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PREPRINT
NUMBER

SOCIETY FOR

MINING, METALLURGY,
AND EXPLORATION, INC.

95-19

P.O. BOX 625002 -LITTLETON, COLORADO - 80162-5002

INSTALLATION OF A SUPERVISORY CONTROL SYSTEM


AT A GOLD PRESSURE OXIDATION PLANT

M. Spangler
FirstMiss Gold
Golconda, NV

For presentation at the SME Annual Meeting


Denver, Colorado - March 6-9, 1995
Permission is hereby given to publish with appropriate acknowledgments, excerpts or
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MINING ENGINEERING

1
Abstract
FirstMiss Gold installed a supervisory control system
based on Pavilion Technology's Process Insights neural
network software and Oil System's PI data historian. The
primary goal of the system was to control the acid preconditioning circuit. However, our first successful control loop
was on the limestone feed rate to the neutralization circuit.
The information gained by modeling these circuits and the
better control provided by the system has resulted in
reagent savings of over $80,000 per month.
OVERVIEW

Supervisory Control System

The supervisory control system [Figure 1] consists of


three parts. The PI System from Oil Systems, Inc. acts as
the data historian, collecting data from the Bailey Network
90 DCS via its own Computer Interface Unit. Process
Insights generates the neural network models, and the Runtime Controller runs current plant data from PI through the
model and sends control signals back to PI, which sends
them back to the DCS. All three of these software modules
run on a Vaxstation 4000, model 60. The workstation is
equipped with 40 MB of RAM and two hard drives totaling
1.4 GB of storage.

Bailey

Getchell Mine

The Getchell Mine, northeast of Winnemucca, NY, was


discovered in the 1930s and was initially mined to recover
gold from oxide ores. From the 1940s until 1968, when it
was shut down, a variety of horizontal and fluid bed roasters were used to recover gold from the sulfide ores. In all
cases, roasting proved to be difficult, marginally profitable,
and environmentally unsound.
The major problem is the nature of the ore. The main
ore body is a skarn deposit along the Getchell fault on the
east side of the Osgood mountains, a standard Basin and
Range block-fault system. The fault provided a conduit for
gold-bearing solutions at several different times during the
development of the system. Along with gold, silver, mercury, iron, molybdenum, thallium, selenium, and antimony
came a large quantity of arsenic minerals, primarily realgar
(AS2S2) and orpiment (AS2S3)' The latter minerals are the
major problem that must be solved to recover the gold. A
second problem is the variability of a skarn deposit. Since
the mineral-bearing solutions were confined along the fault,
the ore body experienced a high thermal and chemical
gradient, resulting in ore compositions that can change
greatly in a few hundred feet.
In 1989, FirstMiss Gold, a subsidiary of First
Mississippi Corporation, began operation of a pressure oxidation plant. This technology was chosen as the best available to deal with high-arsenic ores.
Plant Flow sheet

The plant flowsheet has a conventional grinding circuit


feeding an acid preconditioning circuit that destroys the
carbonate minerals in the ore before feeding three parallel
autoclaves. These hold the ore at 210 C (400 F) and 2.8
MPa (410 psi) for 90 minutes while oxygen from a 290 tid
(320 stpd) Air Products cryogenic plant reacts with the
sulfide minerals. The reaction converts the sulfides into
sulfuric acid, ferric iron, and ortho-arsenic acid (H3AS04).
The neutralization circuit is next. Here a staged addition
of limestone and milk of lime raises the pH, precipitating
the arsenic as a stable blend of ferric and calcium arsenates.
The higher pH is also required before cyanidation in a
conventional Carbon in Leach (CIL) circuit. Following a
standard Zadra strip, the gold is cemented from the
pregnant solution with zinc dust. The resulting precipitate is
retorted to remove mercury, then fluxed and smelted to
oxidize the impurities, produce gold donS. The plant
operates at a feed rate of 3000 tid (3300 stpd) and achieves
an average recovery of 89% with a head grade of 7g/tonne
(0.20 ozlton).

Network 90

Plant
Loop

Bailey
CIU

DCS
RS-232

Process
Insights *

Training
Dataset

C ontrol

System *

Model
Run-time
Controller *

PI

Control data
and outputs

Figure 1; Control system layout.


