Although basic porphyry copper flotation and metallurgy has remained virtually the same for many years, the processing equipment as well as design of the mills has continually been improved to increase production while reducing operating and maintenance costs. Also, considerable attention is paid to automatic sensing devices and automatic controls in order to assure maximum metallurgy and production at all times. For simplicity in this study most of these controls are not shown.Many of the porphyry copper deposits contain molybdenite and some also contain lead and zinc minerals.
Even though these minerals occur in relatively small amounts they can often be economically recovered as by-products for the expense of mining, crushing, and grinding is absorbed in recovery of the copper.
Because the copper in this type of ore usually assays only plus or minus 1% copper, the porphyry copper operations must be relatively large in order to be commercial. The flowsheet in this study illustrates a typical 3,000 ton per day operation. In general most operations of this type have two or more parallel grinding and flotation circuits. For additional capacity, additional parallel circuits are installed.
The crushing section consists of two or three crushing stages with the second or third stages in either closed or open circuit with vibrating screens. Generally, size of the primary crusher is not determined by capacity but by the basic size of the mine run rock. The mine-run ore is normally relatively large as most of the porphyry mines are open pit.The crushing section illustrated is designed to handle the full tonnage in approximately 8 to 16 hours thus having reserve capacity in case of expansion.
Many mills store not only the coarse ore but also the fine ore in open stockpiles using ore as the side walls and drawing the live ore from the center. During prolonged periods of crusher maintenance the ore walls can be bulldozed over the ore feeders to provide an uninterrupted supply of ore for milling.
As it is shown in this study the or 1 crushed ore is fed to a rod mill operating in open circuit and discharging a product approximately minus 14-mesh. The discharge from this primary rod mill is equally distributed to two ball mills which are in closed circuit with SRL Rubber Lined Pumps and two or more cyclone classifiers. The rod mill and two ball mills are approximately the same size for simplified maintenance.
Porphyry copper ores, usually medium to medium hard, require grinding to about 65-mesh to economically liberate the copper minerals from the gangue. Although a clean rougher tailing can often be achieved at 65-mesh the copper mineral is not liberated sufficiently to make a high grade copper concentrate, thus some form of regrinding is necessary on the rougher flotation copper concentrate. It is not unusual to grind the rougher flotation concentrate to minus 200-mesh for more complete liberation of mineral from the gangue.
The cyclone overflow from each ball mill goes to a Pulp Distributor which distributes the pulp to two or more parallel banks of Flotation Cells. These distributors are designed so that one or more flotation banks can be shut down for maintenance or inspection and still maintain equal distribution of feed to the remaining banks.
In some cases it is beneficial to have conditioning before flotation, but this varies from one operation to another and it is not shown in this flowsheet. Ten or more Free-Flow Flotation Cells are used per bank and these cells are divided into groups of four or six cells with an intermediate step-down weir between groups. Free-Flow Flotation Cells are specified, as metallurgy is extremely good while both maintenance and operating expenses are traditionally low. One or more Free-Flow Mechanisms can be stopped for inspection or even replaced for maintenance without shutting down the bank of cells.
The concentrates from rougher flotation cells are sent directly to regrind. Often the grind is 200-mesh. After regrind is flotation cleaning. In some cases the concentrate from the first three or four rougher flotation cells can be sent directly to cleaning without regrinding.
After the rougher flotation concentrate is reground it is cleaned twice in additional Free-Flow Flotation Machines with the recleaned concentrate going to final concentrate filtration or, as the metallurgy dictates, to a copper-moly separation circuit.
The thickening and filtering is similar to other milling operations, however, as the porphyry copper installations are often in arid areas, the mill tailing is usually sent to a large thickener for water reclamation and solids go to the tailings dam.
Automatic controls are usually provided throughout modern plants to measure and control pulp flow, pH and density at various points in the circuit. Feed and density controls are relatively common and the newer installations are using automatic pulp level controls on flotation machines and pump sumps. Automation is also being applied to the crushing systems.
The use of continuous on stream X-ray analysis for almost instantaneous metallurgical results is not shown in thus study but warrants careful study for both new and existing mills. Automatic sampling of all principal pulp flows are essential for reliable control.
The flowsheet in this study illustrates the modern approach to porphyry copper treatment throughout the industry. Each plant will through necessity have somewhat different arrangements or methods for accomplishing the same thing and reliable ore test data are used in most every case to plan the flowsheet and design the mill.
In most plants engaged in the flotation of ores containing copper-bearing sulphide minerals with or without pyrite, pine oil is employed as a frother with one of the xanthates or aerofloat reagents or a combination of two or more of them as the promoter. Lime is nearly always used for maintaining the alkalinity of the circuit and depressing any pyrite present. The reagent consumption is normally within the following limits
While good results are often obtained with ethyl xanthate alone as a promoter, the addition of a small quantity of one of the higher xanthates is frequently found to improve the recovery of those minerals that are not readily floated by the lower xanthate, especially those that are tarnished or oxidized, but since the action of a higher xanthate is, as a rule, more powerful than that of the ethyl compound, it is usually best to add no more of the former reagent than is necessary to bring up the less readily floatable minerals, controlling flotation with the less powerful and more selective lower xanthate. Better results are obtained with some ores by replacing the higher xanthate with one of the dithiophosphates, flotation being controlled, as before, with ethyl xanthate. Sometimes a dithiophosphate can be effectively used without the xanthate, although the dual promotion method is more common. A rule of thumb system for the selection of these reagents cannot be laid down as the character of the minerals differs so widely in different ores ; the best combination can only be found by experiment.When aerofloat is employed alone as the promoter, the reagent mixture is somewhat different from that given above. A reliable average consumption is difficult to determine as the plants working on these lines are few in number, but the following is what would normally be expected.If this combination of reagents gives results equal to those obtainable with a xanthate mixture, its employment has these advantages over the latter method: The control of flotation is not so delicate as with xanthates, it has less tendency to bring up pyrite, and, if selectivity is not required, the circuit may be neutral or only slightly alkaline.
