Many operations deal with orebodies that are highly variable in metal grade, ore mineralogy, gangue mineralogy and processing behaviour. Ore with complex mineralogy, for example, where the target metal is hosted in many different minerals, needs complex flowsheets and means that defining the parameters for ‘good’ operation is hard to do. In this situation the target is not the recovery of metal directly, but rather recovery of the metal bearing minerals. The distribution of metals in different host minerals is typically not consistent and building an understanding of what minerals are best recovered in which circuit has a significant influence on the targets for recovery and grade.
This is where operational mineralogy can be extremely valuable because it results in an understanding of when and where the key metal-bearing minerals occur on a routine basis. This allows an operation to build better continuous improvement programs and generate more accurate targets for plant performance. In addition, the use of mineralogical information for day-to-day decision making allows the operation to assess key process drivers, whether from ore minerals or gangue minerals and make decisions based on real information in close to real time.
The key goals of an operational mineralogy program are:
Operational mineralogy focuses on generating mineralogical data that is designed to achieve these particular goals. This helps to recognise when the processing operation is underperforming, detect where that is occurring and whether the cause can be attributed to an unexpected change in ore mineralogy or an operational issue.
Our new venture, iMin Solutions’ approach to the development of an operational mineralogy program is to focus on outcomes that are valuable and implementable. Our philosophy in development of routine programs is that the processes should be simple and structured around measurable metrics to enhance the positive impact for the site.