Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/rss.php?pid=0038-223X20110014&lang=en vol. 111 num. 2 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/img/en/fbpelogp.gif http://www.scielo.org.za <![CDATA[<b>The Platinum Group Metals</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0038-223X2011001400001&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en <![CDATA[<b>President's Corner</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0038-223X2011001400002&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en <![CDATA[<b>Does thickening save water?</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0038-223X2011001400003&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en A pilot plant paste thickening campaign was conducted at the Anglo Platinum Limited Mogalakwena South Concentrator plant in South Africa in order to determine the water saving capability of P&TT technology. In the process a simple water consumption model was developed for estimating the overall water consumption of the mine. The model indicates that for the Mogalakwena tailings, significant water savings are achieved by discharging thickened tailing directly to the TSF but only at densities where free water release at the TSF is close to zero. <![CDATA[<b>Geological interpretations from the PGE distribution in the Bushveld Merensky and UG2 chromitite reefs</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0038-223X2011001400004&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The vertical distribution of platinum-group elements (PGE) in the Merensky and UG2 chromitite Reefs is highly variable, but does follow certain general patterns that allow the testing of geological models. In the Merensky reef, historically popular geological representations and interpretations have suggested that the mineralization occurs in a pegmatitic pyroxenite bounded by two chromitite layers. However, there are now enough published exceptions to this relationship to expose its fallacy. The vertical distribution of the PGE depends largely upon the separation between these two chromitite layers or the absence of one chromitite layer. Where separation is small or only one chromitite layer is present, there is considerable PGE mineralization in the footwall below the pyroxenite and lower chromitite layer. With increasing separation between the two chromitites, the mineralization occurs progressively higher in the succession, and tends to track the upper chromitite layer. The view presented here is that the entire Merensky package is comprised of three events of magma emplacement, in which each has produced variable reaction with, and erosion of, the footwall, causing recrystallization of pyroxenite into pegmatitic pyroxenite. The magma then produced a chromitite layer followed by pyroxenite. Each chromitite layer is associated with some mineralization, which was extensively complemented by the subsequent formation of a sulphide liquid carrying PGE that trickled down through about 1 m of permeable crystal pile. The sulphide liquid formed after, not coincident with, the pyroxenite layers. The distribution of PGE in the UG2 chromitite shows up to three upward depletion sequences of PGE, also suggesting three events. The PGE are associated only with the chromite. The contribution from a sulphide liquid is considered to have been minimal for two reasons. Cu and Ni are extremely low in the UG2 which would not be expected if sulphides had been present. Also, by analogy with the Merensky, downward trickling of sulphides would have caused some PGE to be present in the footwall. There are some PGE in the footwall, but only where remnants of chromitite occur, and the hanging wall is lacking in PGE. In the northeastern Bushveld the UG2 chromitite is thinner than elsewhere, and there is a UG3 chromitite layer, not present elsewhere, that has a high Pt/Pd ratio. It is surmized that in the rest of the Bushveld the UG3 only appears to be absent because it has merged with the UG2 to produce the high Pt concentration at the top of the composite UG2. The non-accumulation of the package of pyroxenite-norite-anorthosite between the UG2 and UG3 in the northeastern Bushveld, which is not seen elsewhere, creates an interesting challenge to the formation of silicate layering in the complex. The mineralization in the Platreef is not addressed here. <![CDATA[<b>The estimation of platinum flotation grade from froth image features by using artificial neural networks</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0038-223X2011001400005&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The use of machine vision in the monitoring and control of metallurgical plants has become a very attractive option in the last decade, especially since computing power has increased drastically in the last few years. The use of cameras as a non-intrusive measurement mechanism not only holds the promise of uncomplicated sampling but could provide more consistent monitoring, as well as assistance in decision making and operator and metallurgist training. Although the very first applications of machine vision were in the platinum industry, no automated process control has been developed for platinum group metals (PGMs) as yet. One of the reasons is that to date froth features could not be related to key performance indicators, such as froth grade and recovery. A series of laboratory experiments was conducted on a laboratory-scale platinum froth flotation cell in an effort to determine the relationship between the platinum grade and a combined set of image features and process conditions. A fractional factorial design of experiments was conducted, investigating 6 process conditions, namely air flow rate (x1), pulp level (x2), collector dosage (x3), activator dosage (x4), frother dosage (x5) and depressant dosage (x6), each at levels. Videos were recorded and analysed to extract 20 texture features from each image. By using artificial neural networks (ANN), the nonlinear relationship between the image variables and process conditions and the froth flotation grades could be established. Positive results indicate that the addition of image features to process conditions could be used as sufficient input into advanced model based control systems for flotation plants. <![CDATA[<b>Total primary milling cost reduction by improved liner