On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. vol.109 n.11 Johannesburg Nov. 2009
Impact of plant upgrade and DMS on the processing capability of the Tati Nickel concentrator - a case study
DRA Mineral Projects Ltd, Johannesburg
This paper describes DRA's involvement with the expansions at Tati Nickel, Phoenix Mine, that have taken an initial plant design of 3.6 Mtpa (originally built by Murray & Roberts), up to 5 Mtpa, and eventually 12 Mtpa capacity.
Initially, the plant could not achieve the design nameplate capacity for the first few years of operation, as a consequence of the notoriously hard and abrasive nickel ore affecting primarily the operation of the crusher circuit. In order to extend the life of mine, Tati' assessed and then redefined the mining plan, choosing to increase the Phoenix mine reserves to a lower cut-off grade. In order to increase nickel units produced, the concentrator had to therefore treat additional tonnage at lower head grades.
Site investigations and field tests around the comminution circuits are outlined, indicated that the milling circuit could be increased to 650 tph, from the initial design of 470 tph, for a similar feed grade and recovery.
A project was initiated to debottleneck the crusher circuit and achieve the new target throughput. (Project 5M).
This was followed by a feasibility study of the impact of pre-concentration by DMS, which after promising laboratory tests, was followed up with the installation of a 200 tph 'demonstration' plant. The success of this demonstration plant provided the impetus to expand the supply to the 5 Mtpa mill from a large preconcentration stage.
A gyratory crusher (one of the largest and most powerful) will receive ore directly from the open pit operation, feeding into a secondary-tertiary crushing plant followed by a modular DMS preparation circuit. Four large DMS processing modules have been installed to treat the tonnage, with high expected rejection levels.
Finally a review of the DMS process capability on an ostensibly disseminated micro-gabbro nickel ore is given, which shows the remarkable impact that preconcentration can have on an operation, both in terms of profitability and a successful process 'expansion'. The performance of the DMS plant has significantly extended the life of mine, allowing the mine to significantly reduce mine cut-off grades and curb its previously selective mining practice.
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