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The Modernisation and Upgrade of Concentrator Operations at the Chelopech Mine, Bulgaria – Design, Installation and Operation of the 250 tonnes per hour Comminution Circuit


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Author G Jobson, M Nolte, K Evtiminova and S Meik


Chelopech Mining EAD (CMEAD) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dundee Precious Metals Inc (DPM) and operates the Chelopech underground mine and processing facility located in Bulgaria. The final product sold is a flotation concentrate containing copper minerals with associated gold and silver. The increase in production from 0.6 to 1.0 Mt/a by 2009 occurred with the original (1975) secondary/tertiary crushing, and primary/secondary ball mill circuits. As part of the mine/mill upgrade project to 2.0 Mt/a, a new single stage semi-autogenous (SAG) mill and ancillary equipment was installed, replacing the original circuits, with commissioning occurring during the first half of 2011. Aspects of the design, commissioning and operation of the new comminution facility are the subjects of this paper.

An extensive program of comminution characterisation test work was completed in 2004/2005, which indicated moderate hardness and competency characteristics. The characteristics were considered suitable for a range of comminution approaches which were assessed with respect to power requirements and capital and operating costs. Retention of the existing primary crushing facility, and installation of a new single stage SAG mill located within the existing mill building, was selected as the design for the expansion.

An extended ramp-up schedule for the overall concentrator upgrade turned out to be necessary as the comminution and flotation circuits were completed prior to several downstream unit processes (concentrate filtration and tailings thickening), which were required to reach the design mill feed throughput rate on a sustainable basis. This resulted in the opportunity to gradually increase the SAG mill ball charge as necessary, to obtain the throughput corresponding to the various downstream processing constraints.

A relatively fine cyclone overflow stream particle size distribution is a feature of the Chelopech comminution circuit that has not been fully overcome with increasing ball charge conditions. However, design throughput has been met even under the finer product size conditions and will be consistently achieved following the commissioning of two further process improvement projects scheduled for late 2012.

G, Nolte, M, Evtiminova, K and Meik, S, 2012. The modernisation and upgrade of
concentrator operations at the Chelopech Mine, Bulgaria – Design, installation
and operation of the 250 tonnes per hour comminution circuit, in Proceedings
11th AusIMM Mill Operators’ Conference
, pp 325-332 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).