The Karara iron ore project is a magnetite operation consist of open pit mining and concentrator to produce high-grade magnetite concentrate. The concentrator has adopted three stages of comminution, ie fine crushing in the high pressure grinding rolls (HPGR), primary ball milling and fine grinding in the TowerMill plus magnetic separation in between these comminution devices. Since 2014, the concentrator has increased the plant feed rate by 18 per cent. Meanwhile, the ore hardness has increased by 13 per cent to a Bond work index value of 15 kWh/t that led to a coarser flotation feed. Karara Mine has decided to shift the comminution workload from the primary ball mill to the TowerMill circuit by bypassing the 100 µm fine screen in between the ball mill and TowerMill circuits. This action has increased the circuit feed particle size distribution with a top size close to 1 mm. The specific energy consumption of the TowerMill circuit was approximately 3.4 kWh/t, and the circuit product sizes (P80) were ranged between 38 and 45 µm.
A joint process improvement exercise was carried out to reduce the circuit product size closer to the magnetite liberation size, ie 35 µm. Among the activities were circuit audit, recommendation for improvement, modelling and simulation, multicomponent analysis, implementation of recommendations and quantification of the improvement. One of the key findings was the density effect of multicomponent minerals in the hydrocyclone. The analysis revealed that the low density coarser gangue minerals were bypassed to the hydrocyclone overflow stream that has resulted in a coarser particle size distribution. Meanwhile, more than 20 per cent of fine (-35 µm) high-density magnetite particles were recycled back to the mill through the hydrocyclone underflow stream and increased the circulating load. Based on these outcomes, several recommendations such as conversion to bottom feed configuration, use of smaller grinding media, high operating hydrocyclone pressure and additional grinding power to the TowerMill circuit were made to improve the overall circuit performances. Karara Mine has prioritised to implement those recommendations that have a minimal financial implication. Full-scale plant trials with bottom feed configuration and 17 mm grinding media were conducted to evaluate its performances. These trials have indicated that the grinding efficiency in the TowerMill was enhanced by 10 – 30 per cent. In May 2017, all the five TowerMills were converted to the bottom feed configuration. This paper discusses the impact of shifting the comminution workload load from the primary ball mills to TowerMill circuit and the performances enhancement of the TowerMill circuit.
Palaniandy, S, Halomoan, R and Ishikawa, H, 2018. Shifting the comminution workload from the primary ball mill to TowerMill circuit, in Proceedings 14th AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference 2018, pp 163–176 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).