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Getting Optimum Value from Ore Characterisation Programs in

Design and Geometallurgical Projects Associated with


Comminution Circuits
S Morrell1
ABSTRACT
Inevitably the post-boom era has changed the emphasis of many mining
companies away from new project development and expansion to
optimisation of existing operations. However, regardless of the project,
high quality ore characterisation will remain of the utmost importance. In
the case of new project development the need to understand the breakage
characteristics will remain as important as it has always been. In
optimisation projects, however, where it will be required to get the very
best from existing comminution circuits, accurate geometallurgical
modelling will take on an increasingly important role. However, these
requirements, in both new development and optimisation projects, are
likely to be at odds with budgets as these will be tight. Hence obtaining the
best value for money will be essential. This paper discusses the elements
that need to be satisfied for ore characterisation programs to be successful.
Some of the issues covered will be:
ore variability and sample selection,
test precision,
problems with the use of non-standard testing equipment, and
the value of databases.

INTRODUCTION
Inevitably the post-boom era has changed the emphasis of
many mining companies away from new project development
and expansion to optimisation of existing operations. However,
regardless of the project, high quality laboratory ore
characterisation will remain of the utmost importance. In the
case of new project development the need to understand the
breakage characteristics will remain as important as it has always
been. In optimisation projects, however, where it will be required
to get the very best from existing comminution circuits, accurate
geometallurgical modelling will take on an increasingly important
role. However, these requirements, in both new development and
optimisation projects, are likely to be at odds with budgets as these
will be tight. However, this does not necessarily mean that
accuracy should suffer only that the ore characterisation test work
program has to be more focused and streamlined. The following
paper discusses a number of factors and guidelines that should be
considered when faced with developing such programs.

3.

the model(s)/equations chosen to describe the comminution


equipment in the circuit respond realistically to the values
obtained from the chosen ore characterisation tests;

4.

all of the above are integrated into an overall description of


the operational response of the grinding circuit that also
takes into account non-ore related influences, eg equipment
size, speed, ball load, etc;

5.

the final model/equations can convincingly demonstrate


their accuracy through validation using real plant data.

HOW MANY SAMPLES?


There is no easy answer to this question though it is true to say
the more the better. If the deposit is highly variable the
required number of samples will be higher. Also the end use will
also drive the number of samples required. Hence if samples are
required for a prefeasibility study the number will be relatively
low, whilst if samples are required for the development of a
geometallurgical model that has the ability to accurately forecast
daily grinding circuit throughput, the number required will be at
least an order of magnitude higher. In all cases a staged approach
to sample selection and laboratory test work is recommended to
ensure that costs are kept to a minimum. Each stage should be
designed to build on the knowledge gained from preceding ones,
particularly concerning variability, both spatially within the pit as
well as in terms of absolute hardness values.
The prefeasibility study level is often the best opportunity to
start accumulating useful information of the comminution
properties of the orebody. At this stage little or no information is
likely to exist on the comminution properties of the orebody and
hence the Metallurgist is faced with the decision of how many
samples should be treated for this very first investigation. A good
starting point is to use the distribution shown in Figure 1. This
comes from SMC Testing's database which currently numbers
over 10 000 separate test results covering over 500 different ore
deposits. The figure shows the coefficient of variation (standard
deviation/mean expressed as a percentage) of the measured drop
weight index (DWi) values from each deposit (Figure 2 shows

NECESSARY ATTRIBUTES OF A TEST WORK


PROGRAM

900
800
700

% of deposits

From a comminution perspective, an effective model, whether


used for design or for geometallurgical purposes should be able
to accurately predict the throughput of the grinding circuit from
information concerning the breakage characteristics of ores that
are planned to be delivered to the processing plant. To do so
there are at least five important requirements. These are that:

1000

600
500
400
300
200

65 <70

60 <65

55 <60

45 <50

50 <55

40 <45

30 <35

35 <40

Tenth Mill Operators Conference

25 <30

Director, SMCC Pty Ltd, 29 Camborne Place, Chapel Hill Qld, 4069.
Email: steve@smccx.com

20 <25

1.

0
15 <20

appropriate ore characterisation tests have been chosen to


describe the comminution properties of the orebody;

10 <15

2.

100
O <5

sufficient and relevant samples have been identified,


extracted and tested;

5 <10

1.

coeff var

FIG 1 - Distribution of drop weight index variability values from the


SMC testing database (based on 10 000 SMC Tests covering
over 500 deposits).

Adelaide, SA, 12 - 14 October 2009

167

S MORRELL

% of deposits

25
20
15
10
5
14<16

12<14

10<12

8<10

6<8

4<6

2<4

0<2

DWi

FIG 2 - Distribution of drop weight index mean values from the

SMC testing database (based on 10 000 SMC Tests covering


over 500 deposits).

