Mineral processing plants have become large and complex, generally through progressive expansions. Addition of a pre-crushing stage to conventional Semi-Autogenous-Grinding (SAG) and ball mill – crushing (SABC) circuits has introduced a complex materials handling system coping with +200 mm particles. Application of High Pressure Grinding Rolls (HPGRs) and implementing hybrid comminution circuits (ie, HPGR-SAG mill) requires proactive control of the feed size distribution to each unit. Application of Vertical Tower Mills (VTMs) and other fine grinding equipment to achieve a finer grind size, while maintaining the throughput, requires splitting the feed evenly between parallel units. Many of the conventional comminution circuits (ie, staged crushing and screening followed by staged ball milling) must deal with the transition from open pit ore, which is generally altered and soft, to underground ore, which is intact and hard, requiring existing crushers to produce a finer product to unload the ball mills.
This paper presents common process improvement opportunities which have been identified during a number plant process reviews conducted by the authors in Australian and international operations. The operation of comminution circuits to known and accepted standards, which is explained in this paper, could improve the performance of circuits by between 5 and 10 per cent, generally at no capital cost and often at a lower operating cost. The performance improvement can be realised as throughput increase, a finer product size, or reduced operating costs (ie, energy saving, low maintenance, less consumables).
Process optimisation opportunities presented in this paper include: enhancing materials handling and storage to avoid segregation; standard operation of screens to reduce misplaced materials; proper feeding arrangement and control of crushers to increase their utilisation; preparing proper feed for SAG mills to reduce grind size; splitting the feed evenly between parallel equipment to improve utilisation, and controlling operation of classification units to improve energy utilisation.
Yahyaei, M and Powell, M S, 2018. Production improvement opportunities in comminution circuits, in Proceedings 14th AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference 2018, pp 233–248 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).