Anglo American Platinum has adopted a strategy of Best Practice Principles (BPP) for sampling, mass measurement, analysis and metal accounting for more than a decade now. When new plants are designed, the most suitable sampling equipment and sampling protocols are implemented and material flows and plant layouts are designed around sampling strategies. A few years ago, a crushing plant for a high-grade matte stream was commissioned.
The design called for the high-grade material to be crushed to 95 per cent passing 2 mm and the design allowed for a single cutter primary Vezin sampler, increments taken from a gravity flowing stream at regular intervals, whilst filling a tanker for the pneumatic offload at our base metal refinery. This was a single point of sampling and analysis that would measure the wanted output from our smelting complex and the input to our refineries. In addition, the design incorporated the functionality to collect increments in an ‘interleaved’ fashion from the Vezin sampler for internal precision checks.
The metal accounting strategy for Anglo Platinum is the ongoing measurement of all inputs, outputs and stock levels for all our operations for platinum group metal (PGM) and base metal (BM) content. Included are yearly stocktakes, usually done on 1 February every year, across the smelters and refineries (at least the base metal refinery). A trend was developing in the accounting period immediately following the introduction of the new crushing and sampling facility, whereby the absolute difference between the physical stock and theoretical stock (PGMs predominantly) increased for the two respective sites on an ongoing basis. The smelter (sender) showed an increase in physical stock compared to the theoretical stock and the base metal refinery (receiver) showed that their theoretical stock increased against their physical stock. Because of this anomaly, an additional stocktake was held in September for the period in question and it was confirmed through the physical stock measurement results, that the PGM accounting problem was indeed pointing towards the evaluation of the high-grade matte stream.
This paper showcases parts of the process that took place to explain the poor accountabilities for the respective sites. Previous results from the sampler ratification process (of the interleaved sampling design) were analysed again, a physical inspection was carried out on the sampling system again and the sampler performance was monitored (quality control parameters) for the period.
From these investigations, it was found that airflows present inside the Vezin introduced the sampling bias and a change in sampling protocol was introduced as well as physical changes to the sampling equipment were made to eliminate the airflow and thus the bias conditions significantly. The accounting period which followed, after a phased upgrading process, showed that the accounting between our smelter and base metal refinery had been restored to within statistical limits (difference between physical and theoretical stock below five per cent relative to theoretical stock).
Kruger, C J and le Roux, E, 2017.
Pitfalls in Vezin sampling for finely crushed materials, in Proceedings
Eighth World Conference on Sampling and Blending , pp 151–158 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).