The Telfer processing plant commissioned its pyrite regrind and flotation circuit in August 2012. The circuit was designed to regrind pyrite concentrate to a p80 of <30µm then float a gold and copper rich concentrate before tails from the flotation circuit fed the carbon-in-leach (CIL) circuit downstream. Expected benefits were: improved CIL performance that would result from the finer grind and a reduction in cyanide soluble copper to the CIL circuit, as well as a small increase in overall flotation circuit recovery. While the benefits of a finer grind were soon realised, recovery in the post-regrind flotation circuit (named the ‘pyrite recleaner circuit’) was consistently and significantly lower than that expected based on laboratory test work. Selectivity in the pyrite recleaner circuit was virtually nil and copper reporting to the CIL circuit did not change as a result of the pyrite recleaner circuit operation.
A pulp chemistry survey of the plant and comparison with the lab showed that the dissolved oxygen (DO) demand in the plant was much higher than that in the lab. Lab flotation tests conducted using nitrogen gas instead of air resulted in recoveries similar to those from the plant. It was identified that the freshly ground pyrite surfaces exiting the regrind mill were consuming oxygen in the slurry and there was insufficient oxygen available for collector adsorption and pyrite depression to occur. Test work, using a pilot regrind mill, showed that a reduction in grind size resulted in an increase in DO demand.
A range of oxidising agents were tested in the laboratory and using a pilot flotation rig set-up in the plant. Oxygen was found to be the most reliable and effective agent and options for increasing oxygen delivery to the plant were explored. Scale-up from the lab oxygen requirement to the plant is difficult and efforts to implement a permanent solution for meeting the DO demand in the plant are ongoing.
McMahon, M, Seaman, D R, Sharman, P, Adamson, B and Seaman, B A, 2016. Optimising the Telfer Pyrite Regrind Circuit – Effect of Dissolved Oxygen Demand, in Proceedings 13th AusIMM Mill Operators’ Conference 2016, pp 51–58 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).