When the ore is free from pyrite, the function of the lime, whatever the reagent mixture, is to precipitate dissolved salts and to maintain the alkalinity of the pulp at the value which has been found to givethe best results ; soda ash is seldom employed for this purpose. When pyrite is present, lime performs the additional function of a depressor, the amount used being balanced against that of the promoterthat is, no more lime should be added than is required to prevent the bulk of the pyrite from floating, as any excess tends to depress the copper minerals, and no more of the promoter should be employed than is needed to give a profitable recovery of the valuable minerals in a concentrate of the desired grade, since any excess tends to bring up pyrite. In many cases a more effective method of depressing pyrite is to add a small quantity of sodium cyanidee.g., 0.05-0.10 lb. per tonin conjunction with lime, less of the latter reagent then being necessary than if it were used alone.
It is not often that a conditioning tank has to be installed ahead of the flotation section in the treatment of sulphide copper ores, as the grinding circuit usually provides suitable points for the introduction of the reagents. The normal practice is to put lime into the primary ball mills and to add xanthates at the last possible moment before flotation, while aerofloat and di-thio-phosphates are preferably introduced at some point in the grinding circuit, since they generally need an appreciable time of contact as compared with xanthates. There is no special place for the addition of pine oil, but care should be taken if it is put into the primary ball mills, as a slight excess may cause an undue amount of froth to form in the classifiers.
In a plant where the primary slime is by-passed round the grinding circuit, it is necessary to ensure that this portion of the pulp receives its correct proportion of and contact time with the reagents.
As regards flotation installations, the present tendency is to employ machines of the air-lift or Callow-Maclntosh rather than of the subaeration type. While two stages of cleaning (circuits 10 and 11) are sometimes essential to the production of a clean final concentrate, circuits 8 and 9 comprising a single stage of cleaning are probably the most widely used. Occasionally the primary machines can be run as rougher-cleaner cells (circuit No. 5), particularly when they are of the air-lift or subaeration type. This method, however, is not often employed, although its use is more common in the flotation of copper sulphide minerals than of any other class of ore ; a stage of cleaning is preferable as providing greater lattitude of control.
Two variations of normal procedure are worth notice. In one or two plants employing two-stage grinding, improved results have been obtained by separating the slime from the primary ball mill circuit and sending it direct to a special flotation section. This method is useful when the feed to the flotation plant contains an appreciable quantity of fines, which, due generally to oxidation through exposure, require different treatment from the unweathered part of the ore. Such fines are usuallyfriable and can be separated as slime from the primary grinding circuit without the inclusion of an undue proportion of unoxidized material, the bulk of which thus passes to the secondary grinding circuit and thence to its own division of the flotation plant.
The second variation consists of grinding the rougher concentrate before cleaning. The method is applicable to an ore in which the copper- bearing minerals are so intimately associated with pyrite that very fine grinding is necessary to liberate them completely. It is often possible, after grinding such an ore to a comparatively coarse mesh, to make a profitable recovery of the copper in a low-grade concentrate which does not represent too large a proportion, say 30% or less, of the total weightof the feed. The concentrate can then be reground and refloated with the production of a high-grade copper concentrate together with a low- grade pyritic tailing suitable for return to the roughing circuit. This method is likely to be less costly than one involving the fine grinding of the whole ore. No standard system can be given for handling the various products as their disposal depends so much on the occurrence of the minerals and the efficiency of the regrinding operations, but a typical flow sheet is illustrated in circuit No. 12 (Fig. 60). It is diagrammatic to the extent that the thickener and regrinding unit may receive its feed from several roughing machines and deliver its discharge to a number of cleaning cells. It is usual to dewater the rougher concentrate and return the water to the primary circuit for two reasons : First, to supply the regrinding mill with a thick enough pulp for efficient operation, and, secondly, as far as possible to prevent the reagents used in the roughing circuit from entering the cleaning section.
In normal practice a recovery of over 90% of the copper which is present as a sulphide is generally possible, whatever the flotation process or circuit employed. As regards the average grade of concentrate, no more can be said than that it depends on the class of the copper-bearing minerals present and their mode of occurrence and on the character of the gangue. It usually contains over 20% of copper, but a difficult chalcopyritic ore may yield a concentrate with less than that percentage, while it is theoretically possible to obtain one running over 75% should the mineral consist entirely of pure chalcocite.
The flotation of native copper ores is nearly always preceded by gravity concentration in jigs and tables not only because the combined process is more economical as regards costs, but also because the copper often occurs as large grains which flatten out during grinding and cannot be broken to a size small enough for flotation. The flow sheet depends on the mode of occurrence of the mineral. The tailings from some of the gravity concentration machines may be low enough in value to be discarded, but those products which still contain too much copper to be sent to waste are thickened and reground, should either operation be necessary, and then floated with pine oil and a xanthate or aerofloat reagent in a neutral or slightly alkaline circuit. The reagent consumption is approximately the same as that given for the treatment of copper- bearing sulphides. While a pine oil, lime, and ethyl xanthate mixture has proved satisfactory, better results have sometimes been obtained by the substitution of aerofloat and sodium di-ethyl-di-thio-phosphate, soda ash being used instead of lime on account of its gangue deflocculating properties. On the average 0-12 lb. per ton of aerofloat and 0.03 lb. of the di-thio-phosphate are substituted for 0.1 lb. of xanthate.
Since a high-grade concentrate is desired in order to keep smelting costs as low as possible, the circuit usually comprises two stages of cleaning. In most plants flotation is carried out in mechanically agitated machines.
The problem of the flotation of oxidized copper ores has not yet been solved. One or two special processes are in operation for the flotation of malachite and azurite, but none of them has more than a limited application; nor has any method been worked out on a large scale for the bulk flotation of mixed oxidized and sulphide copper minerals when the former are present in the ore in appreciable quantity.
AG and SAG mills are now the primary unit operation for the majority of large grinding circuits, and form the basis for a variety of circuit configurations. SAG circuits are common in the industry based on:
Though some trepidation concerning AG or SAG circuits accompanied design studies for some lime, such circuits are now well understood, and there is a substantial body of knowledge on circuit design as well as abundant information that can be used for bench-marking of similar plants in similar applications. Because SAG mills rely both on the ore itself as grinding media (to varying degrees) and on ore-dependent unit power requirements for milling to the transfer size, throughput in SAG circuits are variable. Relative to other comminution machines in the primary role. SAG mill operation is more dynamic, and typically requires a higher degree of process control sophistication. Though more complex in AG/ SAG circuits relative to the crushing plants they have largely replaced, these issues are well understood in contemporary applications.
