Understanding the Effect of Ore Hardness Variability on the Integration of Solar Energy into the Operation of a Semi-Autogenous Grinding Mill

Additonal authors: Kracht, W.. 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

Pamparana, G.

This work explores the effect of ore hardness variability on the design of a solar photovoltaic system with battery storage and grid backup, to operate a semi-autogenous grinding mill (SAG). First, a case of two synthetic ore populations was studied, without any consideration of spatial distribution. The mean and variance of the ore hardness (measured in specific energy consumption) of both populations were subjected to a sensitivity analysis. The operation was evaluated with one and two stockpiles. The latter allows classifying according to ore hardness to adapt the SAG energy consumption to the solar cycle. The results show that using two stockpiles allows achieving a larger autonomy (i.e., fewer energy imports) at lower total costs, especially when the difference of mean hardness between the two populations is large. The difference in variance (between the two populations) has a smaller impact on the design recommendations. Second, a case study was performed considering the spatial distribution of geometallurgical units. Two cases were considered: (a) brownfield, when there is historical information of the actual variability of the ore hardness; and (b) greenfield, when the system design relies mainly on geometallurgical modeling. Brownfield and greenfield planning result in similar sizing recommendations of the solar power plant if precise drill cores are available. In this case, geometallurgical modeling is an effective tool for forecasting the energy demand necessary for designing the power plant. INTRODUCTION Solar energy can help make mining more sustainable (Moreno-Leiva et al., 2017). With falling battery costs, an autonomous solar supply is soon to become an economical alternative in many parts of the world, even in the presence of a larger power grid (Child et al., 2017). Although this, places with high solar radiation such as the Atacama Desert in Chile, nowadays show a large potential of incorporating solar energy as a supply of energy. Many of the Chilean copper mines are in this zone making it interesting to study their compatibility and potential of integrating this renewable source to their operation. The power demand in a copper mineral processing plant is determined by the main power loads in grinding and flotation, with grinding typically the largest power consumer, especially the semi-autogenous grinding (SAG) mills (Wei and Craig, 2009). In Chile, it corresponds on average the 50% of the electrical energy consumption (COCHILCO, 2013). Solar energy production is determined by the irradiance perceived into the solar photovoltaic (PV) panels (which varies through the geographic location) and several other climatic parameters such as the current season, humidity, temperature, altitude, and others (Molina et al., 2017). Also, solar energy is only generated during the sun hours, getting to a maximum generation at a certain peak hour during midday, and finally dropping to zero during the night. This shows a cyclic parabolic profile as shown in Figure 1. Due to the SAG mill operated continuously, the power supply always must be available. During the night, to continue supplying the energy, it is necessary to complement the solar power generation with a battery energy storage system (BESS), which will act as a power backup and a buffer. For the optimal sizing of this PV- BESS system, information of the demand profile is needed (Pamparana et al., 2017). In the case of the SAG mill operation, the resulting demand relates to the ore-hardness for a specific throughput and grind size (Morrell, 2004). Therefore, for a given throughput and target grind size, a harder ore would require more power, and variable hardness results in more variable demand and a subsequent need for larger energy storage (Bueno et al., 2015). Due to the ore-hardness variability and the operation of the mill, the power demand profile in inherently variable.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019