Applied Process Mineralogy at Kansanshi Mine: Changing Perceptions and Unlocking Value

Additonal authors: Mclennan, Q.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:

Proceedings, Vol. Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019, 2019

Little, L.

Since commissioning in 2005, First Quantum Minerals’ Kansanshi Mine in Zambia has produced over three million tons of copper and 1.8 million ounces of gold from a deposit with highly varied copper mineralization. The processing plant is complex with three independent flotation circuits, gold gravity concentration, atmospheric and high pressure leaching, solvent extraction, and electro-winning. For the first ten years of operating the plant, copper mineralogy was inferred from total copper and acid soluble copper assays, and various misconceptions developed about the mineralogy which impacted operational strategy and project decisions. In 2015, an on-site mineralogy section was set up with an Automated Scanning Electron Microscope, the Zeiss MinScan. This instrument has provided detailed mineralogical data that have debunked some of the mineralogy myths that had developed, highlighting the key underlying issues affecting processing performance. This has enabled the development of projects targeting losses of specific copper minerals in defined size classes, unlocking significant value. This paper describes some of the early misconceptions around mineralogy at Kansanshi processing plant, outlining projects that have benefitted from understanding copper mineral distribution. Learnings from Kansanshi are to be applied at other FQM sites, with a similar mineralogy program being set up at the Cobre Panama project. INTRODUCTION The deposit Kansanshi Mine is located in the North Western Province of Zambia, and it has been the largest copper producer in Africa for over a decade. The deposit occurs within a broad northwest trending antiform that can be traced for 12 km, hosted in a zone of complicated faulting, abundant vein injection, breccia development and down-dropped rock units that lies within Kansanshi’s mining license. The copper mineralization within the deposit is predominantly vein-hosted, although some is strata-bound, occurring in thin bands and veinlets parallel to foliation, and some is disseminated associated with albite-carbonate alteration (Gray, 2015). Supergene enrichment has led to significant variety in the copper mineral speciation. This alteration is complex, and has not followed the text-book principles with a neat layer of supergene mineralization overlying fresh hypogene ore. Rather, the occurrence and extent of oxidation and supergene enrichment is highly irregular throughout the deposit, sometimes occurring at significant depth in localized pockets and along fault lines. Gold mineralization tends to follow the copper within the deposit, but it is dominated by coarse-grained, free-milling native gold. The extent of copper oxidation – measured as the fraction of total copper that assays as acid soluble – is used to classify ore into three main ore types, named Sulphide, Mixed, and Oxide, which are then fed to three different primary crushers for processing in independent circuits.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019