AG/SAG mills grindore through impact breakage, attrition breakage, and abrasion of the ore serving as media. Autogenous circuits require an ore of suitable competency (or fractions within the ore of suitable competency) to serve as media. SAG circuits may employ low to relatively high ball charges (ranging from 2% to 22%, expressed as volumetric mill filling) to augment autogenous media. Higher ball charges shift the breakage mode away from attrition and abrasionbreakage toward impact breakage; as a result, AG milling produces a finer grind than SAG milling for a given ore and otherwise equal operating conditions. The following circuits are common in the gold industry:
Common convention generally refers to high-aspect ratio mills as SAG mills (with diameter to effective grinding length ratios of 3:1 to 1:1), low-aspect ratio mills (generally, a mill with a significantly longer length than diameter) are also worth noting. Such mills are common in South African operations; mills are sometimes referred to as tube mills or ROM ball mills and are also operated both autogenously and semi-autogenously. Many of these mills operate at higher mill speeds (nominally 90% of critical speed) and often use grid liners to form an autogenous liner surface. These mills typically grind ROM ore in a single stage. A large example of such a mill was converted from a single-stage milling application to a semi autogenous ball-mill-crushing (SABC) circuit, and the application is well described. This refers to high-aspect AG/SAG mills.
With a higher density mill charge. SAG mills have a higher installed power density for a given plant footprint relative to AC mills. With the combination of finer grind and a lower installed power density (based on the lower density of the mill charge), a typical AG mill has a lower throughput, a lower power draw, and produces a finer grind. These factors often translate to a higher unit power input (kWh/t) than an SAG circuit milling the same ore. but at a higher power efficiency (often assessed by the operating work index OWi, which if used most objectively, should be corrected by one of a number of techniques for varying amounts of fines between the two milling operations).
In the presence of suitable ore, an autogenous circuit can provide substantial operating cost savings due to a reduction in grinding media expenditure and liner wear. In broad terms, this makes SAG mills less expensive to build (in terms of unit capital cost per ton of throughput) than AG mills but more expensive to operate (as a result of increased grinding media and liner costs, and in many cases, lower power efficiency). SAG circuits are less susceptible to substantial fluctuations due to feed variation than AG mills and are more stable to operate. AG circuits are more frequently (but not exclusively) installed in circuits with high ore densities. A small steel charge addition to an AG mill can boost throughput, result in more stable operations, typically at the consequence of a coarser grind and higher operating costs. An AG circuit is often designed to accommodate a degree of steel media for circuit flexibility. AG mills (or SAG mills with low ball charges) are often used in single-stage grinding applications.
Based on their higher throughput and coarser grind relative to AG mills, it is more common for SAG mills to he used as the primary stage of grinding, followed by a second stage of milling. AG/SAG circuits producing a fine grind (particularly single-stage grinding applications) are often closed with hydrocyclones. Circuits producing a coarser grinds often classify mill discharge with screens. For circuits classifying mill discharge at a coarse size (coarser than approximately 10 mm), trommels can also be considered to classify mill discharge. Trommels are less favorable in applications requiring high classification efficiencies and can be constrained by available surface area for high-throughput mills. Regardless of classification equipment (hydrocyclone, screen, or trommel), oversize can be returned to the mill, or directed to a separate stage of comminution.
Many large mills around the world (Esperanza with a 12.8 m mill. Cadia and Collahuasi with 12.2-m mills, and Antamina. Escondida #IV. PT Freeport Indonesia, and others with 11.6-m mills) have installed SAG mills of 20 MW. Gearless drives (wrap-around motors) are typically used for large mills, with mills of 25 MW or larger having been designed. Several circuits have single-line design capacities exceeding 100,000 TPD. A large SAG installation (with pebble crusher product combining with SAG discharge and feeding screens) is depicted here below, with the corresponding process flowsheet presented in Figure 17.9.
Adding pebble crushing as a unit operation is the most common variant to closed-circuit AG/SAG milling (instead of direct recycle of oversize material ). The efficiency benefits (both in terms of grinding efficiency and in capital efficiency through incremental throughput) are well recognized. Pebble crushers are effective at reducing the buildup of critical-sized material in the mill load. Critical-sized particles are those where the product of the mill feed-size distribution and the mill breakage rates result in a buildup of a size range of material in the mill load, the accumulation of which limits the ability of the mill to accept new feed. While critical-size could be of any dimension, it is most typically synonymous with pebble-crusher feed, with a size range of 1375 mm. Critical-sized particles can result from a simple failure of a mills breakage rates to exceed the breakage rate of incoming particles, and particles generated when breaking larger particles. Alternatively, a second type of buildup of critical-sized material can result due to a combination of rock types in the feed that have differing breakage properties. In this case, the harder fraction of the mill feed builds up in the mill load, againrestricting throughput. Examples of materials in this category include diorites, chert, and andesite. When buildup of these materials does occur, pebble crushing can improve mill throughput even more dramatically than when the critically sized fraction results purely from a breakage rate deficit alone. For these ore types, a pebble-crushing circuit is tin imperative for efficient circuit operation.
Currently, every AG/SAG flowsheet evaluation is likely to consider the inclusion of a pebble crusher circuit. Flowsheets that do not elect to include pebble crushing at construction and commissioning may include provisions for future retrofitting a pebble-crushing circuit. Important aspects of pebble crusher circuit design include:
The standard destination for crushed pebbles has been to return them to SAG feed. However, open circuiting the SAG mill by feeding crushed pebbles directly to a ball-mill circuit is often considered as a technique to increase SAG throughput. An option to do both can allow balancing the primary and secondary milling sections by having the ability to return crushed pebbles to SAG feed as per a conventional flowsheet, or to the SAG discharge. Such a circuit is depicted here on the right. By combining with SAG discharge and screening on the SAG discharge screens, top size control to the ball-mill circuit feed is maintained while still unloading the SAG circuit (Mosher et al, 2006). A variant of this method is to direct pebble-crushing circuit product to the ball-mill sump for secondary milling: while convenient, this has the disadvantage of not controlling the top size of feed to the ball-mill circuit. There have also been pioneer installations that have installed HPGRs as a second stage of pebble crushing.
