A recent survey of mineral processors undertaken as part of the International Mineral Processing Council (IMPC) Education Commission identified mineralogy as one of the key skills required for mineral processors (the other key areas being comminution, flotation, physical separation, sampling and extractive metallurgy). Past experience in a number of operations has shown what can be achieved when the data outputs from mineralogical tools are coupled with people with the right skills who can transform the data into actionable information. This paper reviews what has been done successfully in plant operations over a period of more than four decades and gives examples of a range of applications with both long and short-term objectives. The examples demonstrate the usefulness of mineralogical data – both basic and complex – in optimising mineral processing operations, whether the data are applied in a simple analysis or in more complex modelling. Similarly, the examples show the range of options available for operations to access the mineralogy information they need – through in-house experts and equipment based in centralised technology centres, through on-site equipment and experts or through external laboratories and consultants.
The examples from industry highlight the huge potential benefit of including mineralogy as an integral part of operational best practice and raise the question of why more operations do not utilise what should be readily available data. Successful application of mineralogical data requires skilled people to generate relevant data of the required quality, together with skilled people to interpret the data (this may be the same person). And, as in any project, corporate recognition of the value of this approach to best practice is required to ensure continuing support. With fewer university courses providing courses in process mineralogy to undergraduate mineral processing engineers and chemical engineers, there is an increasing lack of knowledge about what mineralogical information is needed, how to get the required data and, equally importantly, how to turn the data into useful information.
Evans, C L and Wightman, E M, 2018. Understanding minerals in mineral processing – the basics and beyond, in Proceedings 14th AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference 2018, pp 363–376 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).