Tag Archives: San Cristobal

CRC ORE grade engineering trial pays off for Minera San Cristóbal

A successful full-scale production trial of Australia-developed grade engineering techniques is paying dividends for a South American mine, and its local workers, according to CRC ORE.

Once fully implemented, this is expected to generate an additional A$451 million ($312 million) in profit for the mine and reduce its energy consumption, it said.

Located in the south-western Bolivian province of Nor Lípez, and owned by Sumitomo, Minera San Cristóbal (MSC) is the country’s largest mine. Operating since 2007, the mine produces around 1,500 t/d of zinc-silver and lead-silver concentrates. To achieve this result, MSC needs to move a daily average of 150,000 t of rock – ore and waste.

Part of MSC’s vision is to “develop a model mining operation through safe operations, at low cost, with innovative technology”.

Through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Summit Mining International, Sumitomo is a participant of the Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE). Based in Brisbane, Australia, CRC ORE works to minimise the impact of declining grades and radically improve the productivity, energy and water signatures of mining operations, CRC ORE said.

The centre is jointly funded by what it calls ‘Essential Participants’, which includes mining companies such as Sumitomo; mining equipment, technology and services (METS) companies; research organisations; and the Australia Government.

One of CRC ORE’s key solutions developed for the mining industry is grade engineering. “This solution deploys a range of waste rejection technologies that integrate with a suite of separation technologies relevant to ore specific characteristics,” CRC ORE said. “A deeper understanding of the orebody can be achieved, leading to the ability to exploit inherent ore deposit heterogeneity and variability.”

For mining operations such as MSC, this involves an innovative approach to the early separation of ore from waste material, minimising the impact of declining grades and productivity.

CRC ORE and MSC teams conducted site studies and analysis in 2017 to determine the level of opportunity available at the mine by deploying grade engineering, and a great deal of potential was evident.

Since late 2018, CRC ORE and Sumitomo have been working together on a full-scale production trial of grade engineering using screening at MSC. A Metso Lokotrack ST2.8 mobile screening plant, which can process up to 450 t/h, was deployed on site to assist in providing a production-scale testing capability.

The trial focused on upgrading mineralised waste from the pit to determine if grade engineering could efficiently produce a new economic stream of valuable material that could then be combined with run of mine feed through to the concentrator and produce a positive net smelter return.

CRC ORE Chief Executive Officer, Ben Adair, said initial results of the trial were impressive and encouraging, with 66% of value now contained in just 25% of the grade engineered mass.

“So far, results show that by applying grade engineering to areas previously designated as ‘mineralised waste’, the value of grade engineered feed to the mill can be increased by over 2.5 times,” Adair said.

“This has the potential to convert this waste material into high-grade ore feed with associated opportunity to increase metal production and reduce process power and water intensities.”

A 15-20% reduction in energy has been evident in the mine’s SAG mill when processing a combined grade engineered and direct run-of-mine feed, according to CRC ORE.

The success of the grade engineering trial has led to Sumitomo considering deployment of grade engineering techniques for life of mine extensions, CRC ORE said.

MSC Operations Director, Dave King, said: “The big benefit of grade engineering is its potential ability to extend the life of the mine and add over A$451 million in profit to its value.”

To fulfil its goals of knowledge transfer and for its technology to directly benefit the local mining industry, CRC ORE says it has recently commenced similar production trials at Australia mining operations.

CRC ORE welcomes Metso to the fold

The Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE) says it has officially welcomed industrial equipment and services provider Metso as its newest participant.

Earlier this year, Metso joined a select cohort of Australian and international mining, equipment, technology and services (METS) participants to assist CRC ORE to achieve its goals.

“Since its origins 150 years ago, Metso has provided equipment and services for several industries, including mining, and is at the forefront of the supply of technologically advanced mining equipment,” CRC ORE said.

Metso Vice President of Innovation LAB, Lars Grönvall, said that the work of CRC ORE closely aligns with Metso’s vision of being the best choice for sustainable processing of natural resources.

“Metso’s cutting-edge services and solutions improve availability and reliability in minerals processing and flow control, providing sustainable process and profit improvements,” Grönvall said.

“We are excited by what can be achieved by partnering with CRC ORE and its high-quality participants in developing solutions to more efficiently separate valuable ore from waste material as early as possible in the mining process.”

CRC ORE Chief Executive Officer, Ben Adair, has previously worked closely with Metso, in areas including process control and concentrator equipment application, according to CRC ORE.

Adair said he was encouraged by the commitment of the major European company to improve the productivity, energy and water signatures of mining operations.

“Now well into our second term at CRC ORE, we appreciate the support given by specialist equipment provider Metso and the expertise they bring as a participant,” Adair said.

“In their short time so far as a participant, Metso has made a valuable contribution through the supply of one of its Locotrack mobile screening units (pictured) to support a major production trial of grade engineering at Sumitomo’s Minera San Cristóbal mine in Bolivia.”

Adair said that CRC ORE worked with Minera San Cristóbal to use off-the-shelf equipment from Metso to support this innovative site trial, helping to minimise the complexity and cost of the project.

“CRC ORE aims to drive collaborations such as this to help deliver positive change across the mining industry,” he said.

CRC ORE is a cooperative research centre focused on optimising resource extraction. It delivers value to Australia by improving mine productivity, commercial return and environmental outcomes, CRC ORE says.

Established in 2010, CRC ORE has made significant progress in rapidly developing and integrating technology from concept to implementation, it says. CRC ORE uses innovative methodologies to develop new technology, or repurpose existing technology, often from outside the mining industry, to significantly reduce the time from prototype to production scale application.