Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X
Anglo American Platinum has adopted a strategy of best practice principles (BPP) for sampling, mass measurement, analysis, and metal accounting for more than a decade now. When new plants are designed, the most suitable sampling equipment and sampling protocols are implemented and material flows and plant layouts are designed around sampling strategies. A few years ago, a crushing plant for a high-grade matte stream was commissioned. The design called for the high-grade material to be crushed to 95% passing 2 mm, and the design allowed for a single-cutter primary Vezin sampler taking increments from a gravity flowing stream at regular intervals while filling a tanker for pneumatic offload at the base metal refinery. This was a single point of sampling and analysis that would measure the wanted output from the smelting complex and the input to the refineries. In addition, the design incorporated the functionality to collect increments in an 'interleaved' fashion from the Vezin sampler for internal precision checks. The metal accounting strategy for Anglo Platinum involves the ongoing measurement of all inputs, outputs, and stock levels for all operations for platinum group metal (PGM) and base metal (BM) content. Included are yearly stocktakes, usually done on 1 February, across the smelters and refineries (at least the base metal refinery). In the accounting period immediately following the introduction of the new crushing and sampling facility, a trend was developing whereby the absolute difference between the physical stock and theoretical stock (PGMs predominantly) increased for the two respective sites on an ongoing basis. The smelter showed an increase in physical stock compared to the theoretical stock (sender) and the base metal refinery showed an increase in theoretical stock against physical stock. Because of this anomaly, an additional stocktake was held in September for the period in question, and it was confirmed through the physical stock measurement results that the PGM accounting problem was indeed pointing towards the evaluation of the high-grade matte stream. This paper showcases parts of the process that took place to explain the poor accountabilities for the two sites. Previous results from the sampler ratification process (of the interleaved sampling design) were re-analysed, a physical inspection was carried out on the sampling system again, and the sampler performance was monitored (quality control parameters) for the period. From these investigations, it was found that airflows inside the Vezin introduced the sampling bias. A change in sampling protocol was introduced, as well as certain physical changes to the sampling equipment, to eliminate the airflow and thus the bias conditions significantly. The accounting period that followed the phased upgrading process showed that the accounting between the smelter and base metal refinery had been restored to within statistical limits (difference between physical and theoretical stock below 5% relative to theoretical stock).
Keywords : sampling; metal accounting; Vezin sampler; sampler bias.