By Kathie McGregor
Do you need to optimise your purchasing, planning and processes for changes in orebodies?
The rising complexity of feedstock materials continues to be a challenge for base smelting operations.
Our industry is depleting its supply of primary coarsely-ground ore. This has made the transition towards the use of secondary feedstocks, such as e-waste, necessary.
Thanks to this increasing complexity, feedstocks now more commonly contain a high level of minor elements. If not dealt with correctly, these can have economic, health, and environmental impacts on smelters.
The increased presence of minor elements in ore bodies can create costly challenges or new opportunities, depending on your approach to the process.
Complex ore bodies with high levels of minor elements pose risks across all stages of the flow sheet, which you expose yourself to if you don’t adapt your processes. These include:
Ultimately, it’s vital to reduce the risks and seize the opportunities created by the rise in ore complexity.
In order to optimise the smelting process to refine complex ore and prevent any potential hazards or risks, there are steps to take across 3 key stages of the smelting process.
Planning is perhaps the best way to get ahead of this issue of rising complexity.
To prevent a drop in productivity and quality, you need to create processes that are optimised to handle the behaviour of minor elements. It’s also essential to consider the overall adjustments required for flow sheets to process complex feedstocks.
With an understanding of expected hazardous outputs, the planning phase can also incorporate safeguards against potential environmental and health concerns — such as implementing waste disposal strategies and employee safety measures.
When examining raw materials, companies need a comprehensive understanding of the ore characteristics and tools to recognise the minor element concentrates that may be present. With this information, concentrates that have unwanted impurities can be avoided, and the ore’s behaviour within a plant’s processing framework can be understood.
Having constant awareness of how different minor elements will behave across your flow sheet is essential to the processing phase.
This ensures that process cycles can be tweaked accordingly. As a result, quality is not compromised, plant productivity remains as planned, and equipment is maintained to the required standard.
Smelting operations can get a clear picture of minor element behaviour and deportment with thermodynamic modelling, combined with experimental validation of the models.
We have developed Multi-Phase Equilibrium (MPE™) software, using the CALPHAD method for the calculation of multiphase equilibrium in high temperature base metal production systems. It can be used for modelling ferrous and nonferrous smelting processes to improve understanding, diagnose problems and optimization.
MPE™ is a powerful and easy-to use analytical tool that can model how minor elements will deport in your process, and can be used to:
The problems that arise from increasingly complex feedstocks can affect base metal smelters across the entire refinement process. Processes and tools such as Multi-Phase Equilibrium technology create a seamless approach for understanding and optimizing minor element deportment in smelting operations, minimize risk and take advantage of opportunities to recover valuable impurities.
Contact the Minerals Process Optimisation team on +61 3 9545 8912 or email me at Kathie.Mcgregor@csiro.au to talk about how you can minimise the risks associated with minor element deportment.