A significant benefit of process mineralogy is the advantage it can bring in reduction of technical risk in mineral processing. Site metallurgists and managers can use mineralogy to gain an in-depth understanding of the ore being fed to their operation and reduce the effect of ore variability on recoveries.
Smart use of mineralogy in defining ore types and then monitoring their behavior through the process can help in numerous ways to improve the efficiency of control and key processes such as ore blending.
The fundamental nature of mineralogical information means that the risk associated with processing and ore variability can be monitored and the effects predicted ahead of time.
The key for operators to get a good handle on the risk posed by ore variability is to take an approach that addresses the whole process life cycle. Mineralogy focused just on the process can make a big difference in troubleshooting and optimization. However, to really reap the benefits of technical risk reduction consideration needs to be made for what is being fed to the process and how that will affect recovery.
If a mineralogical monitoring program can be expanded to include feed material then the operation is on the front foot, changing the focus from reactive troubleshooting to predictive system control.
Knowing how a particular ore type will behave through the process before operations such as blending take place helps to ensure more consistent blends based on a larger range of factors than just grade are fed to the plant. This can be readily achieved by undertaking an initial ore characterization program to define ore types based on mineralogy and correlate their behavior in the process. Once detailed mineralogy is completed a more focused and cost effective monitoring program can be established that will provide the required data for effective risk control at an acceptable cost and turn-around time.
By using a long term approach to mineralogy as a tool to reduce the risk associated with ore variability and unknowns in the process.
There is some extra cost associated with using mineralogy as a monitoring tool over standard chemical assays but the benefit of gaining so much valuable information and reduction in recovery losses quickly account for it.
The advantages mineralogical monitoring can bring in risk reduction are something that we don’t often consciously think about but can make a big difference when ore variability is a factor and tight control of recovery is required. I won’t address the specifics of how to set up a monitoring program that is suitable for this method of risk reduction but you can find more information in the GoldAssist Monitoring package. I will also be presenting a paper at Mineral Processing Plant Design 2009 in Arizona later this year that addresses using mineralogy in technical risk reduction for roject evaluation that will give some more insight.
Mineralogy in monitoring and risk reduction is a tool that has really only found application among the big miners but could make a profound difference to any operation that would like better control of their systems. Have a think about the advantages that being able to accurately predict changes in ore type could bring to your operation and feel free to throw up any questions or comments.