Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy]]> vol. 112 num. 1 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Journal Comment - New Year Options</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Spotlight on the Western Cape Branch SAIMM</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Mining sector needs action to follow strong words</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Rock engineering method to pre-evaluate old, small coal pillars for secondary mining</b>]]> Due to the approaching depletion of reserves in the Witbank Coalfield, and the fact that the Waterberg Coalfield is as yet underdeveloped, there is increasing pressure to extend the lives of the operating coal mines in the Witbank Coalfield. One potential source of coal is the old pillars, often small and at shallow depth, that were not left with secondary extraction in mind. At face value, some of these pillars appear to be suitable for secondary mining due to their high safety factors. However, it is known that over time, these pillars have scaled and the current sizes are smaller than the as-mined dimensions. It is also known that at shallow depth, the overburden is often less likely to fail during secondary mining, resulting in high abutment loads on the unmined pillars. The paper proposes a systematic method to pre-evaluate those old pillars for the possibility of stooping. The method consists of elements of fundamental methods and newly developed technology. In essence, it revolves around using empirical methods to estimate current pillar dimensions, followed by numerical modelling to investigate the probability of progressive pillar failure and then fundamental methods to determine the limits of applicability of the numerical model. <![CDATA[<b>Assessment of the precision and bias of an online gauge using a single reference instrument</b>]]> We consider the Grubbs estimation of the precision of an online gauge. Typically, this type of estimation involves independent results from two or more reference instruments (sampling and laboratory analysis operations). The properties of the estimator are then independent of the product variability. However, the use of more than one reference instrument entails significant additional costs. The two-instrument Grubbs estimator, which is based on results from a gauge and a single reference instrument, has the disadvantage that its standard error is heavily dependent on the degree of product variability. We propose a new estimator that has a variance that is more or less independent of product variability. In fact, the variance is typically less than that of the Grubbs estimator based on the use of two reference instruments. In order to function successfully, our methodology requires some prior knowledge of the extent of product variability and of gauge precision. In practice, such prior knowledge is often available and it is a weakness of the traditional two - and three-instrument Grubbs methods that no use is made of such knowledge. The efficacy and robustness of the new method is illustrated by Monte Carlo simulation. <![CDATA[<b>Improving financial returns from mining through geostatistical simulation and the optimized advance drilling grid at El Tesoro Copper Mine</b>]]> Grade control and short-term planning are usually based on the samples obtained from blastholes. These samples may carry a large sampling and sample preparation error. At El Tesoro copper mine in northern Chile, an advance drilling grid is used for short-term planning and grade control. These drill holes are sampled well in advance, and a short-term model that incorporates several variables and sophisticated estimation methods can be prepared for decision making. An additional advantage of the advance drilling samples is that reverse circulation can be used instead of conventional downthe-hole equipment, and a very careful sampling and sample preparation process can be implemented, reducing the total sampling error. Advance drilling can be performed on a wider grid than blasthole drilling, hence the decision about the grid requires assessing the economic benefit of different sampling grids. Furthermore, this process allows the cost of poor sampling and the effect of different estimation procedures to be quantified. We demonstrate the optimization of the drilling grid for shortterm planning and grade control at El Tesoro mine by means of the economic evaluation of the performance of different drilling grids, with different drilling techniques (which differ in the sampling error). The methodology is based on creating dense (exhaustive) geostatistical simulations of the grade distribution over a volume defined for a production period in respect of the geological model, and assuming each simulation as the true grade distribution. Then, samples are obtained from the exhaustive simulations at a spacing similar to the advance grid to be evaluated, and a sampling error is added. The short-term estimation procedures used on the mine are applied to determine the destination of each block and the profit obtained. This profit can be compared with the maximum profit (unachievable) and with the profit under different sampling errors and grids. The results show that the current 8 × 8 m drilling grid is appropriate and