Australia’s largest underground mine, BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam, will soon become the home to a new, advanced automated mineral processing sampling and analysng system.
Outotec is commissioning the project which will be completed in March.
The Courier on-stream analyser – specified by BHP Billiton and managed by the Project Delivery Team (headed by BHP Billiton and Worley Parsons) – is engineered to save process time and enhance mineral recoveries at the South Australian mine.
Linked to a series of 16 samplers in the process system, the analyser uses WDXRF (Wavelength Dispersive) spectrometer technology to simultaneously measure concentrations of iron, copper and uranium and pulp density from 12 sample streams.
The Courier X-Ray probe is also securely housed and is only active when energised.
Working closely with the Project Delivery Team, including key Olympic Dam senior metallurgy personnel, the system has been designed to handle continuous flows from 16 slurry sample streams, eliminating time-consuming and labour-intensive laboratory methods.
Recoveries can be improved, as process upsets are detected early and solved rapidly.
Frequent assays are necessary for real time process monitoring and control.
“A particular benefit of the Courier analyser is the confidence in knowing that sampling and analysis is performed continuously in the same way, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week ” Outotec Sales and After Sales Projects Manager in Australia Wayne Pearce said.
Frequent manual sampling, sample preparation and laboratory assays, as required for 24/7 real-time process control, is prohibitively expensive in terms of both manpower and equipment.
Outotec’s package is part of a comprehensive turnkey project of analysis, automation and sampling technology at Olympic Dam.
Outotec’s scope comprises full design and installation of the state-of-the-art system and includes sampler installation, civil construction and all peripheral works, such as piping, sample pumps and all associated structural and mechanical works.
Electrical installation also forms an important part of the project scope.
A key element of Outotec’s offering is the ongoing support of the XRF analyser by way of a Service Contract.
All automated analyser systems need to be correctly inspected and serviced on a regular basis to ensure optimum asset performance and one of Outotec’s key differentiators is its ongoing support to clients.
“We always ensure our customers have the correct support after project commissioning — and these are not just idle promises. Our Service Engineers are on call 24/7, as required.
This, combined with a specifically tailored training package, form essential components in maintaining high performance.
This level of support really makes us stand out in the market,” Pearce said.
In terms of daily maintenance, this is reduced to a practical minimum, he says. Automated functions – such as the “Internal Reference/Measurement” – monitor operation of the analyser and ensure stability.
The Courier also fulfils the strict safety norms set by the European Union.
The Olympic Dam underground mining operation is highly mechanised, with automated rail transportation and underground crushing.
The primary method of ore extraction is long hole open stoping, with cemented aggregate fill.
This method allows for large equipment to achieve high productivity and maximum ore recovery.
Ore is hoisted to the surface where it is fed to one of two grinding circuits.
After grinding, the resultant slurry passes to a flotation circuit where a series of flotation stages and further regrinding produce a copper concentrate, which is then leached.
Uranium is extracted in a solvent extraction plant, producing yellowcake, which is subsequently calcined to produce uranium oxide concentrate and then packaged in drums for export sales.
After drying, copper concentrate is fed to an Outotec Flash Smelting Furnace, which produces blister copper and slag.
Blister copper is transferred to anode furnaces for fire refining.
Anode copper is transported to the refinery where the ISA electro-refining process is used to produce copper cathodes.
The slimes from this process are treated separately to recover gold and silver.
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