(* This block is software running on a VAX.)
Besides acting as a data historian transform module (via
the performance equation package) for the neural network
software, we have set up a terminal in the autoclave control
room for the operator's use. This has proven very popular,
as the operators can build their own customized trend and
graphic displays. PI has also made it possible for us to
review plant operations in the past, as the system has two
years of data on-line in its archive instead of the 26 hours
held by our elderly Bailey.
Process Insights, the neural networking software from
Pavilion Technologies, actually does the modeling. It can
do either a prediction model where it predicts the outputs
based on the current inputs, or a control model that can
vary the inputs to hold an output at a given value (the mode
we use). The software also has a full suite of analysis tools
to identify the important variables in the process, the effect
of changing them, and to clean up the input data. As this
software is very processor-intensive, we recommend that
new installations should use DEC ALPHA workstations
instead of the older VAX systems.
APPLICATION TO NEUTRALIZATION CIRCUIT
Purpose of Circuit

The autoclaves discharge slurry at 38% solids and a pH


of 0.5 to 1 with 15 to 45 grams sulfuric acid per liter. However, safe cyanidation requires a pH of over 9.5, preferably
about 10.5. The neutralization circuit, [Figure 2] which

2
consists of four, 570 m 3 (150,000 gallon) agitated tanks in
series, uses ground limestone to raise the pH from 1 or less
to about 5.7 in the first tank. After allowing the reaction to
stabilize in the second tank, we then add milk of lime to the
third tank to bring the pH to 10.3. Cyanide is added in the
fourth tank, and the resulting slurry is pumped to the CIL
tanks where the gold dissolves. We can also add water to
either the third or fourth tanks if needed to lower the slurry
density or viscosity to acceptable values.

16
14

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8
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::::::::::::::~~.~~~:::~:::::::::::~:
------------

10

Slurry pH attained
---O-Lime

- - . - - Limestone

Milk of Lime

Discharge from

Figure 3; Relative effectiveness of lime and limestone at


raising neutralization pH.

Autoclaves
pH= 1

pH = 10.3

To elL

Neutralization Tanks
Figure 2; Limestone and Neutralization Circuits.

Control Problems
The control problems associated with this seemingly
simple circuit fall into two main categories. First, the reagents, (limestone and lime) are much different in control
effectiveness and reaction rate, and second, nothing about
the circuit behaves in a linear fashion.
Cheap limestone, expensive lime: Lime is trucked in dry,
slaked on site, then pumped into the neutralization circuit.
It costs us $75 !tonne ($68 !ton). Limestone is mined on site
about one krn (0.6 mi.) from the mill and ground in two ball
mills in the grinding building. Counting grinding costs,
limestone costs $4.10/tonne ($3.70/ton). Lab work has
established that 1.7 kg of limestone is equivalent to 1 kg of
lime in raising pH from 1 to 5.5. The overall effect is that
$1 in limestone is worth $10.80 of lime. However, there is
a complication.
Nonlinear response: The pH rise from adding limestone
[Figure 3] is subject to diminishing returns above a pH of
about 5.0. To raise pH to 6.0 requires much more limestone
than raising the pH from 5 to 5.5. Raising pH to 6.5 requires still more. No amount of limestone will raise pH
over 7.0. These effects are due to the precipitation of a
variety of metals and the ion exchanging behavior of clays
found in the ore.
We also have other, more conventional, control problems. The amount of free acid in the autoclave discharge
can vary from 15 to 45 gr.!l, depending on the sulfide
content of the feed and, paradoxically, the amount of
carbonate in the ore. The temperature in the circuit ranges
from 30 to 60C (85 to 140F) depending on ambient
temperature and the condition of the slurry coolers
upstream of the neutralization circuit. The throughput of an
autoclave varies as a function of its mechanical condition,
the ore's sulfide content, and oxygen availability. And
autoclaves are shut down for maintenance at least once a
week.

Desired Operation: Overall, our goal is to raise the pH to


10.3 at the minimum cost. This means that we add limestone until we reach the point of diminishing returns, then
add lime to bring the pH up the rest of the way. Operating
experience seemed to show that a pH of 5.5 was the correct
setpoint for the first tank, and the operator manually controlled to this value by calling the grinding operator and
telling him to adjust the speed of the limestone mill's belt
feeder up or down depending on where the pH was. This
control system resulted in frequent out of specification pH
values, rapid swings in pH, and was strictly reactive except
in the case of planned shutdowns.
Conventional control systems were unable to improve
on the operators. The PID controller block in the Bailey
DCS was unable to handle changes that occurred so slowly
and with so much lag time. Since so much of the circuit
was nonlinear, it was impossible to program a suitable
controller by other means that we tried. Therefore, it
seemed a natural thing to try with a neural network system.

