Auction-Based Control as a Site Implementable Means of Stabilising the Movement of Material through a Train of Countercurrent Decantation Thickeners

Additonal authors: . 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

Maas, B. R.

Processing material at a consistent rate through the continuous countercurrent decantation (CCD) thickeners presented a major bottle neck to unlocking additional value from one of the post-flotation streams at the Kansanshi processing plant. The manual operation of the thickeners making up the CCD train resulted in frequent imbalances and process upsets across units. The automation of CCD trains is notoriously tricky as the available manipulated variables are outnumbered by the parameters requiring regulation. The implementation of an advanced, auction-based, control philosophy to manage the movement of both slurry and solution inventory through the train addressed this parameter imbalance and lead to the stabilisation of the circuit. Since the commissioning of this control strategy: an additional 7 200 dmt/day (+36% throughput) of material can reliably be processed through the train, the number of monthly downtime events has reduced, and a saving of $354 000/month in reagent cost has been achieved. INTRODUCTION CCD operation Agitated leaching is a common method used in hydrometallurgy to extract a metal from its host ore. The host ore is initially finely ground to liberate the surfaces of the valued minerals and improve the kinetics of the leaching process. The ore is then contacted in an agitated tank with a lixiviant to dissolve the desired metal into the aqueous phase. The resultant slurry from the leaching process comprises of a solution pregnant in the metal salt and a barren ore. The first purification step taken after leaching is to wash the pregnant liquor solution (PLS) from the depleted ore. On the industrial scale, a set of between two to ten thickeners arranged in a countercurrent configuration is often used to carry out this separation (Perry & Chilton, 1973). The slurry is introduced at the head of the train and a wash solution at the tail. The two streams are pumped through each thickener countercurrent to one other. At each stage the residual PLS in the slurry is mixed and diluted down with the countercurrent overflow solution from the downstream thickener. The diluted slurry is fed into the thickener where the solids separate out through gravity sedimentation. The settled solids are channelled towards the underflow of the thickener by a rake mechanism and pumped downstream to the next thickener in the train. The outcome is the recovery of a PLS from the overflow of the lead thickener and a slurry of washed solids from the underflow of the tails thickener.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019