the fields of energy or water efficiency, emissions, circularity and safety, the company is now ready to flex its processing plant muscles to increase the industry’s adoption of bulk and particle sorting technology.

NextOre, First Quantum fully commission ‘world’s largest bulk ore sorting system’

A 2,800 t/h MRA ore sorting installation at First Quantum Minerals’ Kansanshi copper mine in Zambia is now fully commissioned and using diversion hardware, Chris Beal, CEO of NextOre, told RFC Ambrian and Stonegate Capital Partners’ Copper Pathway to 2030 webinar on Tuesday.

Presenting alongside speakers from RFC Ambrian, Oroco Resource Corp and First Quantum Minerals, Beal revealed that the diversion process on what he said was the highest capacity bulk ore sorting operation in the world had now commenced, some 16-17 months after the magnetic resonance (MR) based system was installed and testing commenced.

“After a one year sensing-only trial, Kansanshi has now gone forward and commissioned and tested diverting hardware in May that has allowed them to fully transform into an inline bulk sorting system,” he said.

“With the validation of that having just gone by, this now represents the highest capacity sorting plant in the world.”

NextOre was originally formed in 2017 as a joint venture between CSIRO, RFC Ambrian and Worley, with its MR technology representing a leap forward in mineral sensing that, it said, provides accurate, whole-of-sample grade measurements.

Demonstrated at mining rates of 4,300 t/h, per conveyor belt, the technology comes with no material preparation requirement and provides grade estimates in seconds, NextOre claims. This helps deliver run of mine grade readings in seconds, providing “complete transparency” for tracking downstream processing and allowing operations to selectively reject waste material.

The installation at Kansanshi is positioned on the sulphide circuit’s 2,800 t/h primary crushed conveyor belt, with the system taking precise measurements every four seconds for tonnages in the region of 2.5 t to a precision of +/- 0.028%.

“Magnetic resonance technology, in particular, is very well suited to high throughput grade measurement – it is measuring all of the material that is going through,” Beal explained. “And these sensors like to be filled with more material.

“We hope to go larger from here. And we, in fact, have projects ongoing to do that.”

This wasn’t the only reveal Beal provided during the webinar, with the other announcement slightly smaller in scale, yet no less significant.

Seeking to address the lower end of the bulk ore sorting market, the company has come up with a mobile bulk sorting plant that is powered by MR sensors.

This solution, coming with a capacity of up to 400 t/h, has now found its way to Aeris Resources’ Murrawombie mine in New South Wales, Australia, where it is being used for a trial.

At Murrawombie, the setup sees an excavator feed a mobile crusher, with the crushed material then passed to the mobile ore sorting installation (the conveyor, the sensor, the diverter and supporting equipment). The system, according to Beal, provides bulk ore sorting results in a cost- and time-efficient manner.

It has been designed to suit small mines and those seeking to monetise historical dumps, or to provide a rapid test method for bulk sorting to support a potentially much larger bulk sorting plant, Beal explained.

The fully-diesel setup is destined for copper operations globally and potentially some iron ore mines, he added.

Magnetite Mines plots Razorback DFS path that includes ore sorting

Magnetite Mines is preparing to commence a definitive feasibility study at its Razorback iron ore project in South Australia after receiving positive results back from a pre-feasibility study (PFS).

The PFS supports declaration of a maiden ore reserve of 473 Mt based on 12.8 Mt/y plant throughput and 2 Mt/y of high-grade concentrate, but it has opened the door for two other options.

Process plant optimisation, for instance, could see a nominal 15.5 Mt/y feed using three grinding stages, three stage magnetic separation and flotation to generate a premium-grade magnetite concentrate with 67.5-68.5% Fe content. And a “Head Grade Improvement Case”, based on higher mining rates with a head grade upgrade from selective mining or ore sorting, could see around 2.7 Mt/y of high-grade concentrate produced.

Razorback would involve initial capital investment of $429-$506 million for a post-tax internal rate of return of 14-33%. This is based on the range of throughput and concentrate production options, in addition to 62% Fe iron ore prices of either $110/t or $150/t.

Magnetite Mines said preparation for a prompt commencement of a definitive feasibility study is well advanced with further drilling, test work, metallurgical investigation and engineering workplans in progress.