The unit power requirement for SAG milling (both individually and as a fraction of the total circuit power) is worthy of comment. It can be very difficult operationally to trade grind for throughput in an SAG circuitonce designed and constructed for a given circuit configuration, an SAG mill circuit has limited flexibility to deliver varying product sizes, and a relatively fixed unit power input for a given ore type is typically required in the SAG mill. This is particularly true for those SAG circuits designed with a coarse closing size. As a result, under-sizing an SAG mill has disastrous results on throughput across the industry, there are numerous examples of the SAG mill emerging as the circuit bottleneck. On the other hand, over-sizing an SAG circuit can be a poor utilization of capital (or an opportunity for future expansion!).
Traditionally, many engineers approached SAG circuit design as a division of the total power between the SAG circuit and ball-mill circuit, often at an arbitrary power split. If done without due consideration to ore characteristics, benchmarks against comparable operating circuits, and other aspects of detailed design (including steady-state tests, simulation, and experience), an arbitrary power split between circuits ignores the critical decision of determining the required unit power in SAG milling. As such, it exposes the circuit to risk in terms of failing to meet throughput targets if insufficient SAG power is installed. Rather than design the SAG circuit with an arbitrary fraction of total circuit power, it is more useful to base the required SAG mill size on the product of the unit power requirement for the ore and the desired throughput. Subsequently, the size of the secondary milling circuit is then sized based on the amount of finish grinding for the SAG circuit product that is required. Restated, the designed SAG mill size and operating conditions typically control circuit throughput, while the ball-mill circuit installed power controls the final grind size.
The effect of feed hardness is the most significant driver for AG/SAG performance: with variations in ore hardness come variations in circuit throughput. The effect of feed size is marked, with both larger and finer feed sizes having a significant effect on throughput. With SAG mills, the response is typically that for coarser ores, throughput declines, and vice versa. However, for AG mills, there are number of case histories where mills failed to consistently meet throughput targets due to a lack of coarse media. Compounding the challenge of feed size is the fact that for many ores, the overall coarseness of the primary crusher product is correlated to feed hardness. Larger, more competent material consumes mill volume and limits throughput.
A number of operations have implemented a secondary crushing circuit prior to the SAG circuit for further comminution of primary crusher product. Such a circuit can counteract the effects of harder ore. coarser ore. decrease the size of SAG mill required, or rectify poor throughput due to an undersized SAG circuit. Notably, harder ore often presents itself to the SAG circuit as coarser than softer oreless comminution is produced in blasting and primary crushing, and therefore the impact on SAG throughput is compounded.
Circuits that have used or do use secondary crushing/SAG pre-crush include Troilus (Canada), Kidston (Australia), Ray (USA), Porgera (PNG). Granny Smith (Australia), Geita Gold (Tanzania), St Ives (Australia), and KCGM (Australia). Occasionally, secondary crushing is included in the original design but is often added as an additional circuit to account for harder ore (either harder than planned or becoming harder as the deposit is developed) or as a capital-efficient mechanism to boost throughput in an existing circuit. Such a flowsheet is not without its drawbacks. Not surprisingly, some of the advantages of SAG milling are reduced in terms of increased liner wear and increased maintenance costs. Also, pre-crush can lead to an increase in mid-sized material, overloading of pebble circuits, and challenges in controlling recycle loads. In certain circuits, the loss of top-size material can lead to decreased throughput. It is now widespread enough to be a standard circuit variant and is often considered as an option in trade-off studies. At the other end of the spectrum is the concept of feeding AG mills with as coarse a primary crusher product as possible.
The overall circuit configuration can guide selection of die classification method of primary circuit product. Screening is more successful than trommel classification for circuits with pebble crushing, particularly for those with larger mills. Single-stage AG/SAG circuits are most often closed with hydrocyclones.
To a more significant degree than in other comminution devices, liner design and configuration can have a substantial effect on mill performance. In general terms, lifter spacing and angle, grate open area and aperture size, and pulp lifter design and capacity must be considered. Each of these topics has had a considerable amount of research, and numerous case studies of evolutionary liner design have been published. Based on experience, mill-liner designs have moved toward more open-shell lifter spacing, increased pulp lifter volumetric capacity, and a grate design to facilitate maximizing both pebble-crushing circuit utilization and SAG mill capacity. As a guideline, mill throughput is maximized with shell lifters between ratios of 2.5:1 and 5.0:1. This ratio range is stated without reference to face angle; in general terms, and at equivalent spacing-to-height ratios, lifters with greater face-angle relief will have less packing problems when new, but experience higher wear rates than those with a steeper face angle. Pulp-lifter design can be a significant consideration for SAG mills, particularly for large mills. As mill sizes increases, the required volumetric capacity of the pulp lifters grows proportionally to mill volume. Since AG/SAG mill volume is roughly proportional to the mill radius cubed (at typical mill lengths) while the available cross-sectional area grows only as the radius squared, pulp lifters must become more efficient at transferring slurry in larger mills. Mills with pebble-crushing circuits will require grates with larger apertures to feed the circuit.
No discussion of SAG milling would be complete without mention of refining. Unlike a concentrator with multiple grinding lines, conducting SAG mill maintenance shuts down an entire concentrator, so there is a tremendous focus on minimizing required maintenance time; the reline timeline often represents the critical path of a shutdown (but typically does not dominate a shutdown in terms of total maintenance effort).
Reline times are a function of the number of pieces to be changed and the time required per piece. Advances in casting and development of progressively larger lining machines have allowed larger and larger individual liner pieces.
While improvements in this area will continue, the physical size limit of the feed trunnion and the ability to maneuver parts are increasingly limiting factors, particularly in large mills. The other portion of the equation for reline times is time per piece, and performance in this area is a function of planning, training/skill level, and equipment.
Abroad range of AG/SAG circuit configurations are in operation. Very large line plants have been designed, constructed, and operated. The circuits have demonstrated reliability, high overall availabilities, streamlined maintenance shutdowns, and efficient operation. AG/SAG circuits can handle a broad range of feed sizes, as well as sticky, clayey ores (which challenge other circuit configurations). Relative to crushing plants, wear media use is reduced, and plants run at higher availabilities. Circuits, however, are more sensitive to variations in circuit feed characteristics of hardness and size distribution; unlike crushing plants for which throughput is largely volumetrically controlled. AG/SAG throughput is defined by the unit power required to grindthe ore to the closing size attained in the circuit. Very hard ores can severely constrain AG/SAG mill throughput. In such cases, the circuits can become capital inefficient (in terms of the size and number of primary milling units required) and can require more total power input relative to alternative comminution flowsheets. A higher degree of operator skill is typically required of AG/SAG circuit operation, and more advanced process control is required to maintain steady-state operation, with different operator/advanced process control regimens required based on different ore types.
