Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy]]> vol. 109 num. 5 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Keynote address: Hydrometallurgical process development for complex ores and concentrates</b>]]> Hydrometallurgical processing of complex ores and concentrates is becoming increasingly important as the mining and metallurgical industry seeks to exploit mineral deposits that are difficult to treat using conventional mineral processing and pyrometallurgical technologies. Mineral processing is often challenged by the difficulty or inability to separate valuable minerals into marketable concentrates. Hydrometallurgical processing, using selective leaching technology, can often 'chemically beneficiate' such difficult deposits. Pyrometallurgical treatment of base metal concentrates is capital intensive and subject to ever more stringent environmental control. Hydrometallurgical processing is generally lower in capital cost for an equivalent metal production rate and avoids the gas and dust issues associated with pyrometallurgical processing. The possibility of by-product recovery may also increase with hydrometallurgical treatment. Two examples of new technology or flowsheet development for treatment of complex ores and concentrates are used as illustration. These include the El Boleo process of Baja Mining for recovery of copper, cobalt, zinc and anganese from a complex clayey ore and the PLATSOL process for recovery of copper, nickel, cobalt, platinum, palladium and gold from a bulk sulphide concentrate. <![CDATA[<b>Integrated piloting of a thermophilic bioleaching process for the treatment of a low-grade nickel-copper sulphide concentrate</b>]]> Mintek was a leading participant in the BioMinE project between 2004 and 2008. This project, which was funded in part by the European Commission, was aimed at the development of biotechnology for the minerals industry in Europe. Mintek's research programme focused mainly on the development of integrated bioleach-based processes for the recovery of base metals from complex, low-grade sulphide concentrates. Specific European mineral resources were targeted and used in integrated piloting campaigns involving bioleaching, solution purification, and metals recovery. This paper describes the use of thermophilic bioleaching for the recovery of nickel and copper from a low-grade nickel-copper concentrate produced at the Aguablanca Mine in southern Spain. Currently, the Aguablanca Mine produces a bulk nickel-copper concentrate for sale to a smelter, and the proposition is to increase the profitability of the operation by the on-site production of metal or metal intermediate. Initially, bench-scale bioleach tests were conducted to determine the bioleach operating conditions. These tests included an evaluation of mesophilic, moderately thermophilic and thermophilic microorganisms. In order to achieve sufficiently high levels of both copper and nickel extraction, a thermophilic process was selected-this was necessary for leaching of the refractory chalcopyrite that occurs in this concentrate. Additional bench-scale test work was carried out to derive a conceptual process flowsheet for the solution purification and metals recovery circuit. The results of the bench-scale tests were used to design, construct and commission an integrated pilot plant, which was subsequently operated at Mintek for over seven months. During this time, the solution purification and metals recovery processes were optimized, and all recycle loops were closed. The final process flowsheet included the following unit operations: concentrate regrinding, thermophilic bioleaching at 70°C, primary iron removal using limestone, copper solvent extraction and electrowinning, secondary iron removal, nickel hydroxide precipitation using magnesia, and final solution purification using lime. Where applicable, process solutions were recycled to preserve water. The process design data derived from this pilot-plant campaign formed the basis for a conceptual engineering study for the developed process. In the study, mass and energy balances were derived, and a process flowsheet was developed and used as the basis for estimating the capital and operating costs of the process. This enabled a preliminary economic analysis of the process to be undertaken. The findings of this study are discussed <![CDATA[<b>A technique for estimating the sound power level radiated by pneumatic rock drills and the evaluation of a CSIR prototype rock drill with engineering noise controls</b>]]> Overexposure to noise remains a widespread, serious health hazard in the US mining and other industries despite 25 years of regulation. Most categories of illnesses and injuries associated with mining have improved, with the exception of hearing loss. The drilling of rock in a confined work environment contributes to high levels of noise exposure in mining. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is conducting research to reduce the noise exposures of jackleg drill operators and to prevent additional cases of noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) by developing and evaluating low-cost retrofit noise controls for equipment. This report describes the procedure for the measurement and reporting of noise from portable pneumatic tools such as jackleg drills. The technique used in this research allows for the determination of the source A-weighted sound power levels and the radiation patterns in octave and 1/3 octave bands. Overall sound power level is also determined. This paper also reports the results obtained by using this procedure to evaluate a SECO S215 standard production drill and a CSIR Miningtek prototype rock drill incorporating engineering noise control measures. It was found that by using the manufacture's recommended operating pressure of 496 kPa (72 psi) that the CSIR prototype's sound power was 10 dB(A) less then that of the SECO S215 <![CDATA[<b>Reconstruction time of a mine through reliability analysis and genetic algorithms</b>]]> A mining system consists of many sub-systems such as drilling, blasting, loading, hauling, ventilation, hoisting and supporting. During mining operation, these sub-systems may experience various problems that stop the operation because of possible environmental, equipment and safety issues. In order to ensure delivery contracts in the required quality and safe mining medium, the operation should be, at least, performed in the specified reliability level of the system. If the system reliability decreases below the specified level, there will be safety and financial losses for the mining company. Therefore, the mine should be maintained by a reconstruction procedure to guarantee the operation continuity. Given that each sub-system has a different reliability function and maintenance cost, the determination of reconstruction time will be a complicated decision making problem. In this paper, the determination of reconstruction time is formulated as a nonlinear optimization problem and solved by genetic algorithms (GA). A case study was conducted to demonstrate the performance of the approach for an underground operation. The results showed that the approach could be used to determine the best action time. <![CDATA[<b>Engineering application of thrust block analysis in slope stability problems in open pit mines</b>]]> The classical limit equilibrium methods are suspected to be ineffective in predicting the potential for highwall failure in many instances in coal mines around the world. Slope engineers have for many years recognized a block thrust failure mechanism for slope failures, but little work had been done before 2000 to explain the actual mechanisms which must be responsible for the failure. The main reason for this is that limit equilibrium methods implicitly assume rigid blocks, and the resulting force equations must be satisfied everywhere simultaneously for them to have any meaning. This paper will show that the material involved in the slope failure is not rigid; indeed it undergoes considerable permanent deformation during failure. This observation allows the authors to treat the block boundaries independently, because they need not maintain a constant spatial relationship with one another, as is assumed in other methods. To enable analysis of this type the authors assume that the weight of the blocks is evenly distributed. This is reasonable, because the slope material is not strong enough to be self-supporting without some sort of constraint, or strong enough to be able to apply point loads to the surrounding material. The purpose of this paper is to extend the practical application of the analytical method developed from mechanism studies to provide an objective assessment of the risk of slope failure, and therefore guidelines for more stable slope designs. This work is based on studies carried out on two failures in an open pit coal mine in South Africa, and provides a methodology to assess the potential for failure more objectively than is possible with currently accepted methods, while at the same time remaining sufficiently simple to allow a 'back of the cigarette box' assessment by geotechnical engineers on site.