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Flowsheet redefines beneficiation sustainability

ENERGY SAVINGS High pressure grinding roll technology enables mining operations to achieve energy savings that surpass a conventional approach

PROCESSED ORE Ground ore that has been processed through high pressure grinding roll equipment at a Weir Minerals test facility

INNOVATIVE TRANSFORMATION Through innovative technology such as high pressure grinding roll Weir Minerals has transformed the way minerals are extracted from raw ore

TIISETSO MASEKWAMENG The transformational flowsheet helps mining operations redefine traditional methods of mineral extraction and processing while driving sustainability

6th October 2023

By: Simone Liedtke

Creamer Media Social Media Editor & Senior Writer

     

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The mining industry is at a critical juncture, where sustainability and energy efficiency have become paramount. In pursuit of this, mining technology company Weir Minerals says its transformational flowsheet helps mining operations redefine traditional methods of mineral extraction and processing while driving sustainability.

At the heart of this approach is reducing the energy consumption of equipment, such as that used to crush, screen and mill ore, says Weir Minerals Africa comminution products GM Tiisetso Masekwameng.

This approach is particularly relevant in Africa, where fragile or insufficient infrastructure and extreme weather disruptions threaten power systems.

She adds that, globally, decarbonisation has resulted in increased demand for critical metals, such as lithium, nickel, cobalt and copper, which are critical for renewable energy technologies and other energy transition solutions. However, the challenge is to mine these metals sustainably while meeting surging demand.

Masekwameng underscores the influence of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria on the mining industry’s trajectory, as project funders and stakeholders now demand quantifiable measurements of sustainability in terms of environmental impact and corporate governance.

“Weir Minerals is cognisant of this shift and is actively aligning its practices to adhere to ESG standards,” she notes.

As such, through integrating innovative technologies, such as high-pressure grinding rolls (HPGR), vertical stirred mills and coarse-particle flotation, Weir Minerals is transforming the way minerals are extracted from raw ore.

“The significance of these changes cannot be overstated, as they promise to yield substantial energy savings while improving operational efficiency as well as increasing recovery,” Masekwameng tells Mining Weekly.

The transformational flowsheet is a strategic response to these issues, adding a new and modern advancement that curbs energy demand while streamlining the entire extraction process.

Central to Weir Minerals’ transformational flowsheet is the use of HPGR technology, which “serves as a cornerstone in reimagining the comminution process”, Weir Minerals EMEA regional comminution director JD Singleton elaborates.

The flowsheet represents a “monumental leap forward” in the mining landscape, as it addresses the industry’s longstanding challenge of high energy consumption and inefficiency in mineral processing.

“The journey to crafting our transformational flowsheet was marked by a meticulous process of blending expertise, exhaustive testing and data-driven innovation.”

This comprehensive approach enables the company to underscore its commitment to instigating transformative change within the industry, he adds.

Replacing traditional grinding methods with HPGR enables mining operations to achieve energy savings that significantly surpass those of conventional approaches. The reduction in energy consumption translates into not only financial benefits but also a significant reduction in carbon footprint.

Singleton further explains that, in complementing the impact of HPGR, vertical stirred mills play a pivotal role in enhancing grinding efficiency.

“These mills revolutionise the way particles are broken down, minimising energy waste associated with recirculation. The elimination of excessive recirculation not only conserves energy but also streamlines the entire mineral processing operation as it is a one pass milling operation without any recirculating load returning to the mill feed,” he comments.

The company’s commitment to sustainability is further emphasised by the inclusion of coarse-particle flotation in the transformational flowsheet, Masekwameng underscores, adding that by capturing larger particles early in the process, this innovative approach reduces extensive grinding.

As a result, energy consumption is curtailed and the overall environmental impact is reduced; therefore, this forward-looking strategy aligns better with the industry’s growing emphasis on responsible mining practices.

Singleton highlights the importance of a data-driven foundation, which allows for quantifiable energy savings, validated through rigorous testing and real-world case studies, consequently providing mining companies with tangible evidence of the flowsheet’s efficacy.

“This approach empowers mining operations to make informed decisions, secure funding and build a compelling case for sustainable practices.”

Weir Minerals’ approach to developing effective flowsheets extends beyond its in-house expertise, as exemplified by its collaborative ethos, which enables the company to deliver tailored solutions.

This adaptability is crucial, the company highlights, considering that flowsheet designs are site- and region-specific, and are shaped by factors such as climate, local regulations and resource availability.

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

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