Many mills have been built based on data from inadequate sampling or from insufficient tests. With the cost of many mills exceeding several hundred million dollars, it is mandatory that geologists, mining engineers and metallurgists work together to prepare representative samples for testing. Simple repeatable work index tests are usually sufficient for rod mill and ball mill tests but pilot plant tests on 50-100 tons of ore are frequently necessary for autogenous or semiautogenous mills.
Preparation and selection of the test sample is of utmost importance. Procedures for autogenous and semiautogenous mill pilot plant tests are relatively simple for those experienced in running them. Reliable and repeatable results can be obtained if simple fundamental procedures are followed.
The design of large mills has become increasingly more complicated as the size has increased and there is little doubt that without sophisticated design procedures such as the use of the Finite Element method the required factors of safety would make large mills prohibitively expensive.
In the past the design of small mills, up to +/- 2,5 metres diameter, was carried out using empirical formulae with relatively large factors of safety. As the diameter and length of mills increased several critical problem areas were identified. One of the most important was the severe stressing which took place at the connection of the mill shell and the trunnion bearing end plates, which is further aggravated by the considerable distortion of the shell and the bearing journals due to the dynamic load effect of the rotating mill with a heavy mass of ore and pulp being lifted and dropped as the grinding process took place. Incidentally the design calculation of the deformations of journal and mill shell is based on static conditions, the influence of the rotating mass being of less importance. An indication of shell and journal distortion is shown in Figure 1.
Investigations carried out by Polysius/Aerofall revealed that practical manufacturing considerations dictated some aspects of trunnion end design. Whereas the thickness of the trunnion in the case of small diameter mills was dictated by foundry practice which required a minimum thickness of metal the opposite was the case in the design of large diameter mills where the emphasis was not to exceed a maximum thickness both from the mass/casting temperature point of view and the cost aspect.
While the deformation of shell and end plates was acceptable in the case of small mills due in some extent to the over stiff construction, the deformation in the large, more flexible, mills is relatively high. The ratio of the trunnion thickness to trunnion diameter in a mill of 2,134 m diameter is almost twice that of a mill of 5,8 m diameter, i.e. a ratio (T/D) of 0,116 to 0,069 for the large mill.
The use of large memory high speed computers coupled with finite element methods provides the means of performing stress calculations with a high degree of accuracy even for the complex structures of large mills. The precision with which the stress values can be predicted makes the use of safety factors based on empirical formulae generally unnecessary.
In the case of large diameter trunnion bearing mills the distortion which takes place is further compounded by the fact that the deformation varies across the width of the bearing journal due to the fact that the end of the journal attached to the mill end plate is less liable to distortion than the outlet free end of the journal. This raises serious complications as far as the development of the hydrodynamic fluid oil film of the bearing is concerned since the minimum oil gap may be only 0,05 mm.
Obviously a thinner oil film is adequate where the deformation of the journal is less while at the unsecured end of the journal widely varying oil film thickness is necessary to maintain the correct oil pressure to support the mill. A solution to this problem has been the advent of the hydrostatic bearing with a supply of high pressure oil pumped continuously into the bearings.
Incorporating the mill bearing journals as part of the mill shell reduced the magnitude of the problem of distortion although there is always out of round deformation of the shell. The variation across the width of the journal surface is less pronounced than is the case with the trunnion bearing.
The replacement of a single bearing with a number of individual self adjusting bearing pads which together support the mill has lessened the undesirable effects of deformation while improving the efficiency of the bearing.
The ability of each individual bearing-pad to adjust automatically to a more localised area of the shell journal gives rise to improved contact of the oil film with both the bearing surface and the journal and in the case of hydrodynamic oil systems makes it unnecessary to supply oil at constant high pressure once the oil film has been established. A cross-section of a slipper pad bearing is shown in Figure 3.
Kidstons orebody consists of 44.2 million tonnes graded at 1.79 g/t gold and 2.22 g/t silver. Production commenced in January, 1985, and despite a number of control, mechanical and electrical problems, each month has seen a steady improvement in plant performance to a current level of over ninety percent rated capacity.
The grinding circuit comprises one 8530 mm diameter x 3650 mm semi-autogenous mill driven by a 3954 kW variable speed dc motor, and one 5030 mm diameter x 8340 mm secondary ball mill driven by a 3730 kW synchronous motor. Four 1067 x 2400 mm vibrating feeders under the coarse ore stockpile feed the SAG mill via a 1067 mm feed belt equipped with a belt scale. Feed rate was initially controlled by the SAG mill power draw with bearing pressure as override.
Integral with the grinding circuit is a 1500 cubic meter capacity agitated surge tank equipped with level sensors and variable speed pumps. This acts as a buffer between the grinding circuit and the flow rate sensitive cycloning and thickening sections.
The Kidston plant was designed to process 7500 tpd fresh ore of average hardness; but to optimise profit during the first two years of operation when softer oxide ore will be treated, the process equipment was sized to handle a throughput of up to 14 000 tpd. Some of the equipment, therefore, will become standby units at the normal throughputs of 7 000 to 8 000 tpd, or additional milling capacity may be installed.
The SAG mill incorporates a design which allowed expedient manufacturing to high quality specifications, achieved by selecting a shell to head to trunnion configuration of solid elements bolted together. This eliminates difficult to fabricate and inspect areas such as a fabricated head welded to shell plate, fabricated ribbed heads, plate or casting welded to the head in the knuckle area and transition between the head and trunnion.
Considerable variation in ore hardness, the late commissioning of much of the instrumentation and an eagerness to maximise mill throughput led to frequent mill overloading during the first four months of operation. The natural operator over-reaction to overloads resulted numerous mill grindouts, about sixteen hours in total, which in turn were largely responsible for grate failure and severe liner peening. First evidence of grate failure occurred at 678 000 tonnes throughput, and at 850 000 tonnes, after three grates had been replaced on separate occasions, the remaining 25 were renewed. The cylinder liners were so badly peened at this stage that no liner edge could be discerned except under very close scrutiny and grate apertures had closed to 48 percent of their original open area.
The original SAG mill control loop, a mill motor power draw set point of 5200 Amperes controlling the coarse ore feeder speeds, was soon found to give excessive variation in the mill ore charge volume and somewhat less than optimal power draw.