Magnetite Mines Limited CEO, Peter Schubert, said: “The PFS is a significant milestone for the company, and defines our optimised go forward scope, which has been developed following rigorous and methodical testing of various options. The resulting scope meets our objectives of practical scale, capital efficiency, attractive returns, high quality product and an expected low emissions footprint.

“This small-scale start-up allows for a practical development of a long life, high quality business with a targeted date for first ore on ship at the end of 2024.”

The mining strategy involves a simple, small-scale mining operation, using mining contractors at start-up to simplify development and leverage the advantages of low strip ratio and short, flat hauls due to orebody geometry and outcropping nature, it said.

“The potential for selective mining is a key criterion and a simple truck and shovel operation was selected as a flexible, reliable and selective method of resource extraction,” the company said. “Bulk methods such as electric rope shovels, in-pit crushing and conveying and continuous miners were investigated but not selected.”

The selected fleet used a single 350 t excavator as primary unit with wheel loader back-up loading medium class (150-190 t) rear dump trucks. The 350 t excavator class was chosen as the maximum size of excavator that can achieve the 1 m of selectivity required to take advantage of the orebody characteristics. Ancillary gear has been sized to a size class appropriate for the excavator productivity and road geometry.

“During the definitive feasibility study, as further geological drilling and geo-metallurgical testing is undertaken, the fleet mix will be reassessed match capacity requirements once selective mining strategies are finalised,” the company said.

During the PFS, investigations and modelling showed there is significant potential in accelerating mining activities and realising higher plant feed grades, from some combination of accelerated and selective mining, stockpiles strategy and/or ore sorting, the company said.

Magnetite Mines has been investigating the potential application of a NextOre magnetic resonance analyser (MRA) with ore sorting technology to the Razorback resource. The use of the MRA allows for a high throughput, high accuracy bulk sorting application that is typically added to the front-end of a processing flow sheet to divert waste ores away before processing, it said. “This has the effect of improving mining grades by pre-concentrating the ore that will be subject to processing, whilst rejecting significant tonnages of low-grade material to tailings via a diversion method such as a chute flop gate or dead box diverter,” the company added.

In October, the company announced it had entered into an agreement with NextOre to supply a mobile bulk ore sorting plant using a magnetite resonance sensor for a trial of the NextOre technology. While the bulk trial was originally scheduled for later in 2021, NextOre and the company have agreed to reschedule this trial until later in the development schedule to allow for the results of planned infill drilling and metallurgical test work that are part of the planned definitive feasibility study to be incorporated in the bulk trial design, the company said.

To assess the impact of improved head grades in the PFS, meanwhile, results from an ore sorting case have been developed, using an increased mining rate and the block model used for reserves, then applying the previously released ore sorting results to generate improved plant head grades and mass recoveries.

“These results are consistent with the analysis earlier in the year on the discrete mineralised bands of the deposit and the gridded seam model,” it said. “Due to these encouraging results, the go-forward case for Razorback will be based on the higher head grades available from selective mining and ore sorting, which will be investigated further with comprehensive infill drilling of the Razorback orebody planned and designed to inform a selective mining schedule to definitive feasibility study standards.”

For the PFS, in addition to the test work completed as part of the 2013 PFS and additional high resolution DTR (Davis Tube Recovery) test work, a comprehensive mineralogical test program was completed to better understand the mineralogical composition of the Razorback and Iron Peak deposits, complementing the existing data from the previous test work program. This was informed by the results of the 2013 PFS study, which was completed for a two-module processing plant for a total of 6.2 Mt/y, and an optimised business case for a third module bringing it to 9.3 Mt/y.

Designed by the company’s process engineering consultants, the test work was used to improve the flowsheet. The flowsheet in the 2019 scoping study had three stages of grinding, three stages of magnetic separation and a final cleaning stage with a hydro separator producing final magnetite concentrate at a grind size of a P80 of 25 μm. This is a widely used, low risk flowsheet, but has significant power requirements and generates a very fine magnetite concentrate with potential filtration and product use issues, the company said.

