Revolutionising mineral processing

As one of the world’s oldest and most experienced grinding media companies, Molycop is transforming mine operations.

Many mining processes consist of breaking rocks before grinding finely them to recover valuable minerals. The key to efficient mineral processing is reliable grinding media, and that’s where Molycop comes in.

Founded as Commonwealth Steel in 1918, Molycop spun off into its own entity in 2016. It was acquired then  by private equity company American Industrial Partners a year later.

“Molycop has been growing for more than a century and is now one of the world’s biggest grinding media suppliers,” Molycop technologies president Darren O’Connell told Australian Mining.

“Molycop helps mining companies stabilise and optimise milling circuits, as well as with leaching, flotation and other mineral extraction processes.

“We do this by providing more real-time data from innovative measurement equipment.”

MillROC remotely monitors and models circuits and processing plants.
Image: Molycop

Recent years have seen Molycop develop a presence in the digital data technology sector of the mining industry. The company stepped into the space through the acquisition of Digital Control Lab, a mill monitoring solutions-provider based in Florida, US.

Following the acquisition, Molycop introduced services such as process optimisation, online analysis, and data analytics and visualisation.

“The digital data technologies area of our business helps mines increase their productivity while having a lower carbon footprint,” O’Connell said.

“Making decisions in real-time and controlling plants to optimal levels means mining companies not only get maximum return from their capital investment; they reduce their energy and reagent consumption while increasing recovery.

“This means mines can be both more profitable and sustainable.”

Process optimisation

Molycop’s process optimisation solutions aim to reduce variability and increase throughput while maximising mineral recovery.

“We deliver many milling optimisation solutions consisting of measurement, control and optimisation management, which significantly increase throughput rate while also decreasing planned downtime for relining,” O’Connell said.

One of these solutions is MillROC (Milling Remote Optimisation Consulting and Coaching), a data platform that remotely monitors and models circuits and processing plants.

“MillROC was developed in collaboration with our joint venture partner, Orway Mineral Consultants,” O’Connell said.

“MillROC provides live key performance data for the circuit and features focus applications that offer deeper insight into what operators can immediately do to address specific problems or identify opportunities for improvement.

MillROC is supported by remote real-time assistance from world-leading mineral processing consultants who can view the circuit’s live performance dashboards and provide immediate advice and coaching.

“The ultimate objective of the MillROC team is to establish an embedded system of continuous improvement that delivers higher levels of performance, lower costs and healthier profit by maximising throughput, increasing power efficiency, reducing wear and promoting longer liner life.”

Another notable Molycop process optimisation solution is MillSlicer VIP, which combines MillSlicer with the Value Invention Process (VIP) Platform.

MillSlicer consists of vibration sensors mounted on the mill shell that measure angular impact intensity, maximum impact angle and centroid of the impacts. This information can be used to achieve enhanced efficiency and productivity.

The VIP Platform is equipped with features such as enterprise-wide data integration and reporting, efficient and secure storage for operational data and live analyses of that data, and simple and intuitive dashboards, graphs and key performance indicators.

When combined, MillSlicer VIP improves the throughput and efficiency of semi-autogenous grinding (SAG) and autogenous (AG) mills by measuring volume, steel charge per cent, toe angle and liner impacts. The solution features more accurate and precise mill fill level measurements, which helps to enable better mill feed control.

Molycop provides virtual online milling advice and reportage of feed ore characterisation.
Image: Molycop

When a gold mining company installed MillSlicer VIP alongside associated Molycop control and optimisation services, it was able to reduce its planned shutdowns by 25 per cent, carrying out three shutdowns a year instead of the usual four at its operations in West Africa.

“With the cost of shutting down a mill estimated at approximately $100,000 an hour, and a typical shutdown lasting two or more days, installation of MillSlicer VIP resulted in significant payback for the customer,” O’Connell said.

“Other Molycop customers have experienced similar benefits by applying Molycop digital tools to their comminution circuits, including improvements of between five and 20 per cent in throughput through milling optimisation and a reduction in grinding media consumption by five to 10 per cent.”

Data and analytics

Molycop delivers a broad range of analytics to help mining companies reduce variability and deliver improved outcomes by leveraging efficient data capture, visualisation and analysis.

Molycop Tools is a suite of Microsoft Excel-based programs that support plant metallurgists and process engineers optimise their milling operations. It consists of 63 accessible spreadsheets designed to help users characterise and evaluate the operating efficiency of any given grinding circuit by following standardised methodologies and widely accepted evaluation criteria.

Molycop Tools incorporates a full set of digital simulators for conventional and SAG applications alongside corresponding mass balance and parameter estimation routines.

“Molycop has further developed and enhanced these tools based on fundamental models with empirical artificial intelligence and machine-learning techniques,” O’Connell said.

Alongside its uses within MillSlicer VIP, the VIP Platform collects, archives and visualises data from hundreds of mining companies.

“This not only helps with day-to-day decision-making and support, but can also be used for longer-term optimisation,” O’Connell said.

“MillROC was built on the VIP Platform. Both solutions provide real-time data and insights into circuit performance, helping companies make decisions on the way they operate circuits to remove constraints.”

Molycop also offers mill optimisation services designed to build in-house capability to optimise mineral processing operations, including milling circuit flow analysis, grinding media sizing, ore sampling and ore abrasion analysis, and more.

Advance controls

In partnership with Mintek, South Africa’s national mineral research organisation, Molycop designs, commissions and implements advanced control systems to deliver improved outcomes for mineral processing operations.

One of these control systems is StarCS. Using the latest software technology and advanced process control, StarCS was developed as an adaptable and operator-friendly control system that advances process stabilisation and optimisation control while improving productivity.

StarCS integrates all of Molycop’s control systems including MillStar, which offers a comprehensive suite of control strategies that can be applied to almost any milling circuit configuration.

MillStar can also improve particle size distribution and reduce downtime and maintenance costs, in turn leading to greater efficiency.

Alongside its range of process optimisation solutions, Molycop helps its customers by providing online milling advice and reportage of the characterisation of feed ores, cyanide and oxygenation dosage systems to keep their circuits running optimally.

“We are very focused on delivering solutions that will stand the test of time in very harsh and sometimes unpredictable environments,” O’Connell said.

“Physical hardware products must withstand abrasive and corrosive environments. Software and data-driven products must be robust and must be able to perform when different ore types are processed under extreme weather conditions and with varying skills and expertise on remote mine sites. 

“Our digital technology enables us to leverage the full expertise of the Molycop network to provide the best solutions for our customers.”

Looking ahead

Throughout 2024, Molycop will continue to develop leading technology by further investing in research and development.

“We see a great future in the mining industry with respect to adopting new technologies,” O’Connell said.

“Mining natural resources efficiently and profitably can be difficult. It’s often not possible to mine selectively and only process good-quality resources. However, it is very important to ensure that we keep on mining in a sustainable way to contribute to a better world for generations to come.

“Molycop is committed to contribute to helping the mining industry in the quest and do this in a safe and sustainable way.”

This feature appeared in the April 2024 issue of Australian Mining.

Send this to a friend