Process InSights Model


Inputs tried: Based on experience and common sense, we
selected a set of variables that seemed likely to influence
the operation of the circuit.
Several weeks of data for these inputs was collected in
PI and transferred to Process Insights. After cleaning up
the data in the preprocessor, several models were run to
identify the process delay times. These matched well with
our expectations. At this point, several transforms looked
useful, (i.e. The model insisted that the free acid content of
one autoclave was 5 times more Significant than the free
acid of another unit, so we created a transform of "average
free acid" to use in subsequent models.) These new inputs
were then fed into the next run of the modeL
Inputs and outputs used: After several runs, we chose the
following inputs [Table 1] for the control model. Since our
version of Process Insights does not allow the easy use of
transforms, we recreated the transforms in the PI performance equation module and transferred them into tags that
the run-time controller could read. The value listed under
tau is the time lag, given as the number of 10 minute intervals before the limestone enters the neutralization tanks.
Tag WI:2825.AV is treated as a state variable. The outputs

were the pHs in the first two neutralization tanks. The controlled input was the limestone belt feeder speed.
Sensitivity analysis: Part of the attraction of Process
Insights is the sensitivity analysis. This has allowed us to
evaluate circuits with an eye to finding bottlenecks.
Unfortunately, the operating requirements of other circuits
restricts our ability to adjust the parameters of this ciruit.
The sensitivity analysis was more interesting in the
conditioning circuit, which is discussed later.
Table 1; Final Limestone Model
Tag Name

Tau

Input Variables
WC:2825
LS:Geho.ca
LS:FAave.ca

-4
-2

AC:ddens.ca

TI:7010
TI:7056

LA:ls150

LA:lsc02

State variable
WI:2825.AV

-3

General Statistics

Description

Speed of belt feeder to ball mills.


Sum of autoclave feed rates.
Average free acid content of autoclave discharge
Average discharge density (% solids)
out of autoclaves
Temperature of feed to neutralization
Temperature of feed out of
neutralization
Percent of limestone passing 150
mesh
Carbonate content of limestone

Belt scale to ball mills; 10 pt moving


average.

o
o

pH in #1 neutralization tank
pH in #2 neutralization tank

Results
We used more limestone and less lime: The run-time
controller had interesting effects. As you can see, [Figure 4]
the model used somewhat more limestone than had been
the case previously. However, it used substantially less
lime. This tells us that we were not as far up the diminishing returns curve as we should have been. The net result
was a $31,000 per month reduction in total reagent costs.
These alone would have paid for the entire supervisory
control system in 6 months.
Q)

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Table 2; Comparison of Control of Neutralization


Tank #1
Operators

Mean
Standard Deviation
Variance
Range
Minimum
Maximum
Standard Error
Median
Mode
Kurtosis
Skewness

4.79
0.764
0.584
3.9
1.6
5.5
0.083
5.0
5.2
8.106
-2.879

Proc. Insights
5.38
0.407
0.166
2.3
3.7
6.01
0.044
5.5
5.8
2.282
-1.205

ANOVA results. F Statistic = 39.21 F crit


P-value =3.14 X 10-9

=3.90

Remaining Problems

Outputs
AR:7011
AR:7021

smaller standard deviation. These improvements not only


included the first tank where the limestone is added, but
also the third tank where the lime is added, even though
Process Insights does not directly control the lime addition.
Smoothing out the preceding stage has allowed the
conventional PID control from the DCS to control the lime
addition quite well, whereas it had previously been unable
to maintain acceptable pH values.

50

400
350
300
250
200
150
100
50
0

Q)

45

40

E
::i

35 ~

p,,,,,,,,, IMig h"


goes on line

30

en
.Q

25 ..J
20

5/93

7/93

9/93

- - - I - - Limestone

11/93

1/94

3/94

- - 0 - Lime

Figure 4; Limestone and Lime usage.


Other benefits: Also to our benefit was more consistent
operation. [Table 2] There have been fewer pH excursions
since the system came on line, reflected in a smaller range
between the minimum and maximum pH values, and a

Financial optimization: The next step, which we hope is


addressed in the next revision of Process Insights is to
actually optimize our costs. Our goal is to raise pH from 1
to 10.3 at the minimum cost. Given the nonlinear behavior
of our circuit we have not established that we are at the
optimum point. The current version of Process Insights
does not have a way of weighting inputs to accomplish this.
Furthermore, it does not output a control equation that
could be fed into a separate nonlinear programming routine
to solve for this optimum point. This feature is planned for
a future release of the software.
Oscillation problem: The model did tend to oscillate from
time to time, where from one cycle of the run-time controller to another the output will alternately overshoot and
undershoot even dUling steady-state operation. Part of this
problem was due to a problem with the run-time controller,
which has since been mostly fixed. We still have occasional
periods of oscillation, but they are usually related to plant
disturbances and quickly damp out.
Have to take the model off-line to retrain: One unforeseen
problem is that we have to take the model off-line for two
weeks if we decide that we need to train a new model.
While the model is running there is too little variation in the
circuit to produce a data set suitable for training a model.
Hard to predict how well a given model will control:
Contrary to our expectations, a model that trains well does
not necessarily control well. Our best models have consistently had r-values from 0.6 to 0.8. Models with correlations of 0.9 or higher have generally failed to control at all.
This was not what we expected, although Pavilion assured
us that it was not an unusual occurrence. However, as we
have not found any way other than on-line testing to see if
we have a good model, this does add to the time required to
set up a working control model.