The armature, weighing 19 tonnes, together with the top half magnet frame, were trucked two thousand kilometers to Brisbane for rewinding and repairs. The mill was turning again on January 24 after a total elapsed downtime of 14 days. After a twelve day stoppage due to a statewide power dispute in February, the mill settled down to a fairly normal operation, apart from some minor problems with alarm monitoring causing a few spurious trips. One cause of the mysterious stoppages was tracked down to the cubicle door interlocks which stuttered whenever the mining department fired a bigger than usual blast.
The open trunnion bearings are sealed with a rubber ring which proved ineffective in preventing ingress of water, and occasionally solids, from feed chute chokes and spillages. Contamination and emulsification of the oil with subsequent filter choking has been responsible for nearly eighteen percent of SAG mill circuit shutdowns. Despite the very high levels of contamination, no damage has been sustained by the bearings which has at least proved the effectiveness of the filters and other protection devices.
Design changes to date have, predictably, mostly concentrated on improving liner life and minimising discharge grate damage. Four discharge grates with thickened ends have performed satisfactorily and a Mk3 version with separate lifters and 20 mm apertures is currently being cast by Minneapolis Electric.
Cylinder liners will continue to be replaced with high profile lifters only on a complete reline basis. While there is the problem of reduced milling capacity with reduced lifter height towards the end of liner life, it is hoped to largely offset this by operating at higher mill speeds.
Mill feed chute liner life continues to be a problem. The original chrome-moly liners lasted some three months and a subsequent trial with 75 mm thick clamped Linhard (rubber) liners turned in a rather dismal life of three weeks.
Grinding circuits are fed at a controlled rate from the stockpile or bins holding the crusher plant product. There may be a number of grinding circuits in parallel, each circuit taking a definite fraction of the feed. An example is the Highland Valley Cu/Mo plant with five parallel grinding lines (Chapter 12). Parallel mill circuits increase circuit flexibility, since individual units can be shut down or the feed rate can be changed, with a manageable effect on production. Fewer mills are, however, easier to control and capital and installation costs are lower, so the number of mills must be decided at the design stage.
The high unit capacity SAG mill/ball mill circuit is dominant today and has contributed toward substantial savings in capital and operating costs, which has in turn made many low-grade, high-tonnage operations such as copper and gold ores feasible. Future circuits may see increasing use of high pressure grinding rolls (Rosas et al., 2012).
Autogenous grinding or semi-autogenous grinding mills can be operated in open or closed circuit. However, even in open circuit, a coarse classifier such as a trommel attached to the mill, or a vibrating screen can be used. The oversize material is recycled either externally or internally. In internal recycling, the coarse material is conveyed by a reverse spiral or water jet back down the center of the trommel into the mill. External recycling can be continuous, achieved by conveyor belt, or is batch where the material is stockpiled and periodically fed back into the mill by front-end loader.
In Figure 7.35 shows the SAG mill closed with a crusher (recycle or pebble crusher). In SAG mill operation, the grinding rate passes through a minimum at a critical size (Chapter 5), which represents material too large to be broken by the steel grinding media, but has a low self-breakage rate. If the critical size material, typically 2550mm, is accumulated the mill energy efficiency will deteriorate, and the mill feed rate decreases. As a solution, additional large holes, or pebble ports (e.g., 40100mm), are cut into the mill grate, allowing coarse material to exit the mill. The crusher in closed circuit is then used to reduce the size of the critical size material and return it to the mill. As the pebble ports also allow steel balls to exit, a steel removal system (such as a guard magnet, Chapters 2 and 13Chapter 2Chapter 13) must be installed to prevent them from entering the crusher. (Because of this requirement, closing a SAG mill with a crusher is not used in magnetic iron ore grinding circuits.) This circuit configuration is common as it usually produces a significant increase in throughput and energy efficiency due to the removal of the critical size material.
An example SABC-A circuit is the Cadia Hill Gold Mine, New South Wales, Australia (Dunne et al., 2001). The project economics study indicated a single grinding line. The circuit comprises a SAG mill, 12m diameter by 6.1m length (belly inside liners, the effective grinding volume), two pebble crushers, and two ball mills in parallel closed with cyclones. The SAG mill is fitted with a 20MW gearless drive motor with bi-directional rotational capacity. (Reversing direction evens out wear on liners with symmetrical profile and prolongs operating time.) The SAG mill was designed to treat 2,065t h1 of ore at a ball charge of 8% volume, total filling of 25% volume, and an operating mill speed of 74% of critical. The mill is fitted with 80mm grates with total grate open area of 7.66m2 (Hart et al., 2001). A 4.5m diameter by 5.2m long trommel screens the discharge product at a cut size of ca. 12mm. Material less than 12mm falls into a cyclone feed sump, where it is combined with discharge from the ball mills. Oversize pebbles from the trommel are conveyed to a surge bin of 735t capacity, adjacent to the pebble crushers. Two cone crushers with a closed side set of 1216mm are used to crush the pebbles with a designed product P80 of 12mm and an expected total recycle pebble rate of 725t h1. The crushed pebbles fall directly onto the SAG mill feed belt and return to the SAG mill.
SAG mill product feeds two parallel ball mills of 6.6m11.1m (internal diameterlength), each with a 9.7MW twin pinion drive. The ball mills are operated at a ball charge volume of 3032% and 78.5% critical speed. The SAG mill trommel undersize is combined with the ball mills discharge and pumped to two parallel packs (clusters) of twelve 660mm diameter cyclones. The cyclone underflow from each line reports to a ball mill, while the cyclone overflow is directed to the flotation circuit. The designed ball milling circuit product is 80% passing 150m.
Several large tonnage copper porphyry plants in Chile use an open-circuit SAG configuration where the pebble crusher product is directed to the ball mills (SABC-B circuit). The original grinding circuit at Los Bronces is an example: the pebbles generated in the two SAG mills are crushed in a satellite pebble crushing plant, and then are conveyed to the three ball mills (Mogla and Grunwald, 2008).
