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Implementation of an Advanced Milling and Flotation Control System at Mopani Mufulira Copper Mine


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Author A Naidoo, B E De Gee and N Viviers


In 2013 the Mopani Copper Mine Mufulira plant in Zambia embarked on a project that was aimed at improving concentrator recoveries. The project commenced with the automation of the milling and flotation circuits. This involved the installation of new instrumentation, namely measurement devices and actuators, and the connection of these to new programmable logic controllers (PLCs).

The infrastructure changes were followed by the implementation of basic proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controllers on the PLCs. Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) interfaces were also implemented to allow for switching between controller modes, inputting of setpoint variables and to provide a visual display for process monitoring. The final phase of the project involved the installation and commissioning of advanced process control (APC) solutions on the milling and flotation circuits. This work was carried out by Mintek over 21 on-site days. The APC solutions included the MillStar and FloatStar suites of advanced controllers.

The MillStar control suite focused on stabilising the mill feed and mill discharge on the two primary mills as well as the flotation circuit feed. Mintek’s CyLas instruments, which provide a measurement of the hydrocyclone underflow angle, were also installed. The measurements were incorporated into the discharge stabilisation control on both milling circuits. The FloatStar level stabiliser controller provided flotation cell pulp level control on fourteen cells, including two columns.

Performance tests showed that the Mintek APC system stabilised the mill feed and mill discharge while ensuring the process remained within operational constraints. The MillStar control system utilised the CyLas instrument to prevent roping on the hydrocyclone underflow. This was not always achieved under normal operation. Additionally, the flotation section was stabilised as a result of improved level control by the FloatStar control system.

Performance comparisons showed that the Mintek control system improved the operation of the milling and flotation circuits resulting in a greater copper recovery.


Naidoo, A, De Gee, B E and
Viviers, N, 2014. Implementation of an advanced milling and flotation control
system at Mopani Mufulira copper mine, in Proceedings 12th AusIMM Mill
Operators’ Conference 2014
, pp 363–368 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).