design</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0038-223X2011001400006&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The use of machine vision in the monitoring and control of metallurgical plants has become a very attractive option in the last decade, especially since computing power has increased drastically in the last few years. The use of cameras as a non-intrusive measurement mechanism not only holds the promise of uncomplicated sampling but could provide more consistent monitoring, as well as assistance in decision making and operator and metallurgist training. Although the very first applications of machine vision were in the platinum industry, no automated process control has been developed for platinum group metals (PGMs) as yet. One of the reasons is that to date froth features could not be related to key performance indicators, such as froth grade and recovery. A series of laboratory experiments was conducted on a laboratory-scale platinum froth flotation cell in an effort to determine the relationship between the platinum grade and a combined set of image features and process conditions. A fractional factorial design of experiments was conducted, investigating 6 process conditions, namely air flow rate (x1), pulp level (x2), collector dosage (x3), activator dosage (x4), frother dosage (x5) and depressant dosage (x6), each at levels. Videos were recorded and analysed to extract 20 texture features from each image. By using artificial neural networks (ANN), the nonlinear relationship between the image variables and process conditions and the froth flotation grades could be established. Positive results indicate that the addition of image features to process conditions could be used as sufficient input into advanced model based control systems for flotation plants. <![CDATA[<b>Application of fundamentals in optimizing platinum concentrator performance</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0038-223X2011001400007&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en A number of challenges face platinum concentrator plant operators. These challenges include the increase in operating costs, the increase in smelter cost for the processing of concentrate, the shortage and cost of power, and the tightening of specifications on concentrate quality by the toll-smelting operations. Over the years the focus has moved from extracting the platinum group metals (PGM) from the Merensky Reef to the UG2 reef. This has a number of advantages, including the higher 'basket price' for UG2 concentrate, reduced mining cost per unit volume as a result of the higher density of UG2, and the reduction in overall concentrate tonnage to be smelted. In many cases the Merensky ore has been fully exploited and it makes sense for the focus to shift to the UG2 ore that can be accessed through the Merensky shaft infrastructure. The presence of relatively high levels of chromite in UG2 concentrate is, however, a major disadvantage due to the problems associated with smelting such a concentrate in conventional submerged arc furnaces. In addition to increasing the specification on the minimum PGM grade of concentrates, smelters have had to impose strict specifications on the levels of chromite in the concentrate. The threat of high penalties has forced concentrators to change their modus operandi, often resulting in a significant loss in recovery. The final concentrate grades and PGM recoveries are shown to vary significantly throughout the industry. The reasons for this include varying ore mineralogy and different operating philosophies. This would therefore imply that the opportunity exists to optimize the operations by considering fundamental aspects such as the PGM mineralogy and the application of appropriate technologies. By returning to the fundamentals of flotation and applying the findings of detailed process reviews, it has been possible to increase the concentrate PGM grade, reduce the concentrate chromite grade, and in some cases increase the recovery of PGM to concentrate. This paper presents case studies where this approach has been used to successfully optimize concentrator performance, resulting in lower operating cost and higher PGM production. <![CDATA[<b>Stirred milling - new comminution technology in the PGM industry</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0038-223X2011001400008&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Stirred milling using either horizontal or vertical mills has made a rapid entrance into PGM ore and tailings concentrator flow sheets. Currently there are in excess of 40 units installed in either mainstream, 'MIG' or intermediate concentrate regrind, 'UFG', applications in PGM, primary ore treatment plants or in tailings scavenging and reclamation treatment plants. This represents a total of approximately 70 MW of installed fine grinding equipment. This paper outlines the reasons why the technology take-up has been rapid and illustrates the advantages of this technology over conventional milling. <![CDATA[<b>Meeting the reduced availability and rising costs of electrical power: Anglo Platinum ventilation and cooling strategies</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0038-223X2011001400009&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The reality of rising electrical power costs and the haunting prospect of decreasing electrical power availability are a threat to the growth of new projects and expansion programmes that could negatively affect the sustainability of mining operations. These threats require the adoption of effective power saving measures aimed at three principal objectives: the elimination of wastage, the reduction of power usage particularly during peak demand periods and, more importantly, improving the efficiency of high power-demand processes. It is reasonable to assume that the greatest impact will be achieved by concentrating on those processes that are large electrical power consumers. For Anglo Platinum operations, mine ventilation and, currently to a lesser extent, mine cooling are two continuous processes that fall in this category. It is estimated that these may consume fifteen to thirtyfive per cent of the power delivered to the shaft head-depending on the shaft's design. Mine ventilation systems suffer from inherent, historical inefficiencies that lead to excessive power