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Does process control sampling always have to be a compromise?


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Author R C Steinhaus, J J Rust and M Singh


Metallurgical process control systems in mineral plants often employ state-of-the-art monitoring analysers in an attempt to optimise plant operations and enhance mineral recoveries. These systems are unfortunately invariably fed by simplistic ‘sampling’ designs consisting of various in-stream methods or pressurised probes. These are unfortunate compromises and provide a false picture of what a mineral flotation or other process can achieve. The situation is further aggravated by some manufacturers using misleading marketing to suggest discrete cross-stream methods for metallurgical accounting and unreliable continuous in-stream off-takes for control sampling and that they are of synonymous integrity.

Reliable, absolute or representative samples are often absent in many modern day concentrator plants, due to compromises around sample taking, particularly in terms of delineation and extraction errors and thus leading to sample bias. For more reliable information from online analysers we need a continuous, but much more reliable sample taken, than is current practice.

Online analysers require a fully proportional and continuous supply of sample for effective process control, otherwise maximised or benchmark recoveries will be nothing but a pipe dream. Large discrete cross-stream samples from mechanically less reliable equipment cannot be used as feed to online analysers, as it will negatively impact real-time feedback and efficient process control.

It is possible to build correct sampling systems that could do both process controls online and metallurgical accounting at the same time. Multotec Process Equipment (Pty) Limited, in close association with experienced sampling consultant Francis Pitard, have jointly patented a concept to achieve this and which is embodied in the design of the unique Rotating Cone® Sampler (International Patent Application No. PCT/IB2016/057464). This versatile unit for dry and wet applications has high division ratios via two-step sampling and division.

A prototype was built and tested to validate the design and levels of precision achievable when employing the unit to split dry mineral fines or even certain foodstuffs.


Steinhaus, R C, Rust, J J and Singh, M, 2017. Does process
control sampling always have to be a compromise?, in Proceedings Eighth
World Conference on Sampling and Blending
, pp 197–202 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).