Operational mineralogy brings advanced mineralogical analysis techniques to site without the need for expert mineralogists. This allows a culture of mineralogical monitoring to be established.

  • Targeting programmes – Operational mineralogy programmes target key streams on the operation to focus on generating the right sort of data to address the questions raised.
  • Mineralogical trends – Building mineralogical trends over time provides a concrete view of process health and the tools to rapidly identify processing issues.
  • Fast mineralogy – Bringing analysis to site reduces turnaround time to 48 hours, making results relevant for day-to-day decision-making.
  • Rapid and sustainable value – Mineralogical monitoring can rapidly identify solutions to existing problems and improve ongoing productivity, translating to significant value generation.

MinAssist are global leaders in establishment and delivery of operational mineralogy programs.

What is Operational Mineralogy?

Operational mineralogy is a tool to utilise automated mineralogy directly in mineral-processing operations. It provides a powerful avenue for process improvement and operational decision-making. With recent improvements in ruggedised automated mineralogy systems, such as those offered by Zeiss, and demonstrated implementation and value addition on large-scale copper operations, the routine use of mineralogical information as a process tool has become a reality. This will allow operators to make decisions based on more robust information and drive a paradigm shift in the use of data in mineral processing.

A solution for rapid mineralogy.
The issue with effective use of mineralogy on-site has always been that mineralogical analysis is slow, and even with excellent facilities turnaround times of weeks or months can be expected. Operational Mineralogy was developed by MinAssist, in collaboration with Zeiss Microscopy to reduce the turnaround time of the results from weeks to hours. This has been achieved through the development of an end-to-end solution incorporating on-site sampling, sample preparation, analysis and data interpretation within a 48-hour timeframe. This solution enables a paradigm shift in the management of the performance of mineral-processing circuits.

Integrated with existing tools and datasets
Operational mineralogy allows combination of the analysis of mineral particles with data from assay measurements and metallurgical test work opening up new opportunities for value generation in the mining sector. The potential for this value generation has been estimated at US$370 billion annually (McKinsey Global Institute), with US$250 billion of this potential estimated to be through operations management (Metals and Mining Practice, November 2015, McKinsey), of which on-site automated mineralogy and operational mineralogy are a part.

Incorporate with planning and optimisation
Once a comprehensive dataset has been acquired for an orebody over a period of time, data mining can be applied for longer-term, more strategic improvements to the overall mining cycle. This can incorporate anything from improving the accuracy of the resource estimate, through to optimising the block model based on commodity prices and completing the cycle with further optimisation of the block model to take into account environmental management at end of life. This provides the operation with a tool to build effective geometallurgical models using real plant data, allowing for more effective mine planning, production forecasting and reconciliation.

Rapid return on investment
The return on investment of such a programme is clearly a function of the size of the mine and the price of commodities. Based on copper prices of December 2015 and an example capital investment of US$1 million (example capital cost only), a large operation could expect to see a return on investment within three months if the programme identifies modest improvements in recovery of 1% of the total metal produced (e.g. the Kansanshi mine in Zambia – 300,000t/y of copper). For larger sites (e.g. the Las Bambas mine in Peru, which is projected to produce 400,000t/y copper), the return on investment is even more attractive with payback measurable in weeks rather than months.

Who have we helped?

First Quantum Minerals - Kansanshi Cu-Au Mine

MinAssist developed an operational mineralogy program for Kansanshi Mine in 2016. Working in close collaboration with Zeiss Microscopy this was the first successfully implemented large scale example of daily trend based mineralogy. The program included business case development, technology selection, program design, implementation and training. This highly successful program was integral in achieving overall plant copper recovery increases of over 5%.

First Quantum Minerals - Sentinel Mine

Leveraging the success of the Kansanshi mine operational mineralogy program MinAssist helped First Quantum Minerals implement a similar program at the nearby Sentinel Mine. This program utilised the facilities at Kansanshi, supported by onsite XRD analysis for high resolution mineralogy.

Kazzinc - Altyntau Gold Mine

Development of a pilot operational mineralogy program at Kazzinc’s Altyntau Gold Mine, Kazakhstan.

First Quantum Minerals - Cobre Panama

General support in development of operational mineralogy program at Cobre Panama Copper Mine, Panama.

Newcrest Mining - Program Setup

General advice and support for development of business case to trial operational mineralogy.

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