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SAG mill optimisation and increasing throughput at the Phu Kham Copper-Gold Operation – a success story


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Author R Chandramohan, R Braun, G Lane, K Hollis, J Le and D Baas


The Phu Kham Copper-Gold Operation (Phu Kham) is located in northern Laos, approximately 140 kilometres from the capital, Vientiane. The operation is a producing asset for Australian-based copper and gold producer, PanAust Limited (PanAust) and is operated by Lao-registered company, Phu Bia Mining Limited (Phu Bia Mining). PanAust holds a 90 % interest in Phu Bia Mining. The Government of Laos owns the remaining 10 %.

The Phu Kham Operation has recently undergone a series of process improvements to treat the anticipated competent ores scheduled for 2017 and 2018. The operation’s comminution circuit, which comprises a semi-autogenous (SAG) mill and two ball mills, each with 13 megawatts (MW) of installed power, was expected to be SAG mill limited when treating competent basement rock.

Ausenco Services Pty Ltd (Ausenco), was engaged to help optimise and enhance the productivity of the Phu Kham comminution circuit over an eight-month period. The work involved participating in and overseeing the redesign of the SAG mill liner systems and developing operational strategies for maximising throughput through to the end of mine life.

Ausenco’s comminution optimisation tool, Ausgrind, was used to benchmark and analyse plant data with empirical models, predict circuit performance for varying ore characteristics and evaluate liner wear and predict the life for varying operating parameters. Variances between the actual and the predicted values were assessed in detail to identify missed opportunities, and guiding operating parameters were redefined to maximise throughput and productivity.

In combination with the redesigned liner system, optimised process controls for varying ore competencies, and improved operational practices and troubleshooting strategies, increased Phu Kham overall production, exceeding the milling capacity when treating competent ores.


Chandramohan, R, Braun, R, Lane, G, Hollis, K, Le, J and Baas, D, 2018. SAG mill optimisation and increasing throughput at the Phu Kham Copper-Gold Operation – a success story, in Proceedings 14th AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference 2018, pp 113–128 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).