On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. vol.108 n.11 Johannesburg Nov. 2008
Blast fragmentation optimization at Tarkwa Gold Mine using 6 Sigma methodologies
Goldfields Ghana Ltd, Tarkwa Gold Mine
Tarkwa Gold Mine is owned by Gold Fields Ghana, IAMGOLD and the Government of the Republic of Ghana in a 71%, 19% and 10% ratio. The mine is operated by Gold Fields Ghana. This large, low-grade, open pit, gold mining operation is located in Tarkwa, in the Western Region of Ghana, approximately 320 kilometres by road, west of Accra, the capital of Ghana, West Africa.
In the Financial year ended June 2007, the operation mined a total of 108 million tons of which 22 million tons was ore. The mined ore is processed through three gyratory crushers supplying two heap leach pads (north and south) and a carbon-in-leach (CIL) plant.
Before the 6 Sigma project commenced, the current fragmentation was resulting in sub-optimal feed size to these crushers. It was decided to use 6 Sigma methodology to improve the fragmentation. A defect was defined as a fragmentation analysis indicating less than 95% passing 750 mm. The objective was to improve fragmentation in order to achieve a constant throughput to the north heap leach crusher of 1500 t/h, a 5% increase in pit loading efficiency and a 50% decrease in rock breaker hours, equipment damage costs and in-pit sheeting costs respectively.
However, this was not to be achieved at the expense of grade control as Tarkwa is exploiting a low grade, high volume deposit and therefore ore dilution must be kept to a minimum.
This paper is intended to take the reader through the various 6 Sigma phases of the project (define-measure-analyse -improve- control), which have resulted in a 10% reduction in loading times, of which half has been attributed to improved fragmentation, as well as a substantial increase in blasted stocks.
The focus has been on both drilling and blasting parameters as both processes had to be taken into account. These parameters are technical but personnel factors were also identified and dealt with as they arose.
In order to measure the impact of any change in the process parameters on the fragmentation size distribution, cameras have been acquired. One has been installed looking into the bowl of the north crusher and the other one was dedicated to field observation, of individual blasts. Both are used for ongoing fragmentation analysis.
At Tarkwa, mining efficiency is strongly dependent on good fragmentation as well as the presence of unblasted 'toes' on the pit floors. Crusher throughput depends on an acceptable ore fragment size. Compliance with plan for actual hole depths was temporarily monitored by manual hole dipping, but this is now being replaced with a fully automated drill data management system developed by Sandvik and Modular Mining.
The Six Sigma methodologies, using control charts based on data collected in the field, allowed the mine to improve methods for the control of blasted material. It also enforced the implementation of a quality control programme encompassing the entire drill and blast process.
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