by reducing the sampling error, misclassification is also reduced, leading to an increase in profit of about US$ 5 million in 4 years. <![CDATA[<b>Effect of load variability on matching during continuous microwave treatment of crushed mineral ores</b>]]> In order to assess the requirements for online matching when using a transverse electric field (E-field) applicator to treat mineral ores continuously, the effect of varying load properties on matching has been investigated by simulation. The effective permittivity of the ore to be treated is expected to show variation on both short (< 1 s ) and long (minutes) time scales. By modelling the ore as a series of slices with alternating effective permittivity values, it was shown that permittivity variations on the scale of the expected particle size are attenuated significantly and matching is not required. For variations in permittivity on the length scale of the free-space wavelength, variations in reflected power are at most within ±10% of the mean. This is not considered operationally significant, as extreme permittivity variation over this length scale is unlikely, given the expected distribution of ore particle sizes to be treated. At typical ore transport speeds through the applicator, these variations occur on a time scale an order of magnitude shorter than the response time of typical industrial online matching equipment. This implies that online matching is neither required nor possible for short time scale variation. Long-term variations in dielectric properties can be adequately compensated for by current matching technologies. It is concluded that the transverse E-field applicator is robust to changes in the dielectric properties of crushed ores within the expected range of their variation. <![CDATA[<b>Kell hydrometallurgical process for extraction of platinum group metals and base metals from flotation concentrates</b>]]> The Kell Process has been developed for the extraction of platinum group metals (PGMs)and base metals from sulphide flotation concentrates. The process has been successfully tested on several different sulphide flotation concentrates, including those from the UG2 chromitite horizon and the Platreef mafic/ultramafic layer. It has been shown to provide high (>95 per cent) and selective extraction efficiencies for the key valuable metals, i.e. Pt, Pd, Rh, Au, Ni, Co, and Cu. The Kell Process consists of several commercially proven unit operations. S, Ni, Co, and Cu are first selectively removed by use of a pressure oxidation step during which the dissolution of PGMs is minimized. The residue from pressure oxidation is subjected to a thermal treatment to ensure efficient PGM recovery by subsequent chlorination. All the core steps are very similar to well-proven conventional unit operations in common use, as are the subsequent metal recovery steps to provide marketable end products. Typical metallurgical responses of flotation concentrates from UG2 and Platreef to the Kell Process are provided, and key outcomes of an energy comparison study with smelting are summarized in this paper. Kell presents a potentially substantial improvement in PGM concentrate processing technology, in terms of economics via much reduced power costs, ease of processing, and various environmental benefits. It allows for the treatment of high-chromium low-grade 'dirty' concentrates, such as secondary concentrates from the platinum industry's 'mill-float-mill-float' (MF2) flotation circuits and concentrates from retreatment of tailings. It allows greater concentrate mass pulls, has higher tolerance to gangue intergrowths in concentrates, and its use can provide substantial increases in overall PGM recovery. Its adoption would be a step change in the platinum industry, and given the commercially proven unit operations embodied in the Kell Process, at much-reduced risk compared with other more experimental technologies. Since the initial process development work, significant improvements and refinements have been introduced as a result of further comprehensive testing and process modelling. Pilot-scale testing and engineering study work is in progress for several selected sites. <![CDATA[<b>The preparation of activated carbon from South African coal</b>]]> Activated carbons used in the precious metals extraction industry are characterized by large internal surface areas and a great affinity for metal ions. The purpose of this research is to prepare activated carbon from a South African bituminous coal by physical activation that is suitable and cost-effective for use in the extraction of metals. The quality of the coal-based activated carbon may not prove to be as good as activated carbon produced from other traditional sources, but the production costs involved may make South African coal a feasible alternative feedstock. The activated carbons produced were characterized by Brunauer, Emmett, and Teller (BET) surface area, activated carbon pH, and phenol adsorption studies and the results compared to the results from a commercially available activated carbon, Norit RO 0.8 (control sample). Bituminous coals from various sources including Witbank Seam 4 and Free State coal were used in this study. The preparation method chosen was physical activation using superheated