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Nova copper-nickel project optimisation of the copper rougher-scavenger circuit through advanced measurement and control


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Author G A Gomes-Sebastiaõ, Z Hearne, S Lam, D van der Spuy, M Thompson and N Vines


Construction and commissioning of the Nova Copper-Nickel project of Independence Group was completed in late 2016. The plant is in the Fraser Range of Western Australia, about 120km east of Norseman and produces separate Copper and Nickel concentrates. Since the early feasibility phases of the project, the importance of automation and control was recognised and planned for to ensure the plant performance meets the design expectations.

The site is well equipped with common as well as advanced instrumentation. It currently boasts the largest number of Blue Cube MQi (mineral quantifier inline) slurry grade analysers on a single plant worldwide. It was also decided that 25 Blue Cube TempoTracks would be installed on the flotation cells. The TempoTracks provide information on froth height and velocity, hence giving continuous, quantitative measurements of the froth that is pulled off each cell, rather than relying on infrequent, subjective visual inspections.

The Nova concentrator consists of a differential flotation circuit whereby copper bearing mineral are selectively floated prior to nickel flotation. It is imperative that losses of copper to the nickel circuit, and vice versa, are minimised. The plant metallurgical team and Process IQ collaborated to develop and implement the advanced control strategy for the plant. This paper focusses on the optimisation of the copper concentrate that is pulled off the copper rougher and scavengers. This strategy was made possible by the additional measurements listed above.

The control optimisation of the copper rougher and copper rougher scavenger circuit was implemented during August 2017 on the StarCSTM advanced control platform. It continuously optimises the level and air setpoints. The control philosophy incorporates several notable techniques which include: a variable mass pull target that is a function of the quantity and grade of material entering the circuit, integrated compensation to prevent inventory build-up in cells, balancing of the froth velocity over the lip of each cell to adaptive, modular system usage and advanced error handling.


Gomes-Sebastiaõ, G A, Hearne, Z, Lam, S, van der Spuy, D, Thompson, M and Vines, N, 2018. Nova copper-nickel project optimisation of the copper rougher-scavenger circuit through advanced measurement and control, in Proceedings 14th AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference 2018, pp 77–92 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).