Hydrocyclones have come to dominate classification when dealing with fine particle sizes in closed grinding circuits (<200m). However, recent developments in screen technology (Chapter 8) have renewed interest in using screens in grinding circuits. Screens separate on the basis of size and are not directly influenced by the density spread in the feed minerals. This can be an advantage. Screens also do not have a bypass fraction, and as Example 9.2 has shown, bypass can be quite large (over 30% in that case). Figure 9.8 shows an example of the difference in partition curve for cyclones and screens. The data is from the El Brocal concentrator in Peru with evaluations before and after the hydrocyclones were replaced with a Derrick Stack Sizer (see Chapter 8) in the grinding circuit (Dndar et al., 2014). Consistent with expectation, compared to the cyclone the screen had a sharper separation (slope of curve is higher) and little bypass. An increase in grinding circuit capacity was reported due to higher breakage rates after implementing the screen. This was attributed to the elimination of the bypass, reducing the amount of fine material sent back to the grinding mills which tends to cushion particleparticle impacts.
Circulation of material occurs in several parts of a mineral processing flowsheet, in grinding and flotation circuits, for example, as well as the crushing stage. In the present context, the circulating load (C) is the mass of coarse material returned from the screen to the crusher relative to the circuit final product (or fresh feed to the circuit), often quoted as a percentage. Figure 8.2 shows two closed circuit arrangements. Circuit (a) was considered in Chapter 6 (Example 6.1), and circuit (b) is an alternative. The symbols have the same meaning as before. The relationship of circulating load to screen efficiency for circuit (a) was derived in Example 6.1, namely (where all factors are as fractions):
The circulating load as a function of screen efficiency for the two circuits is shown in Figure 8.3. The circulating load increases with decreasing screen efficiency and as crusher product coarsens (f or r decreases), which is related to the crusher set (specifically the closed side setting, c.s.s.). For circuit (a) C also increases as the fresh feed coarsens (n decreases), which is likely coming from another crusher. In this manner, the circulating load can be related to crusher settings.
In industrial grinding process, in addition to goal of productivity maximization, other purposes of deterministic grinding circuit optimization have to satisfy the upper bound constraints on the control variables. We know that there lies a tradeoff between the throughput (TP) and the percent passing of midsize classes (MS) from the previous work of Mitra and Gopinath,2004. In deterministic optimization formulation, there are certain parameters which we will assume them as constant. But, in real life that may not be case. There are such six parameters in our industrial grinding process which are R, B, R, B are the grindability indices and grindability exponents for the rod mill (RMGI) and the ball mill (BMGI); and P, S are the sharpness indices for the primary (PCSI) and secondary cyclones (SCSI). These parameters are treated as constant in deterministic formulation. As they are going to be treated as uncertain parameters in the OUU formulation. These parameters are assumed uncertain because most of them are obtained from the regression of experimental data and thus are subject to uncertainty due to experimental and regression errors. In the next part of the section, we consider them as fuzzy numbers and solve the OUU problem by FEVM. In FEVM formulation, the uncertain parameters are considered as fuzzy numbers and the uncertain formulation is transformed into the deterministic formulation by expectation calculations for both objective function and constraints. So, the converted deterministic multi-objective optimization problem is expressed as:
Another spinning batch concentrator (Figure 10.27), it is designed principally for the recovery of free gold in grinding circuit classifier underflows where, again, a very small (<1%) mass pull to concentrate is required. The feed first flows up the sides of a cone-shaped bowl, where it stratifies according to particle density before passing over a concentrate bed fluidized from behind by back-pressure (process) water. The bed retains dense particles such as gold, and lighter gangue particles are washed over the top. Periodically the feed is stopped, the bed rinsed to remove any remaining lights and is then flushed out as the heavy product. Rinsing/flushing frequency, which is under automatic control, is determined from grade and recovery requirements.
The units come in several designs, the Semi-Batch (SB), Ultrafine (UF), and i-Con, designed for small scale and artisanal miners. The first installation was at the Blackdome Gold Mine, British Columbia, Canada, in 1986 (Nesset, 2011).
These two batch centrifugal concentrators have been widely applied in the recovery of gold, platinum, silver, mercury, and native copper; continuous versions are also operational, the Knelson Continuous Variable Discharge (CVD) and the Falcon Continuous (C) (Klein et al., 2010; Nesset, 2011).
To liberate minerals from sparsely distributed and depleting the ore bodies finer grinding than generally obtained by the conventional Rod Mill Ball Mill grinding circuits is needed. Longer grinding periods in the conventional milling processes prove too expensive mainly due to large power consumption. Stirrer mills have been tried in mineral industry with considerable success and have therefore been increasingly used. In this chapter, the theories involved in the design and operation of these mills, as established till now, are explained. Further theoretical studies and designs of the mills are still in progress for a better understanding and improved operation. Presently, the mills have been proved to be economically viable and the mineral of interest conducive to improved recovery and grade.
IMP Technologies Pty. Ltd. has recently tested a pilot-scale super fine crusher that operates on dry ore and is envisaged as a possible alternative to fine or ultra-fine grinding circuits (Kelsey and Kelly, 2014). The unit includes a rotating compression chamber and an internal gyrating mandrel (Figure 6.13). Material is fed into the compression chamber and builds until the gyratory motion of the mandrel is engaged. Axial displacement of the compression chamber and the gyratory motion of the mandrel result in fine grinding of the feed material. In one example, a feed F80 of 300m was reduced to P80 of 8m, estimated to be the equivalent to two stages of grinding. This development is the latest in a resurgence in crushing technology resulting from the competition of AG/SAG milling and the demands for increased comminution energy efficiency.
The iron oxide crystal grains in most iron ores are not evenly distributed in size. Spiral separators can therefore be used to take out the coarser iron oxide grains in the primary grinding circuit to save grinding energy and help achieve a higher iron recovery. Figure 9.14 presents a typical flow sheet for processing an oxidized ore containing about 30% Fe using a combination of spiral and SLon magnetite separators and reverse flotation. This ore is mainly composed of hematite, magnetite, and quartz, and the iron oxide crystals range in size from 0.005 to 1.0mm with an average size of about 0.05mm. The average size of the quartz crystals is approximately 0.085mm.
In the primary grinding stage of the flow sheet in Figure 9.14, the ore is first ground down to about 60% -75m and then classified into two size fractions, a coarse size fraction and a fine size fraction. The coarse size fraction is treated with spiral separators to recover part of the final iron ore concentrate. Then, drum LIMS and SLon magnetic separators are used to reject some of the coarse gangue minerals as final tailings. The magnetic products from the LIMS and SLon are sent back to the secondary ball mill for regrinding, and the milled product returns to the primary cyclone classifier.