steam. The effects of process variables such as activation time (1-3 h) and temperature (600-800ºC) were studied in order to optimize those parameters. The activated carbon surface area was characterized by means of nitrogen adsorption isotherms at 77K. BET surface area analysis showed that Witbank Seam 4 coal activated at a temperature of 800ºC and activation time of 3 hours resulted in a surface area of 340 m²/g. Quality control of each sample was performed by measuring the pH of a known amount of the prepared activated carbon in distilled water over time. Results showed that the pH of some of the prepared activated carbons reached a value of 11. Phenol adsorption results for the different activated carbons prepared corresponded well to the results obtained for the Norit RO 0.8 activated carbon sample. <![CDATA[<b>A holistic approach to control and optimization of a PGM concentrate flash drying unit</b>]]> Global trends stipulate the need to optimize existing assets while reducing environmental impacts. This paper illustrates the procedure that was followed to achieve such goals at one of the coal burning flash dryer units at an Anglo American smelter. An indepth study of the process and related literature led to the development and installation of a revised control philosophy. This system includes modifications to the existing regulatory control structure as well as a hybrid rule-based and model-predictive advanced process control (APC) layer. Since commissioning of the APC, this flash dryer's average throughput has increased by more than 6%, despite higher feed moistures. Furthermore, even though coal consumption has increased slightly, operating efficiency has improved by close to 5%. This was made possible by improving stability of the drying column outlet temperature by approximately 40%, which in turn enabled selection of a more optimal setpoint. Recent data has shown that APC utilization now exceeds 95%. This is indicative of a successful controller installation with good site acceptance. The same philosophy has therefore since been rolled out to most of the other flash dryers in the group. <![CDATA[<b>Qualitative analysis of fine coals obtained from triboelectrostatic separation</b>]]> Coal samples taken from the No. 2 Seam and No. 4 Seam in a South African colliery were tested in a rotary triboelectrostatic separator. The two-stage triboelectrostatic separation results using the -177 µm size fraction reduced No. 2 Seam coal containing about 30.4 per cent ash to a clean product of 8.9 per cent and 13.1 per cent ash with combustible recoveries of 9.6 per cent and 30.7 per cent respectively. The same separation approach on No.4 seam feed coal, which contained 36 per cent ash, produced a clean coal product with 10.8 per cent ash at a combustible recovery of 6.0 per cent. Petrographic tests show a significant improvement in the vitrinite content and a reduction in visible minerals encountered when using the triboelectrostatic separator, with about 53 per cent vitrinite reporting to the clean fraction for No. 2 Seam compared to the feed content of 21 per cent, and a 54 per cent vitrinite in the clean No. 4 Seam from a feed content of 21 per cent. Significant sulphur reductions were also observed after separation in both coal samples, with a better separation in the second-stage coal products. <![CDATA[<b>The plasma-assisted manufacture of zirconium metal powder from zirconium tetrachloride</b>]]> The Kroll process is the traditional method of producing zirconium metal by reduction of zirconium tetrachloride with magnesium metal. This paper discusses the production of zirconium metal in a plasma reactor. Anhydrous low-hafnium ZrCl4 and Mg metal were fed continuously to a 30 kW non-transfer plasma reactor at a rate of 0.31 kg.h-1. Due to losses in the system the recovery of crude product was 77.5 %. After purification to remove unreacted feed material and MgCl2 by leaching, >98 % pure zirconium metal powder was obtained. The overall recovery of purified Zr was 74 %. The conversion efficiency of the process was 95 %. <![CDATA[<b>Alternative dissolution of zircon samples and simultaneous analysis of major and trace components</b>]]> Analysis of the major and minor components of raw zircon as well as plasma-dissociated zircon was undertaken using inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES). Microwave-assisted acid extraction as well as flux fusion using lithium tetraborate were investigated as digestion methods. Microwave-assisted acid extraction samples were analysed with matrix-matched standards. The most successful microwave-assisted acid extractions yielded 44.3(1), 49.75(7), 78.3(3) and 90.0(7) per cent recovery for Zr, Hf, Al, and Fe respectively using sulphuric acid. In no instance was acid extraction capable of complete digestion of the sample matrix. A standard addition method was applied to the flux-fusion samples due to the high complexity of the sample matrix. Method validation for the flux fusion procedure was performed using the SARM 62 certified reference material (CRM) with acceptable recovery ranges being based on the 95 per cent confidence intervals of the CRM. Successful analyses were achieved for Zr, Hf, and Ti with apparent content of 66(6), 1.7(1) and 0.15(1) per cent respectively.