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Optimising the operation of paste thickening at the Yara Siilinjärvi Plant


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Author E Ruhanen, M Kosonen, S Kauvosaari and C Meintjes


The Yara Siilinjärvi plant is located in the central part of Finland. Siilinjärvi is Western Europe's only apatite mine and annually it produces 1 Mt of apatite concentrate, which creates approximately 10 Mt of tailings.

At the beginning of 2017, tailings handling in Yara Siilinjärvi was brought to a new era, by replacing the conventional tailings storage facility with a new tailings treatment plant. The new high-density tailings disposal system with two paste thickeners increased the percentage of solids in the slurry from 45–48 per cent to 66-68 per cent, making it possible to deposit as a paste. This extended the life-span of the current tailings storage facility by 15 years; from 2020 to 2035.

This paper presents the storyline of the Yara Paste Plant Project. The project began with laboratory testing and then progressed to pilot-scale thickening and beaching trials. After some successful pilot trials, the final process design was implemented. Process instrumentation and automation played a key role in the project, as the aim of the Yara Project was to make the plant operable remotely from the main plant. An advanced control system is needed to maintain process stability and the desired operation point in various operational circumstances.

This paper discusses the results from the Yara site since the new tailings treatment plant commenced. Some of the main points are that the operation has been running consistently with an underflow solids content of 66-68 per cent, with average beach slope angles of 3.5 degrees in the tailings disposal area. This control system additionally facilitates minimum use of flocculant, which delivers significant savings to operating costs. Robust thickener operation also leads to the trouble-free high-density pumping and high availability of the Paste Plant. During the first year of operation, the plant’s availability has been very good, over 97 per cent.

Currently, the plant still has its own staff working there during the daytime, but the Paste Plant is now already operated remotely during the night shifts. The long-term goal is to gradually transition into operating the plant completely remotely.


Ruhanen, E, Kosonen, M, Kauvosaari, S and Meintjes, C, 2018. Optimising the operation of paste thickening at the Yara Siilinjärvi Plant, in Proceedings 14th AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference 2018, pp 297–310 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).