The Jaguar concentrator, 60 km north of Leonora, Western Australia (WA), consists of a standard closed circuit semi-autogenous grinding (SAG) and ball mill producing a float feed of approximately 60 micron at 70 t/h. Following comminution, separate copper and zinc concentrates are produced by differential flotation. These concentrates are subsequently dewatered by thickening and then filtration.
Separate audits of the Jaguar Operation's copper and zinc concentrate thickeners were conducted to evaluate their performance, following occasions where site personnel had identified unnecessary loss of copper and zinc concentrate to the thickener overflow. The feedwells were identified as the source of the observed problems due to the following issues with their design/duty:
- lack of retention time in the feedwell as current design is completely open
- not conducive to effective mixing required for efficient flocculation
- diameter of the zinc concentrate thickener feedwell was undersize for its duty.
To improve the performance of the thickeners, it is planned to replace both concentrate thickener feedwells with a high rate design for their respective duties in February 2016.
The audits also identified that the feed system requires modifications with particular importance placed on minimising air entrainment of slurry into the thickener feedwell. Minimisation of air entrainment is hoped to be achieved by providing constant head pressure through installation of weir arrangements in the feedboxes and redirecting each feed pipe so that it feeds tangentially into the feedwell.
In addition, improvements to the control philosophy of both thickeners will be made with the installation of an ultrasonic bed level probe and bed mass sensor, in order to make real-time adjustments to the underflow pump speed to maintain steady state operation.
Following the feedwell replacement and modifications to both thickeners it is expected that losses of recovered copper and zinc will decrease to undetectable levels. Subsequently it is anticipated that a more consistent, homogenous underflow can be produced for downstream filtration.
Thompson, M, 2016. Concentrate Thickeners Feedwell Replacement, in Proceedings 13th AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference 2016, pp 273–278 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).