consumption. Air cooling systems are designed to be energy-wise in terms of modulating refrigeration plant operation to meet the underground requirements while maximizing use of 'free' cooling from surface conditions. Currently about ninety-five per cent of the refrigeration capacity used in Anglo Platinum mines is dedicated to surface bulk air coolers. The net thermal efficiency of these systems is compromised as mines expand in depth and on strike. Looking to the future, this practice will be complemented by more energy demanding underground cooling tactics requiring considerably higher electrical power consumption per unit ton produced. To counter this increase in power consumption, more energyefficient systems and advantageous transient strategies such as thermal storage and the use of ice-on surface and possibly even underground-are being considered. This paper describes work currently undertaken and planned by Anglo Platinum operations to reduce power consumption by main fans during off-shift periods, the associated efforts currently introduced to reduce underground air leakage, the possibility of introducing more efficient auxiliary ventilation systems, the feasibility of thermal storage, and a brief look at energy recovery system as a means of countering the anticipated power demand associated with underground cooling. <![CDATA[<b>Development of high resolution 3D vertical seismic profiles</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0038-223X2011001400010&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en 3D seismic surveys have become a well-accepted method of imaging sub-surface geology in the Bushveld Basin. Because both the seismic sources and receivers are placed at surface, most surveys are limited to imaging faults with > or = 7 m throw. However, some areas such as shaft infrastructure can benefit from the ability to detect smaller structures prior to shaft sinking. Borehole radar and logs such as the acoustic televiewer can identify these structures in the shaft barrel, but not within ~200 m from the shaft. Therefore, Anglo Platinum has developed the method of high-resolution 3D vertical seismic profiles (VSPs) for structural sterilization of shaft sites prior to shaft sinking. VSPs utilize a surface source and subsurface receivers deployed down a borehole. This means that seismic energy goes through the near surface only once, and therefore suffers less frequency loss than when both source and receivers are on surface. Furthermore, VSPs can record 3 component (3C) data which comprises P wave, Sh (horizontal) and Sv (vertical) wavemodes. Because S waves travel at about 0.6 of the velocity of a P wave, shorter wavelengths and therefore higher resolutions are possible using S wave data. VSPs were first used in their one dimensional, zero offset, mode to correlate borehole geology with seismic stratigraphy within seismic surveys. This showed that VSPs record ~30% higher frequencies than surface seismic surveys. The program then applied two dimensional VSPs to the problem of imaging geological structure close to a borehole. 2D VSPs confirmed that high frequency results could be achieved, and that this enabled a more accurate image of the Merensky Reef than could be achieved by surface seismic data. Finally, the program has achieved the successful recording and processing of 3D VSP data, with both compressional and shear wavemodes giving a high resolution structural result. Although P wave data gives ~30% frequency improvement over surface seismic surveys, S wave data can give as much as 80% improvement, further improving the structural image achieved. The high fixed costs of VSP surveys mean that they should ideally be run in multi-client batches, which can reduce the per borehole cost by up to 50%. Their application is anticipated to be on high value capital infrastructure with a geological risk from faults which are not imaged by surface seismics-generally in the sub-7 m range. <![CDATA[<b>Energy consumption for Kell hydrometallurgical refining versus conventional pyrometallurgical smelting and refining of PGM concentrates</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0038-223X2011001400011&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Current practice for the recovery of platinum group metals (PGM) from flotation concentrates is by energy-intensive smelting processes followed by separation and refining of the base and precious metals. Energy costs are rapidly increasing in South Africa and this trend is forecast to continue in future years. Moreover, the smelting operations are highly susceptible to deleterious constituents, particularly chromite; and the increasing tonnages of UG2 chromititic ore being mined results in an increasing chromite content of smelter feeds. Hence there is a substantial incentive to assess and implement alternative processes to smelting for the treatment of PGM concentrates. The Kell process is a patented hydrometallurgical alternative to smelting that is totally insensitive to the chromite content of the feed concentrate and comprises three commercially proven unit operations (pressure oxidation leaching of base metals and sulfur, roasting and chlorination of precious metals). The Kell process provides the opportunity for existing and new PGM producers to significantly reduce their energy consumption, and in particular their consumption of electricity, by removing the need to smelt PGM concentrates. Energy costs, greenhouse gas emissions and installed power requirements are also much reduced. Compared with smelting and refining these reductions are calculated as: e Total energy consumption-50% reduction e Electrical energy consumption-84% reduction e Energy consumption costs-76% reduction e CO2 emissions-70% reduction e Installed power requirement-92% reduction. The data obtained from simple laboratory batch amenability testing can be readily applied to the Simulus mass and energy balance simulation procedure to determine energy and reagent consumptions, equipment selection and process optimization. The applicability of Kell to treating low-grade 'dirty' concentrates with high UG2 content as well as to polymetallic concentrates containing base metals as the major payable metals with subordinate PGM means that these savings can also be expected when the process is used for treating a range of concentrate types and grades.