APPLICATION TO CONDITIONING CIRCUIT

Table 3; Conditioning sensitivity results.

Purpose of Circuit

rank#

input name

tau#

This circuit acidifies the slurry to destroy carbonates


before pumping it into the autoclaves. The circuit consists
of a 570 M3 (150,000 gal) surge tank followed by 3, 265
M 3 (70,000 gal) tanks in series. Sulfuric acid (93%) is
added to the fIrst conditioning tank. This acid is usually our
largest single reagent cost. Process Insights was originally
purchased expressly to control this circuit after an initial
study showed that substantial cost savings were possible.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16

AI:3012.
TI:3016.
CD:D_T1.CA
TI:3026.
FR:3007.
U:3038.
U:2748.
AC:3001.
CD:D_ST.CA
02:DEMAND
FR:3007.
DI:2664.
TI:3036.
AC:P_AVE.CA
FC:2665.
LS:GEHO.CA

-1
0
0
0
-3
0
0
-2
0
0
0
-3
0
0
-3
0

Control Problems
Although we have been able to train a model for any
given ore stockpile, this requires about two weeks. As a
given stockpile lasts no more than four weeks, and it is not
uncommon to start blending in other stockpiles during this
time, we have been unable to develop a useful control
model that will work reliably across stockpiles. Part of the
problem has been the changing clay contents of the ore.
The k-feldspar clays freely absorb acid. Also, we have
recently discovered that we have organic carbon present in
the ore which causes inaccurate carbonate assays. As these
contaminants strongly vary throughout the ore zone, we
have not been able to find a cross-stockpile model.
Since we have now proved that the lab results that we
were using to try to run the plant were random variables,
we are investing in an oxygen analyzer that will sample the
autoclave vent gas. The vent gas is a mixture of oxygen and
carbon dioxide, therefore we can derive the amount of
carbonates in the autoclave feed from the oxygen content of
the vent gas. We hope that this will give us a better value to
use in a control scheme, as we can then control
conditioning to give a desired carbon dioxide content in the
autoclave's vapor space.
Further complicating our efforts is that Process Insights
expects to control an output to a fixed value. However, the
desired value for our major control variable, autoclave feed
pH, varies with the ore characteristics. On one ore, the
autoclaves may run fine with a feed pH of 5.8. On the next
stockpile, the feed pH may have to be 4.8 to maintain the
same throughput and oxidation. This does not lend itself to
easy control.
Results Using Process Insights
Even though a control model has eluded us, we have
been able to make some money from Process Insights.
Sensitivity analyses of the various models consistently
showed that the feed pH was highly sensitive to the temperatures of the conditioning tanks [TI:3016, TI:3026, and
TI:3036 in Table 3]. This is an indirect mechanism, as
higher temperatures allowed a higher autoclave feed pH
without having excess C02 quench the reaction in the
autoclaves. This led to a plant-scale test using boiler steam
to heat the slurry in the surge tank before it entered the
conditioning tanks. The results showed a substantial drop in
acid consumption. Therefore we spent about $40,000 to
route waste steam from our flash tanks to the surge tank,
raising the average temperature from 38C to 55C (lOOF to
130F.) This has reduced acid use about 20%, resulting in a
savings of $54,000 per month. Figure 5 shows the ratio of
actual acid use to the usage expected based on plant history.

1.20
1.10

0.90

a:

0.80

0.489
0.314
-0.306
0.283
-0.169
-0.082
-0.071
0.041
-0.069
-0.048
-0.056
-0.054
0.038
0.043
0.040
-0.023

~ .~.

1.00

....1\1

Avg.

/ \ \/

"\.

. . 1"'"'"'".,

.\1

,~

0.70
0.60

V
First full month with steam on.

0.50
9/93

11/93

1/94

3/94

5/94

7/94

Figure 5; Results of Adding Steam to Conditioning.

FUTURE AUTOCLAVE MODELING


We are presently working on modeling some of the
details of autoclave operation. Our goal is to ultimately use
the system to control the feed rate and oxygen supply to an
autoclave so as to maintain the maximum feed rate without
exceeding either the oxygen supply or having EMF go out
of spec. Our testing has shown that we will have to model
each autoclave separately, as running all three in one model
just doesn't work. This, in turn, means that we need
external logic to juggle three models competing for the
same resources. We are looking into the ExSys rule-based
AI system as the code to do this.
SUMMARY
Although not entirely without problems, Process
Insights has been successful in controlling the limestone
circuit. In the first year of operation it has been directly
responsible for over $85,000 per month in cost savings. The
system has also highlighted other operational problems that
we are now able to address which will further improve
operations and profitability in the near future.