The company has now generated a preferred flowsheet and plant layout for the PFS, which has significant advantages in efficiency and separation over the conventional configuration used in the scoping study estimates, it said. The inclusion of fine grinding and flotation allows efficient production of high-quality concentrate. The final scale of the preferred go-forward option is plant feed of approximately 15.5 Mt/y with ability to process up to 20% DTR with a capacity of up to 3.1 Mt/y concentrate.

NextOre’s magnetic resonance tech up and running at First Quantum’s Kansanshi

Australia-based NextOre is onto another ore sorting assignment with its magnetic resonance (MR) sensing technology, this time in Zambia at First Quantum Minerals’ Kansanshi copper mine.

NextOre was originally formed in 2017 as a joint venture between CSIRO, RFC Ambrian and Worley, with its MR technology representing a leap forward in mineral sensing that provides accurate, whole-of-sample grade measurements, it says.

Demonstrated at mining rates of 4,300 t/h, per conveyor belt, the technology comes with no material preparation requirement and provides grade estimates in seconds, NextOre claims. This helps deliver run of mine grade readings in seconds, providing “complete transparency” for tracking downstream processing and allowing operations to selectively reject waste material.

Having initially successfully tested its magnetic resonance analysers (MRAs) at Newcrest’s Cadia East mine in New South Wales, Australia, the company has gone onto test and trial the innovation across the Americas and Asia.

More recently, it set up camp in Africa at First Quantum Minerals’ Kansanshi copper mine where it is hoping to show off the benefits of the technology in a trial.

The MRA in question was installed in January on the sulphide circuit’s 2,800 t/h primary crushed conveyor at Kansanshi, with the installation carried out with remote assistance due to COVID-19 restrictions on site.

Anthony Mukutuma, General Manager at First Quantum’s Kansanshi Mine in the Northwestern Province of Zambia, said the operation was exploring the use of MRAs for online ore grade analysis and subsequent possible sorting to mitigate the impacts of mining a complex vein-type orebody with highly variating grades.

“The installation on the 2,800 t/h conveyor is a trial to test the efficacy of the technology and consider engineering options for physical sorting of ore prior to milling,” he told IM.

Chris Beal, NextOre CEO, echoed Mukutuma’s words on grade variation, saying daily average grades at Kansanshi were on par with what the company might see in a bulk underground mine, but when NextOre looked at each individual measurement – with each four seconds representing about 2.5 t – it was seeing some “higher grades worthy of further investigation”.

“The local geology gives it excellent characteristics for the application of very fast measurements for bulk ore sorting,” he told IM.

Mukutuma said the initial aim of the trial – to validate the accuracy and precision of the MRA scanner – was progressing to plan.

“The next phase of the project is to determine options for the MRA scanner to add value to the overall front end of processing,” he said.

Beal was keen to point out that the MRA scanner setup at Kansanshi was not that much different to the others NextOre had operating – with the analyser still measuring copper in the chalcopyrite mineral phase – but the remote installation process was very different.

“Despite being carried out remotely, this installation went smoother than even some where we had a significant on-site presence,” he said. “A great deal of that smoothness can be attributed to the high competency of the Kansanshi team. Of course, our own team, including the sensing and sorting team at CSIRO, put in a huge effort to quickly pivot from the standard installation process, and also deserve a great deal of credit.”

Beal said the Kansanshi team were supplied with all the conventional technical details one would expect – mechanical drawings, assembly drawings, comprehensive commissioning instructions and animations showing assembly.

To complement that, the NextOre team made use of both the in-built remote diagnostic systems standard in each MRA and several remote scientific instruments, plus a Trimble XR10 HoloLens “mixed-reality solution” that, according to Trimble, helps workers visualise 3D data on project sites.

“The NextOre and CSIRO teams were on-line on video calls with the Kansanshi teams each day supervising the installation, monitoring the outputs of the analyser and providing supervision in real time,” Beal said. He said the Kansanshi team had the unit installed comfortably within the planned 12-hour shutdown window.

By the second week of February the analyser had more than 90% availability, Beal said in early April.

He concluded on the Kansanshi installation: “There is no question that we will use the remote systems developed during this project in each project going ahead, but, when it is at all possible, we will always have NextOre representatives on site during the installation process. This installation went very smoothly but we cannot always count on that being the case. And there are other benefits to having someone on site that you just cannot get without being there.

