Going Coarser: is it Worth it?

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

Reemeyer, H. C. L.

One of the fundamental trade-offs for copper concentrators is between grinding circuit product size and copper recovery. The capital and operating cost savings and throughput increases for a coarser grind should be evaluated against potential recovery reductions. Other benefits of coarser grinds, such as GHG emissions reductions and favourable effects on tailings and water management should also be considered. This paper assesses the formation of laboratory and pilot test programs, design of process flowsheets, equipment selection, and evaluation methods to determine the most appropriate and economical grind size for a given deposit. The paper will include an evaluation of case studies. INTRODUCTION The majority of the world’s mined copper comes from sulphide deposits, which are mostly processed using crushing, grinding, flotation and dewatering flowsheets to produce copper-bearing concentrates for smelting. Ores must be ground to a sufficiently fine size to achieve an acceptable level of liberation to allow both high recovery of copper and valuable by-product minerals while efficiently rejecting gangue to tailings. Therefore, a key design parameter in process plant design is the grind size of the flotation feed. Copper concentrators use a variety of grind size targets that depend on various factors, including ore mineralogy and the grain sizes of valuable and gangue minerals; the sensitivity of valuable mineral recoveries in the rougher flotation stages to grind size, ore hardness; electricity costs; and mining vs. processing throughput constraints. Typically, copper and by-product recovery increase as grind size is reduced, which can improve revenue, but finer grinds increase power and grinding media operating costs and may have implications for tailings management. This paper explores the trade-offs that should be assessed in determining the optimum grind size, and to answer the question if coarser grinds are worthwhile. METALLURGICAL AND FLOWSHEET FACTORS Recovery-by-size behaviour of sulphide-bearing particles In base metals sulphide flotation, it is typical that flotation recoveries vary by particle size. Metal sulphide particles rendered hydrophobic by collector in intermediate size ranges (e.g. 10 to 100 um) usually show very high recoveries, often approaching 100%. Recovery usually falls away in finer size fractions (<10 um) as fine particles have little inertia and can move around bubbles without colliding and attaching to them. Coarser particles (>100 um) are susceptible to particle-bubble detachment and dropback (Jameson, 2019).
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019