Sensor Advantage Pushing the Future of Ore Sorting & Preconcentration

Cutting-edge technology is at the forefront of pushing mining around ore sorting and preconcentration to be more efficient and profitable, offering a valuable insight into the direction in which companies need to look to in order to remain competitive. Real Time Instruments (RTI) is providing access to cutting edge scanning technology that allows mining companies to make real-time, accurate decision making to make the challenges of ore sorting a thing of the past.

New to the market is the AllScan N-Gen, a sophisticated piece of technology that is changing the way cross-belt analysers detect material composition. The newly developed N-Gen technology, harnessing the power of deuterium-deuterium fusion over traditional radioactive isotopes, is changing the way mines manage their processes.

Mining operations have seen issues with depleting ore reserves, energy and processing costs, and transportation requirements that directly impact the technology required. This has fostered the need for complimentary technology that fulfills multiple roles in elemental analysis and provides access to real time data. This has greatly reduced the reliance on laboratory sampling. This has enabled mines to have a proactive rather than reactive approach to their processing, therefore eliminating long wait times for sample results.

These issues highlight the importance of effective ore sorting and preconcentration, offering a glimpse into the future direction of material analysis. Accurate ore sorting relies on technology that can measure the key elements and gangue material. Whilst a wide variety of sensors are available, Prompt-Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis or PGNAA, allows for penetration across the full cross section on a loaded conveyor belt. This makes it perfectly suited for bulk material sorting. Incorporated into the AllScan N-Gen, PGNAA provides mining operators with a large spectrum of measurable elements.

Real-time data needs in ore sorting

Accurate decision making involves recording data and providing it to mining operators as quickly as possible, as any lag time can have adverse effects on the costs, performance, and environment impact. Mining operators have the ability to significantly alter the mine’s bottom line and making decisions requires that these operators have access to technology that can both withstand the harsh environments of mine sites and obtain the needed data.

Using power plants as an example, placing AllScan analysers before coal handling systems gave operators the time to make accurate decisions, leading to greater value gained from coal. Poor coal quality affects both the plant lifetime and performance and can lead to expensive down time. These can all be mitigated through real-time decision making and accurate ore sorting, utilising the stockpiles on the mine site to blend coal to the desired specification.

High grade ore deposits deplete over time, leading the remaining material to be more difficult to extract and process efficiently. The mining industry has seen the average ore grade decrease dramatically by 25% in ten years. Simultaneously energy consumption has increased at a greater rate than production. Mining operators are expected to meet the demands of the bottom line, manage energy consumption, and reduce waste. This has given rise to the situation in which these real-time decisions are ever important.

Typical mines have a number of stockpiles with different grade classifications which can be used to feed processes in the required proportions. These stockpiles can be used for blending various ore types, or for the storage of problematic ore or waste for later disposal or blending.

A case study provided into Iron Ore grade management indicated that the mine had issues surrounding identification of the quality of the ore once it had passed through the process facility and into a stockpile. Whilst a management system was in place, updates using lab data required between 6-8 hours resulting in an unacceptable level of lag and inability to make critical decisions.

RTI’s Product Manager, Bradley Roper, stated that “ore cannot be managed effectively by using data that is hours old it can only be done using real time data from online sensors.” Maximising resource quality through effective ore sorting became an integral part of the solution provided by the AllScan.. The AllScan allowed the mine to monitor their stockpile in real time, blend product to specification and reduce wastage of high-quality ore. “An online elemental analyser, such as the AllScan N-Gen, is critical to ensure proactive ore management.”

Energy consumption

One of the greatest costs for any mining operations are the energy costs associated with processing obtained material, removing waste, and maximising lower grade material. The lower grade material requires more energy to be processed in order to remove the gangue for the same amount of ore concentrate. The processes surrounding the removal of barren material, otherwise known as pre-concentration, are implemented to avoid feeding the plant with costly material. Removal of this material has the potential to significantly reduce the consumption of energy, and greatly improve resource efficiency by upgrading marginal material.

Real-time technology

Advanced sensors and real-time analysis, two key components of effective ore sorting, have become the omnipresent inclusion in cross-belt analyzers and Real Time Instruments’ new AllScan N-Gen looks to push these features further. Utilising neutron generation, instead of a man-made isotope source, the N-Gen also improves upon safety through a reduction in radiation risk.

The technology behind the AllScan has already seen great success in multiple mining operations, giving the ability to blend product to preset specifications, resulting a superior product in larger quantities.

Ore sorting technology, like that found with the AllScan, allow for the measurement of the valuable and waste components inherit in the material. The real-time capabilities built into this technology allow for the continuous and immediate collection of data, making snap decision making a possibility for mining operators.

The benefits of accurate ore sorting merit the inclusion of analysers in operations, as they greatly extend the economic operation despite declining ore grade. For operators facing tough decision making surrounding the profitability of their mine, products like the AllScan pose the perfect solution.

Speaking with Jason Fisher, the CEO of Real Time Instruments, he said that “critical minerals are going to be the next biggest gap”, highlighting the emerging need for processes that allow for accurate ore sorting and real-time decision making. Demand for these minerals is only going to increase as the supply reduces, thereby increasing the extraction methods to meet this demand.

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