“That said, in the future, we expect that a relatively higher proportion of support and supervision can be done through these remote systems. More than anything, this will allow us to more quickly respond to events on site and to keep the equipment working reliably.”

Magnetite Mines up for NextOre magnetic resonance ore sorting pilot at Razorback

Having shown potential in lab-based test work to increase head grades at the Razorback project, NextOre’s magnetic resonance (MR) ore sorting technology is to now get an outing in South Australia at the high-grade iron ore development.

Razorback owner, Magnetite Mines, says it has entered into an agreement with NextOre to supply a mobile bulk ore sorting plant using a magnetic resonance (MR) sensor for a trial of the technology at the project.

The company said: “This advances our exclusive partnership with NextOre and is an important step in our journey to unlocking the potential of the Razorback project. The company is excited by the potential of the NextOre technology to enhance processing of by ‘pre-concentrating’ run of mine ore feed to increase plant head grade.”

The NextOre agreement includes a non-refundable deposit of A$100,000 ($71,418) and contemplates further, staged payments of A$700,000, Magnetite Mines says. The scope covers supply of a full-scale mobile ore sorting plant to site at Razorback for sorting magnetite ore using MR technology during the trial period for the purpose of mine feasibility analysis. The agreement includes milestone dates, with the equipment despatch from the CSIRO Lucas Heights facility, in New South Wales, expected in 2021.

Formed in 2017 by CSIRO, Advisian Digital and RFC Ambrian, NextOre supplies MR ore sorting solutions to global mining companies that applies mineral sensing technology developed by the CSIRO.

Unlike traditional ore sorting technologies that are based on X-ray or infra-red transmission, NextOre’s on-belt MR analyser ore sorting solution allows for the grade of high throughput ore to be measured at industry-leading accuracies and speeds, NextOre says. Due to the high speed of the technology, the integrative system is able to perform the analysis, computation and physical diversion of waste ores down to one second intervals allowing for fast diversion or high-resolution sorting.

As previously reported, the company entered into an exclusivity agreement with NextOre granting Magnetite Mines exclusive use of its MR ore sorting technology for any magnetite processing applications Australia-wide and all iron ore applications in the Braemar (including New South Wales) for a period of four years.

Magnetite Mines Chairman, Peter Schubert, said: “NextOre’s magnetic resonance sorting technology, developed over many years in conjunction with the CSIRO, has a rapid response time allowing unprecedented selection accuracy and speed. The result is potential for a substantial increase in the head grade of plant feed, resulting in lower unit operating costs and a significant improvement in capital efficiency.

“This technology also offers potential environmental benefits, with enhanced water efficiency and reduced tailings volumes.”

He added: “We are particularly interested in the potential of the NextOre technology to increase the grade of ore fed to the concentrator. The bulk trial of this exciting technology will contribute to the study work now underway.”

Chris Beal, CEO of NextOre said: “We are enthusiastic supporters of Magnetite Mines’ vision of unlocking the vast resources in South Australia’s Braemar region. Their disciplined approach, which leverages emerging technologies with well-established mining methodologies, is a testament to the team’s knowledge and experience in the field.

“In our collaborative planning, the Magnetite Mines methodology of carefully integrating mine and mill activities speaks strongly to the ability to generate the maximum value from bulk ore sorting solution. I am thrilled that NextOre can contribute to this transformative project and I look forward to jointly developing Australia’s reputation as a global leader in green resource extraction.”

NextOre’s ore sorting tech shows potential at Magnetite Mines’ Razorback project

Magnetite Mines Ltd says a study looking at applying NextOre’s on-belt magnetic resonance ore sorting solution at its Razorback Iron project, in South Australia, has shown the potential for a significant increase in plant throughput at the asset.

The ASX-listed company said results to date indicated that Razorback ores are especially well suited to bulk ore sorting with substantial improvements to ore mass recovery demonstrated in the study, completed by NextOre (a partnership between CSIRO and industry players Advisian and RFC Ambrian).

NextOre’s solution uses an on-conveyor magnetic resonance sensor to continually sense the grade of the material on the belt. This information is used to control a diverter gate that separates material above the selected cutoff grade (accepted material) from material below that grade (rejected material).

