Throughput Optimisation in Milling Circuits
MillStar – Advanced Process Control to optimise grinding efficiency and throughput
Blue Cube MQi Slurry Analyser – Inline measurement of mineral, elemental and light grade elements.
Hydrocyclone Flare Angle Measurement
CyLas – Hydrocyclone underflow flare angle measurement and optimise classification and detect roping
Mill Vibration Technology
MillSlicer – detects liner strike position and help control the mil fill levels
Particle Size Distribution
Stone Three – continuous particle size distribution (PSD) of bulk material ie. mineral ore
Process IQ offers the MillStar Advanced Process Control for increased throughput, stabilise milling and improve quality and efficiency. Throughput optimisation in milling circuits is imperative due to the large amounts of energy consumed. There are good and bad control techniques for SAG and Ball mill operation used in the industry. One has to be careful in selecting the best possible system for the application as the upfront cost of a system can be dwarfed by the ultimate benefits of any improvements over years to come. It is difficult to get an online measurement of ore hardness that can be used for process control. However, the response of the mill load and power can be an indication of the ore hardness. Indeed, this is often a good indication of mill performance.
Optimisation of milling needs a systematic approach. One has to ensure the stable operation of the milling circuit before you can aim to optimise power input. Bear in mind that SAG and Ball mills are the highest power consuming equipment in the plant. All Mineral Processing plants have some form of comminution, but SAG and Ball milling is the most common. Comminution is required to liberate valuable minerals from gangue (waste), and then upgrade to a more concentrated form from which the ultimate product is made. Every day millions of dollars are spent breaking big rocks into smaller rocks. It is not a trivial problem and any improvement in these processes can provide a very high rate of return.
Sag Mill Power
Finally, the SAG mill power can be optimised to get maximum breakage and throughput. The power-load relationship is highly non-linear and shifts around as the ore hardness and steel load and liner conditions change. Traditional control and modelling techniques are therefore not very effective. An intelligent control system will be able to continuously seek for the optimum mill operation by changing the solids feed or load setpoint, e.g. by continuously determining whether the mill is overloaded or under-loaded. Safety controllers can be used to change the solids feed rate and feed water to prevent mill overloads.
Advanced Control Process
A good advanced control system (APC) can make a big difference in efficiency of operation and throughput optimisation.
The APC system will improve power control, throughput and efficiency of grinding mills. If this is done successfully, then internal liners and lifters in the mill be protected, less grinding media will be used per ton, power consumption per ton of material grounded will be reduced while throughput is increased.
Advanced Process Control (APC) should address the following areas:
- mill feed stabilisation
- mill discharge stabilisation and lastly
- mill throughput optimisation
Controlling the feed and discharge of a mill is mostly a stabilisation exercise. For example, you need a good fast responding control of the mill feed rate. If the mill feed setpoint is changed, then the actual feed rate needs to stabilise at the new target in a short period of time. The feed rate setpoint can then be tied into a SAG mill power optimisation strategy.
Sag Mill Discharge
SAG mill discharge control is somewhat more involved, because there exist a few interactive variables, such as mill discharge sump level, classification hydro-cyclone variables (feed density, flow and pressure) and water feed rate to the sump. Model predictive control (MPC), which is a multi-input multi-output (MIMO) controller, is very suitable for this purpose. If a particle size analyser exists it can also be included into the control strategy. This will ensure an optimal particle size for flotation or other downstream processes.
This strategy will ensure significant increases in throughput, typically anywhere from 5% to 16% has been observed.
Each milling circuit is unique, and as such the goals and most optimal control strategy might differ for individual cases. Process IQ is an expert in implementing control systems for SAG and Ball milling circuits, making use of advanced stabilisation and optimisation strategies developed by Mintek.
And last, but not least, one should estimate the power load curve and optimum load operating point for maximum productivity in real time. Please watch this video to get an idea of how the power-load relationship in a SAG mill can change over a period of 24 hours.