The fine size fraction is about 90% -75m and is processed using drum LIMS separators and SLon magnetic separators in series to take out the magnetite and hematite, respectively. The magnetic products from the magnetic separators are mixed to generate the feed for reverse flotation to produce another component of the final iron ore concentrate.
The key advantage of this flow sheet lies in the fact that the spirals and SLon magnetic separators take out about 20% of the mass of the final iron concentrate and about 20% of the mass of the final tailings, respectively, from the coarse size fraction. This greatly reduces the masses being fed to the secondary ball mill and reverse flotation, thereby greatly reducing the total processing cost. From the plant results for this flow sheet, an iron concentrate containing 67.5% Fe could be produced from a run-of-mine ore containing 30.1% Fe, at a mass yield to the iron concentrate of 34.9%, an iron recovery of 78.0%, and a tailings grade of 10.2% Fe.
The first step of physical beneficiation is crushing and grinding the iron ore to its liberation size, the maximum size where individual particles of gangue are separated from the iron minerals. A flow sheet of a typical iron ore crushing and grinding circuit is shown in Figure 1.2.2 (based on Ref. ). This type of flow sheet is usually followed when the crude ore contains below 30% iron. The number of steps involved in crushing and grinding depends on various factors such as the hardness of the ore and the level of impurities present .
Jaw and gyratory crushers are used for initial size reduction to convert big rocks into small stones. This is generally followed by a cone crusher. A combination of rod mill and ball mills are then used if the ore must be ground below 325 mesh (45m). Instead of grinding the ore dry, slurry is used as feed for rod or ball mills, to avoid dusting. Oversize and undersize materials are separated using a screen; oversize material goes back for further grinding.
Typically, silica is the main gangue mineral that needs to be separated. Iron ore with high-silica content (more than about 2%) is not considered an acceptable feed for most DR processes. This is due to limitations not in the DR process itself, but the usual customer, an EAF steelmaking shop. EAFs are not designed to handle the large amounts of slag that result from using low-grade iron ores, which makes the BF a better choice in this situation. Besides silica, phosphorus, sulfur, and manganese are other impurities that are not desirable in the product and are removed from the crude ore, if economically and technically feasible.
While used sometimes on final concentrates, such as Fe concentrates, to determine the Blaine number (average particle size deduced from surface area), and on tailings for control of paste thickeners, for example, the prime application is on cyclone overflow for grinding circuit control (Kongas and Saloheimo, 2009). Control of the grinding circuit to produce the target particle size distribution for flotation (or other mineral separation process) at target throughput maximizes efficient use of the installed power.
Continuous measurement of particle size in slurries has been available since 1971, the PSM (particle size monitor) system produced then by Armco Autometrics (subsequently by Svedala and now by Thermo Gamma-Metrics) having been installed in a number of mineral processing plants (Hathaway and Guthnals, 1976).
The PSM system uses ultrasound to determine particle size. This system consists of three sections: the air eliminator, the sensor section, and the electronics section. The air eliminator draws a sample from the process stream and removes entrained air bubbles (which otherwise act as particles in the measurement). The de-aerated pulp then passes between the sensors. Measurement depends on the varying absorption of ultrasonic waves in suspensions of different particle sizes. Since solids concentration also affects the absorption, two pairs of transmitters and receivers, operating at different frequencies, are employed to measure particle size and solids concentration of the pulp, the processing of this information being performed by the electronics. The Thermo GammaMetrics PSM-400MPX (Figure 4.18) handles slurries up to 60% w/w solids and outputs five size fractions simultaneously.
Other measurement principles are now in commercial form for slurries. Direct mechanical measurement of particle size between a moving and fixed ceramic tip, and laser diffraction systems are described by Kongas and Saloheimo (2009). Two recent additions are the CYCLONEtrac systems from CiDRA Minerals Processing (Maron et al., 2014), and the OPUS ultrasonic extinction system from Sympatec (Smith et al., 2010).
CiDRAs CYCLONEtrac PST (particle size tracking) system comprises a hardened probe that penetrates into the cyclone overflow pipe to contact the stream and effectively listens to the impacts of individual particles. The output is % above (or below) a given size and has been shown to compare well with sieve sizing (Maron et al., 2014). The OPUS ultrasonic extinction system (USE) transmits ultrasonic waves through a slurry that interact with the suspended particles. The detected signal is converted into a particle size distribution, the number of frequencies used giving the number of size classes measured. Applications on ores can cover a size range from 1 to 1,000m (Smith et al., 2010).
In addition to particles size, recent developments have included sensors to detect malfunctioning cyclones. Westendorf et al. (2015) describe the use of sensors (from Portage Technologies) on cyclone overflow and underflow piping. CiDRAs CYCLONEtrac OSM (oversize monitor) is attached to the outside of the cyclone overflow pipe and detects the acoustic signal as oversize particles (rocks) hit the pipe (Cirulis and Russell, 2011). The systems are readily installed on individual cyclones thus permitting poorly operating units to be identified and changed while allowing the cyclone battery to remain in operation. Figure 4.19 shows an installation of both CiDRA systems (PST, OSM) on the overflow pipe from a cyclone.
Pilot scale vertical roller mill grinding tests were performed for chalcopyrite grinding successfully.Specific energy consumption and wear rates of existing conventional circuit and vertical roller mill were compared.Energy consumption of vertical roller mill is about 18% less than existing circuit.It is possible to decrease the operating costs about 38.1% by implementing vertical roller mill to the existing circuit.
Vertical roller mills (VRM) have been used extensively for comminuting both cement raw materials and minerals like limestone, clinker, phosphate, manganese, magnesite, feldspar and titanium. These mills combine crushing, grinding, classification and drying operations in one unit and have advantages over conventional machines and literature reports that 15% energy saving is achievable in cement grinding operations when compared to ball milling circuit. Such an improved performance in cement grinding operations encouraged the research studies on ore grinding applications. Within the scope of the study ore grinding performance of the vertical roller mill was investigated with mobile pilot plant. In this context, chalcopyrite ore of a plant having rod and ball milling circuit was ground under different operating modes e.g., air swept and overflow, and process conditions, then samples were collected around the system. The collected samples were characterized in terms of size distributions which were then used in comparing the performances of conventional and VRM systems. This study concluded that 18% saving in specific energy consumption was achievable together with the less wear on the internal components.Get in Touch with Mechanic