Magnetite Mines and NextOre, in October, signed an agreement that allows the development company exclusivity over any magnetite processing applications, Australia-wide, and all iron ore applications in the Braemar (including New South Wales) for a period of four years.

NextOre’s Razorback report demonstrates that the heterogeneity of the Razorback and Iron Peak resources allows for the potential for significant upgrading from ore sorting, Magnetite Mines said.

“For example, at a 50% rejection level (corresponding to a cutoff grade of approximately 16% Fe at Iron Peak and 14% Fe at Razorback), the grade of the accepted material would be increased by a factor of about 1.4,” the company said.

Were this to be implemented as part of a development of the project, by increasing mining rates, and pre-concentrating the plant feed, the throughput of a given plant capacity could be increased by some 40%, the company said. This would create significant savings in capital and operating costs per tonne of concentrate product, it added.

In order to assess the potential for bulk ore sorting at Razorback, NextOre used data drawn from the overall geological model for the Razorback and Iron Peak resources (the two resources that make up the Razorback project). The Razorback project currently has an inferred and indicated resource of 2,732 Mt at a grade of 18.2% Fe, but Magnetite Mines intends to produce a 68.8% Fe concentrate from the project.

NextOre then applied a fractal model, applying a mixing model to assess the predicted grade variation or heterogeneity of ‘pods’ of ore as they would present to an on-conveyor bulk ore sorting implementation, Magnetite Mines explained. Various sorting cutoff grades were selected to demonstrate a range of grade improvement scenarios, the company noted.

Magnetite Mines said: “Following the recently completed scoping study for a low capital cost, staged development of the Razorback project resources, this study highlights the applicability of NextOre’s magnetic resonance bulk ore sorting technology to the processing of the Razorback ores.

“When applied to a large, heterogeneous, low strip ratio deposit, such as Razorback, bulk ore sorting represents a pre-concentration technology ahead of the concentrator that can enhance throughput, improve economic efficiency and reduce tailings and water use.”

Magnetite Mines Chairman, Peter Schubert, said: “While our scoping study results for a low capital, staged development have been highly encouraging, we are now confident that the use of leading edge ore sorting technology can further enhance results, providing the company with a sustainable competitive advantage.”

Magnetite Mines and NextOre sign ore sorting exclusivity pact

Magnetite Mines Ltd says it has entered into an exclusivity agreement with ore sorting technology company NextOre to use its leading-edge magnetic resonance ore sorting technology for pre-concentration of magnetite and iron ore projects.

The terms of the agreement include exclusive use for any magnetite processing applications Australia-wide and all iron ore applications in the Braemar (including New South Wales) for a period of four years.

Formed in 2017 by RFC Ambrian, Advisian Digital and the CSIRO, NextOre aims to commercialise magnetic resonance ore sorting technology, an on-belt mineral sensing technology developed by the CSIRO. The technology uses a magnetic resonance analyser (MRA), a form of radio frequency spectroscopy, for the quantitative measurement of target ore minerals.

The use of the MRA allows for a high throughput, high accuracy bulk sorting application that is typically added to the front-end of a processing flow sheet to divert waste ores away before processing, according to Magnetite Mines. “This has the effect of improving mining grades by pre-concentrating the ore that will be subject to processing, whilst rejecting significant tonnages of low-grade material to tailings via a diversion method such as a chute flop gate or dead box diverter.”

The theorised result of ore sorting is a reduced volume of upgraded ore that performs better in the processing plant while reducing processing costs as nil-value material that would ordinarily be subject to downstream processing is rejected early on, according to the company.

“Unlike traditional ore sorting technologies that are based on X-ray or infra-red transmission, NextOre’s on-belt MRA ore sorting solution allows for the grade of high throughput ore to be measured at industry-leading accuracies and speeds. Due to the high speed of the technology, the integrative system is able to perform the analysis, computation and physical diversion of waste ores down to 1 second intervals allowing for fast diversion or high resolution sorting.”

Magnetite Mines Chairman, Peter Schubert, said: “We see great potential for technology to unlock a step change in competitiveness of our Razorback iron project (pictured). NextOre has completed an initial mathematical assessment based on our extensive geological data and the results are encouraging.”

