Mill operating teams are expected to engage in a perpetual quest for process improvement – pushing the boundaries of practical process limits and testing new technology to achieve the next step-change in plant performance. Often the barrier to improvement lies in gaining management approval for process changes.
Getting approval for investment in novel technology carries an added degree of difficulty, particularly in risk-averse operations, when it challenges conventional wisdom. A case in point is a new technology for controlling variability in slurry distribution. There is a widely held view that less-than-specified classification efficiency and spraying and roping of individual units in a hydrocyclone cluster, must be accepted as unavoidable. That these are wholly correctable deficiencies resulting from unequal loading of the individual units seems a bold claim. Wouldn't the high turbulence of pumped slurries overcome all potential for segregation of solids?
This paper discusses how the task of developing confidence in a new technology can be approached by a combination of physical modelling at small scale, and full-scale operating experience. Proving efficacy then leads to the next task: demonstrating value. Again, the particular technology serves as an example that could be of value to others developing relatively low-cost technologies. A high-pay-off as an investment may be achieved with improvements in metallurgical performance that are small in relation to normal process variations. This has led to an exploration of how process simulation modelling could be used, in conjunction with production data, to provide a benchmark for the expected change, which could be expressed in monetary terms.
The next goal, which is currently being achieved in operating plants, is to realise the greater value now available through the optimisation of cyclone configuration, which becomes practical when the confounding effects of cluster instability are removed through equal loading.
Doig, S G, Algie, S H, Lovatt, I A and Knoblauch, E J, 2018. Investing in new process improvement technology: reducing the risk of implementation – a way forward, in Proceedings 14th AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference 2018, pp 571–584 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).