One-Source Supplier for Mineral Processing SystemsWed, 10/21/2015 - 14:01
According to Iztok Livik from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, current challenges in the mineral processing sector include declining ore grades, increasing mineralogical complexity, limited availability of water, and higher community expectations in terms of the environmental responsibility. As such, it is not enough for mining companies to have an economically attractive deposit. They must also look to implement the ideal equipment and metallurgical techniques to increase the mineral processing yield and thus the profit of their operations. Richardt Fangel, Director General of FLSmidth Mexico shares his view on the matter, “Mining companies are generally looking to update and expand their processing plants to improve their profit. There is a great variety of challenges that mining companies can face though. External factors, such as water and energy supply, can really complicate a processing operation. This is why mining companies need to consult with experts in order to know what type of equipment they should purchase.”
FLSmidth has over 130 years of experience in delivering complete processing solutions to mining and cement companies all over the world. The company feels confident in its ability to become a one-source supplier of processing systems for its customers in mining. “FLSmidth has focused on providing complete process flow sheets, meaning that it can supply entire beneficiation plants for gold, silver, copper, and other base metals, as well as industrial minerals,” adds Fangel. Of the advantages that FLSmidth’s solutions offer, removing bottlenecks in the production is one of the most important aspects. Fangel argues that purchasing the processing equipment from different providers and subsequently contracting an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) firm to put it together can create bottlenecks and fail to streamline the entire processing plant. Moreover, Fangel explains that FLSmidth is able to provide equipment for the entire operation, “from material handling, mine hoist and shaft systems, primary and secondary crushing, heap leaching, and grinding, to flotation, solid/liquid separation, thickening, filtration, pyro technology, automation, and quality control systems.”
So far, FLSmidth has not had the opportunity to deliver an entire project on its own. Fangel mentions that the company participated in the commissioning of the plant in Goldcorp’s Peñasquito mine and that 80% of the processing plant is comprised of FLSmidth technology. Moreover, as an added proof that the company is able to handle entire projects, Fangel mentions that it has delivered over 35% of all the cement plants in the world. “We have the expertise to integrate all the equipment and processes and our model can help customers attain the best flow sheets possible,” he explains. “Our Operation and Maintenance division was created to allow mining companies to let us handle the entire mineral processing operation.” In addition to its inhouse resources, FLSmidth partners with EPC firms such as M3 so that they may together assemble a complete concentrator plant for precious and base metals.
Fangel mentions that while mines such as Buenavista del Cobre and Peñasquito are already using top-notch technology for mineral processing, mining SMFs companies still struggle with their beneficiation process due to their lack of advanced machinery. “Some companies are aware of the benefits provided by modern processing techniques, but others are either not aware or cannot afford to invest in new technology. In such cases, we can help them by optimizing their processes and by improving their maintenance schemes.” Yet, he mentions that optimization of plant performance is not an exact science, but depends on how the plant is put together. “First, we have to make sure that we have eradicated bottlenecks so that we can improve the plant’s throughput capacity. Then we can help update grinding systems or change flotation cells to increase recovery. Many aspects can be arranged in ball mills and flotation cells to truly improve the flow sheet of an existing processing plant.” In fact, of all the solutions that FLSmidth offers in Mexico, it has seen most success with its flotation cells and its semi-autogenous (SAG) mills.
As a part of its renewed strategy for Mexico, and to allow for closer contact with its clients, the company has opened a service center in Zacatecas, where it also helped to found the mining cluster known as CLUSMIN. Since many of Mexico’s most important mining operations lie within a 500km radius from Zacatecas, Fangel explains that the location of its service center was strategically favorable. However, an additional service center to attend the north of Mexico will be necessary in the future. FLSmidth is also able to support its clients through its technical center in Salt Lake City which employs over 900 engineers to work on “possible ways to improve the efficiency of processing plants.” Through its aftermarket division, FLSmidth is also able to oversee specialized spare parts and stocking programs, while offering to operate and maintain the finished processing plant through its O&M division.
As the supplier of the largest and most varied flotation cells, FLSmidth has been able to keep itself at the forefront of processing systems worldwide. Fangel says that the Mexican industry has greatly benefited from FLSmidth’s ability to help it adapt and modify processes according to variations in the mines and quarries. “The ore deposits that mining companies exploit span large geological areas where the petrography is constantly changing. Precious minerals are often contained in different rocks along with other minerals that require a different processing approach,” Fangel explains. “With our knowledge and equipment, FLSmidth can help its customers adapt their processes according to the variations that each deposit presents.”