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Characterising the Reasons for the Difference in Performance of Two Ore Blends in Early Processing at OZ Minerals Prominent Hill Operation


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Author D J Bradshaw, E M Wightman, C L Evans and B Triffett


During the commissioning phase of Prominent Hill, periods of reduced recovery were experienced with higher-grade ore blends. This was unexpected and as part of the process to identify the cause, surveys were conducted in May 2009, with two different ore blends (copper grades: 1.94 per cent Cu (blend 1) and 2.49 per cent Cu (blend 2)). Metallurgical performance was assessed in terms of rougher recovery and grade with consideration of both pulp and froth effects. In addition, hydrodynamic measurements (gas hold up, bubble size, superficial gas velocity) as well as measurements of bubble load and top-of-froth grade were taken during the surveys and full mineralogical assessment of selected streams completed to characterise the nature of the differences. The metallurgical results showed that the lower performance was obtained with blend 2 which contained the higher amount of chalcocite and was higher-grade. Analysis of the survey data showed that for both ore blends more than half of the copper loss occurred in the +38 µm size fractions. Almost 30 per cent of the copper in the +38 µm fractions that reported to the rougher tails during processing of blend 2 was liberated compared to less than five per cent for blend 1. Additionally almost 60 per cent of the copper in the +38 µm fraction of blend 2 was chalcocite compared with approximately 20 per cent in blend 1. This paper discusses the sensitivity of the chalcocite-to-surface chemistry effects causing marked reductions in recovery either through reduced pulp recovery or froth phase (detachment) effects. The reagent suite and operating conditions were subsequently changed and the recoveries increased substantially and the sensitivity to ore changes eliminated. It should be noted that subsequent optimisation work, which focused on recovery improvement, has led to copper recoveries of over 90 per cent being achieved.

Bradshaw, D J, Wightman, E M, Evans, C L and
Triffett, B, 2012. Characterising the reasons for the difference in performance
of two ore blends in early processing at OZ Minerals Prominent Hill Operation,
in Proceedings 11th AusIMM Mill Operators’ Conference, pp 273-278 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).