Schubert said the company was moving to bulk test work to prove its application in its Razorback iron project, which has generated some 3,900 Mt of iron ore resources and has over 110 km of unexplored strike. The company believes it will be able to produce a 68.8% Fe concentrate from the project.

He added: “NextOre’s magnetic resonance sorting technology, developed over many years in conjunction with the CSIRO, has a rapid response time allowing unprecedented selection accuracy and speed.

“The result is a substantial increase in the head grade of plant feed, resulting in lower unit operating costs and a significant improvement in capital efficiency. But the application of this technology also gives environmental benefits, with enhanced water efficiency and lower tailings levels.”

Razorback already has advantages of scale, proximity to established ports, proximity to rail and shallow stripping, according to Schubert, “but the NextOre technology takes the competitiveness of the resource to another level”.

The company has initiated a desktop study of NextOre’s ore sorting solution with initial results to-date being very positive, it said.

Initial analysis of the macro-scale heterogeneity of the Razorback iron project JORC 2012 mineral resources indicates that the orebodies are suited to the application of ore sorting.

“The highly selective technology is particularly well suited to magnetite measurement and can be calibrated for several mineral types,” it said. “Further test work is envisaged in the near future in aid of refining the existing flowsheet.”

Chris Beal, CEO of NextOre, said: “The Braemar Province is really an astonishingly vast mineralogical system and represents an incredible potential for value. Owing in large part to the way nature arranged its geology, the system appears particularly well suited to the application of bulk ore sorting systems.

“In terms of reductions in water and electricity consumption, tailings dam size reductions, and overall plant efficiencies, the application of bulk ore sorting has the potential to impact developments in the region in a significant way.”

Mine sites testing out CSIRO, Mining3’s precision mining concept

CSIRO and Mining3’s wide-ranging precision mining concept looks to be gaining momentum with multiple mining companies testing out aspects of this innovative notion to reduce the footprint of future mine sites.

Among the headlines from the organisations’ latest report on this technology was its ore sorting technology, NextOre, has three trials underway at mine sites, with up to three more systems to be delivered this year.

A Chilean copper mine is testing up to 10 types of sensors, complementing other recent trials in Australia and CSIRO desktop studies. Another study found that a mining company could make the same profit as it is now, but with a 30% reduction in capital and operating costs.

In this pursuit, the mining industry can learn a lot from medical science, according to CSIRO Research Director in Precision Mining and Mining3 Research Leader, Ewan Sellers.

As the CSIRO rock mechanics specialist says, modern medicine has used technology to better understand and treat illnesses and injuries while reducing the impact on people. Sellers is now working towards creating low impact “zero entry mines”.

CSIRO explains: “Precision mining is the industry’s version of keyhole surgery. Once a deposit is discovered, precision mining aims to target the ore and extract the deposit as economically and sustainably as possible.”

CSIRO and Mining3’s shared vision is for mines of the future to be mostly underground, remotely operated by robotics, with minimal or remote offices and a very small environmental footprint. All waste would be used to make other products.

Sellers believes this vision could become a reality for most mines within 20 years, as vast mining operations that leave large scars are consigned to history.

Minerals 4D

Key to enabling precision mining is a concept CSIRO is leading called Minerals 4D.

Minerals 4D ‘intelligence’ aims to image minerals in the subsurface and predict their distribution. By integrating sensors and specialised imaging techniques tied with data analysis and machine learning, miners can better understand the orebody and quantify the rock mass at multiple scales.

Precise cutting, blasting and in-mine processing techniques can then accurately target the ore and leave the waste behind. Miners can focus on the most economic part of the deposit, reducing the need to move, crush and process massive amounts of rock, saving significant amounts of energy, water and waste.

CSIRO said: “Although information about the grade of the material and type of rock may currently be known over a block or at mine scale, Minerals 4D aims to add information about the mineralogy at a much smaller scale. This will enable companies to target the orebody and characterise the rock mass more accurately to increase efficiency at the processing plant.”

Rob Hough, the Science Director for CSIRO Mineral Resources, says Minerals 4D is about adding a time series to three-dimensional (3D) data. Essentially, it’s about tracking mineralogy over time.

