Additonal authors: Huff, T.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:
Sensor-based ore sorting technology is a growing area of interest due to lower-grade ore deposits and higher costs of processing, among other reasons. Among the sensors currently utilized in the particle sorting industry, X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF), as the only sensor with elemental analysis capabilities, has always attracted more attention. Currently, the bench-scale amenability tests for this sensor are performed using hand-held XRF analysers. However, this testing method overestimates the performance of the XRF sorter, and therefore, the results from these tests can be misleading and are often mispresented. The work presented here was conducted on a copper mine and investigates how the sensor’s sensitivity to copper deteriorates under different testing methods. This work compares and correlates the results of an Olympus hand-held XRF analyser, static, and dynamic sorter responses with the actual grades of the rocks. The results confirmed that, the sorter response was extremely prone to blind spots. Furthermore, the results demonstrated that although the static sorter’s responses were comparable in terms of rock identification to those of the hand-held XRF analyzer and assays, the accuracy of the dynamic sorter response deteriorated both as a function of grade of the rocks as well as the potential for blind spots.
Sensor-based sorting technology has been gaining increasing attention even by larger mining corporations as ore grades decrease, deposits get deeper and therefore cost of mining and processing increases. There are various types of sensors that are currently being used in the particle sorting industry such as X-Ray Transmission (XRT), Color, Electromagnetic (EM), Near-Infrared (NIR) and others. However, none of the sensors are capable of identifying and quantifying particles by the elemental content, except for X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF). XRF is a non-destructive, surficial analytical technique used to measure elemental composition of materials. X-ray fluorescence happens when a secondary x-ray (fluorescence) is released after a sample is bombarded by a primary x-ray source.
From a sorting perspective, the most common and expected issues that are associated with XRF sorting are lower throughputs compared to other sensors due to particle presentation limitation as well as the need to wash the material before introducing to the sorter. However, one important issue that is mostly neglected is how the amenability tests are performed and how realistic the obtained results are. Current amenability test procedure utilises a handheld XRF analyser (such as an Olympus InnovX, as used in this work) on multiple, generally 4, sides of the rock and uses the average measured grade as a criterion for separation. While this is a widely accepted technique, it fails to consider some important factors such as exposure time and the distance between the sensor and the particle. These factors can significantly affect the sorting outcome.