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Recent Process Developments at the Phu Kham Copper-Gold Concentrator, Laos


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Author D Bennett, I Crnkovic and P Walker


The Phu Kham deposit represents a copper-gold porphyry system, with mineralisation present in skarn, stockwork and disseminated styles. Significant folding and alteration events have created a complex heterogeneous mineralogy horizon. Weathering and water table contact have created a leached zone, overlying transition zones with supergene chalcocite- dominant secondary copper mineralisation and clay-rich gangue. Primary ore copper mineralisation is mainly chalcopyrite with minor bornite. The major challenges to the copper-gold flotation process are a wide size distribution of chalcopyrite mineralisation and poor primary grind liberation, a high pyrite content in skarn ore requiring aggressive pyrite depression conditions, clay-rich gangue and non-sulfide copper mineralisation in weathered zones, and a significant association of gold with pyrite.

The Phu Kham concentrator has been developed as a conventional semi-autogenous grinding (SAG) and ball milling circuit followed by selective rougher flotation, regrinding and cleaner flotation to produce a copper concentrate containing payable gold and silver values. The concentrator flow sheet design offered a capital efficient compromise between high copper recovery bulk sulfide flotation with large cleaning capacity, and lower recovery copper selective rougher flotation to ensure concentrate specification of 24 per cent copper grade could be achieved. This paper will examine and discuss concentrator flow sheet development, including projects implemented since commissioning to improve copper recovery, and future projects designed to maintain and enhance copper in concentrate production with decreasing copper grade and increasing pyrite content of ore feed, and increasing hardness of primary ore.

D, Crnkovic, I and Walker, P, 2012. Recent process developments at the Phu Kham
Copper-Gold Concentrator, Laos, in Proceedings 11th AusIMM Mill Operators’
, pp 257-272 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).