The mining industry is now capable, through its geophysical sensing technology, to create extremely accurate 3D spatial models of orebodies, but 4D adds in the critical time element – tracking that mineralogy through the metal production line as if it were a barcode in a manufacturing circuit.

The concept involves linking modular mining operations to sensors – including fibre optics and systems attached to robots – to precisely characterise material in the subsurface before mining, through to a mine face, bench, conveyor, stockpile, truck, train or a ship.

Then you can measure the chemistry, mineralogy and rock structures at a range of scales, and provide unprecedented detail and volumes of data that capture ore and waste variability. Measuring the mineralogy is critical to understanding the quality, so where the value is created and lost.

This is like the artificial intelligence algorithms that companies such as Petra Data Science are developing to track ore from the pit to the processing plant.

A focus on value, rather than volume, means less waste and emissions in this context.

“If you have the knowledge of what you’re dealing with in a 3D picture you can then start to make predictions as to how minerals will perform when you go to mine, through to process and beneficiation,” Hough says.

“Operators can choose one set of mining or processing systems over another, knowing the texture and hardness of a material. We need to understand what is in the rock mass in terms of the minerals, but also how hard it is, its strength and how it breaks up to best separate the ore from the waste rock.”

Drone-deployed sensors

It is now possible to produce a detailed face map of a mine, fly a drone with spectral sensors to image surface mineralogy and use data analytics to identify correlations between ore types and rock strength. X-ray diffraction is also being used for analysis. These instruments are applied to samples in the field, drill holes and at bespoke laboratories that run thousands of samples at a low cost in order to build a 3D mineralogy model.

“We have a range of sensors available, but we don’t yet have a fully ‘sensed’ mine,” Hough adds.

“What we’re missing is all sensors in place, in a given operation. We’re also missing the assembling of data to inform decision making throughout the process as it happens – we need that information conveyed in real time and viewed in our remote operations centres.”

Advanced sensor-based ore-sorting

CSIRO partnered with RFC Ambrian and Advisian Digital to launch joint venture, NextOre, to deliver a sensor that intelligently directs a conveyor – sorting valuable ore from waste. CSIRO said NextOre has three trials of the sensor system underway at mine sites, with up to three more systems to be delivered this year.

“On the back of better data, we should be able to take advantage of applied mathematics that will then allow us to move to artificial intelligence and machine learning,” Hough says. “I can see a real-time conveyor belt start making automatic decisions about what is coming down the line. It’s the ultimate sensing and sorting solution.”

Reducing energy and water use

Sellers believes a move to precision mining can improve the conditions for communities living nearby mines, and even improve the social acceptance of mining.

He said several companies are testing out the value cases of sensors and data integration, and he understands they need to see proof that precision mining works on the ground. The economic benefits of sensing were demonstrated recently at a Western Australia iron ore mine, where A$25 million ($17 million) of additional resources were discovered using data provided by a relatively inexpensive hyperspectral sensor, according to CSIRO.

A Chilean copper mine is testing up to 10 types of sensors, complementing other recent trials in Australia and CSIRO desktop studies, it said. Another study found a mining company could make the same profit as it is now, but with a 30% reduction in capital and operating costs.

“Once miners gain confidence that we can actually do this, I think it will take off very quickly,” he says.

Precision mineral exploration and discovery

Beyond the mine itself, tracking minerals over time – in 4D – will also benefit greenfields exploration upstream.

According to CSIRO Digital Expert, Ryan Fraser, implementing the Minerals 4D concept is at its most challenging at the exploration and discovery stage – the point where data are sparse, and little is known about a potential target orebody.

“For example, we know a lot about a deposit such as Mount Isa, including how it forms. So, can we use the intelligence we have of that mineral system to foresee where the next Mount Isa will be?” he asks.

Fraser says if we understand how mineralogy evolves over time and the overall geological process, we can then look for signatures across the Australian landscape that help to identify similar things.

“Normally you drill in these spots, take back samples, check data and then in about two years you might have some idea of what’s under the surface and have some idea of mineral boundaries.”

The new sampling techniques will be far quicker and more efficient, he says.

“Instead of sampling a sparse, evenly spaced grid, we use machine learning to reduce uncertainties and guide where to sample and that will enable us to do much smarter edge detection of mineral boundaries,” Fraser explains.

Already this kind of predictive work has been tested in a project for the South Australian (SA) government at Coompana in SA with surprisingly accurate results and significant cost savings over traditional methods, according to CSIRO.

Other key challenges that researchers and the industry are working to address to make this a reality, include designing and developing sensors robust enough to work effectively in the mining environment (for example, in robotic cutting machines) and across rock types, and understanding which sites in the mine process are most suitable for sensors.

CSIRO concluded: “These sensors will be linked to precise and automated drilling, cutting and blasting technologies under development through Mining3 to transform the way that mining is performed.”

NextOre to ramp up bulk ore sorting sensor development with new funds

NextOre says it has raised A$2 million ($1.35 million) in a private funding round primarily to ramp up manufacturing and sales of its flagship bulk ore sorting sensor system.

The company’s products apply magnetic resonance (MR) technology, used for decades in medical MRI machines, to deliver real-time information about ore that miners can use for decision making.

Copper-detecting MR Analysers have been installed globally at mines in Latin America and Australia, with more scheduled for installation this year. While NextOre is focusing initially on copper sorting applications, the MR technology is applicable to a list of other commodities including iron ore and gold, according to NextOre. Funds raised will be used to grow the company’s global footprint from its existing customer base, the company said.

The MR Analyser is the result of nearly 15 years of research and development carried out by CSIRO Minerals Resources. NextOre, a spinoff from CSIRO, is now a partnership between CSIRO and RFC Ambrian, with the two joined by Advisian Digital.

Chris Beal, CEO of NextOre, said: “With this technology, miners will be able to mine more intelligently. Miners have historically innovated by going bigger – bigger trucks, bigger processing facilities, bigger mines – they’ve been forced to do this because there hasn’t been a technology that would allow them to look at the rock while it’s being mined, see how much metal is in it, and then efficiently make a decision on whether to keep it or throw it away.”

He said the company’s technology will enable miners to produce more metal using “smaller, more efficient plants” that consume less electricity, water and chemicals in the process.

Beal continued: “This is truly disruptive technology for the mining space, and it’s brought about by a team at CSIRO with a world-class track record. This is the same group that was instrumental in developing XRF for the minerals industry in the 1960s and 1970s, who developed on-stream ash analysers in use across the coal industry, and who developed the cutting edge PhotonAssay technology that’s now replacing fire assay.”

NextOre looks to Canada, South America for ore grade analyser sales

CSIRO has issued an update on its NextOre joint venture, with the organisation saying it has identified some 35% of global copper production where the ore grade analyser could potentially extend mine life.

RFC Ambrian and CSIRO, along with Advisian Digital, announced a partnership last year to commercialise the technology.

NextOre takes advantage of magnetic resonance technology, with the analyser rapidly identifying ore grade so that large volumes of waste rock can be rejected before entering the plant.

By illuminating batches of ore with short pulses of radio waves, magnetic resonance penetrates through copper ores – much like medical MRI ‘sees into’ human bodies – to rapidly and accurately detect ore grade. The process significantly reduces the amount of energy and water needed for processing.

“While the productivity benefits vary depending on the characteristics of the orebody, the analyser has the potential to more than double average ore grades once sorted. It could represent as much as a 20% reduction in processing costs in some copper mines,” CSIRO said.

CSIRO research director Nick Cutmore said the partners had so far identified 59 mature copper mining sites where the analyser could be applied to extend their life – the quoted 35% of global copper production.

“The solution could also enable undeveloped, low grade mines to be brought into production, so the economic benefits are huge,” he said.

In its first year (July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019) NextOre will focus on engaging the South American and Canadian market.

This is already starting to see results, according to NextOre CEO Chris Beal.

“Contracts have been secured to provide magnetic resonance analysers to three companies, including two top-tier producers, in the coming financial year,” he said.

“We are providing full ore sorting solutions, including technical and engineering advice, to move from concept to site trials and final implementation.”

In addition to copper, the magnetic resonance analyser can be applied to gold and iron-bearing ores.

NextOre is another recent commercialisation story for CSIRO and RFC Ambrian, who together established Chrysos Corp in late 2016 to market an x-ray-based gold analysis solution.