the distribution of mean DWi values from each deposit). The DWI
has been shown to be a very accurate measurement of the hardness
from an autogenous/semi-autogenous Grinding (AG/SAG) and
high pressure grinding rolls (HPGR) perspective and hence is
highly relevant in this context. The distribution of coefficients of
variation is bi-modal, modal values being in the 15 - 20 per cent
and 35 - 40 per cent classes, the average being 26 per cent. Unfortunately the database does not contain information other than
SMC Test values and hence unfortunately the author is not in a
position to determine whether this bi-modality can be traced back
to broad geological descriptions of the nature and genesis of the
orebodies. However, it is tempting to hypothesise that there is a
very good physical reason why the distribution should have such a
bi-modal shape.
The data in Figure 1 can provide the basis of some simple
calculations that can be used to guide the metallurgists choice of
how many samples should be taken and analysed in this first step
to investigate the orebody. Using classical statistics and assuming
that the orebody has a variability of 15 - 25 per cent (ie the lower
of the modal values), then choosing a total of say ten samples
should provide a mean hardness value for the deposit with a
precision of ten per cent at the 90 per cent confidence level.
However if the variability is in the 35 - 40 per cent class, to
obtain the same level of precision the requisite number increases
to 40. The minimum number of samples is therefore recommended to be ten. The analysis of the data from these samples
will provide an indication of the true variability and can then be
used to estimate how many more samples (if any) need to be
treated to satisfy the accuracy for the prefeasibility stage. If the
indicated variability is say 35 - 40 per cent then an additional 30
samples will be required. It is pointed out that these guidelines
assume that the samples that are selected are representative of the
orebody and that the resultant mean values can only provide
global information. As the design stages progress through to a
final bankable study, more definition is required to enable
forecasts to be made of ore properties and hence throughput
during at least the first few years of production. This requires
further ore characterisation. However, the results from the initial
stage of testing should provide a firm basis on which to choose
both location of samples and numbers.

WHICH TESTS?

Sample

Ave

Min (kWh/t)

12.4

8.1

12.1

10.9

Max (kWh/t)

21.3

17.2

25.6

21.4

Coeff var (%)

27.3

43.5

40.9

37.2

Min (kWh/t)

15.9

16.9

15.8

16.2

Max (kWh/t)

20.9

18.2

17.9

19.0

Coeff var (%)

11.4

3.8

6.3

7.2

Min (kWh/t)

17.1

16.4

15.5

16.3

Max (kWh/t)

19.3

17.6

16.2

17.7

Coeff var (%)

4.6

3.6

2.2

3.4

Crushing Wi

Rod mill Wi

Ball mill Wi

120
Bond design
100

Modified design

80

60

40

Clearly, the laboratory tests that are chosen need to be compatible


with the modelling approaches subsequently used at the design
stage or development of the geometallurgical model, eg if the
AG/SAG mill model in JKSimMet is to be used the laboratory test
has to generate an A and b value. Apart from this criterion, the
metallurgist should also be aware of whatever inaccuracies are
inherent in the laboratory tests that have been chosen.

168

TABLE 1
Accuracy of bond tests (after Angove and Dunne, 1997).

30

The study conducted by Angove and Dunne (1997) helps to


illustrate this point. Table 1 has been generated from the data
given in their study which looked at the variability in results
from sending the same samples to three different labs and having
Bond crushing, rod and ball mill work index tests carried out. It
is clear from their results that the inherent variability in the
crushing work index test is very large, values from some
laboratories being half those of others. Rod mill and ball mill
tests fared much better, the results from the ball mill test showing
a very good precision of 3.4 per cent on average. The reasons for
the very high variability in the crushing work index test results is
possibly due to the use of non-standard equipment. This problem
recently came to light when analysing the data shown in
Figure 3. When considering crushing work index (CWi) data
from machines conforming to Bonds original design a
reasonably good correlation had been found between the
parameter CWi SG and the DWi (DWi units are in kWh/m3 so
the use of CWi SG gives the same units). However, when data
were added from a modified machine design a very different
correlation was found. The differences between the CWi values
from the two types of machine are of the same order as those
obtained from the Angove and Dunne program. Metallurgists
involved in ore characterisation test work need to be aware that
the laboratory chosen to conduct the relevant test is using more
standard equipment as well as understanding that even when
using standard equipment, some tests are inherently less accurate
than others.
In a recent study where the same sample was sent to eight
different labs to ascertain the variability from SMC Tests, the
results shown in Table 2 were obtained and reflect the variability

CWi*sg

35

20

0
0.0

2.0

4.0

6.0

8.0

10.0

12.0

14.0

DWi

FIG 3 - Correlation between drop weight index and CWI SG.

Adelaide, SA, 12 - 14 October 2009

Tenth Mill Operators Conference

GETTING OPTIMUM VALUE FROM ORE CHARACTERISATION PROGRAMS IN DESIGN

TABLE 2
Accuracy of SMC Tests.
DWi

9.6

29.2

9.5

29.3

8.9

31.6

8.7

32.2

45

9.7

28.8

40

9.5

29.5

35

9.0

31.2

30

8.8

32.0

Lab 4

9.3

30.0

Lab 5

9.4

29.9

Lab 2
Lab 3

9.6
Lab 6
Lab 7
Lab 8

Observed kWh/t 1

Lab 1

equipment and circuit performance has been well publicised in


respected international technical journals (Morrell, 2004, 2008,
2009). The most recent development extended its use to predict
both conventional crusher and HPGR performance (Morrell,
2009), its original development being for just AG and SAG mills.
Figures 4 - 6 demonstrate its accuracy in each of these roles
using a large database of operating plants.

30.9

8.6

32.5

9.6

29.3

9.5

29.5

9.1

30.8

9.1

30.9

Mean

9.2

30.4

Standard deviation

0.36

1.2

abc
sabc

20

ab
sab
ss ag

15
10

29.3

9.1

25

ss sag
crush ball

rod ball

0
0

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

45

Predicted kWh/t

FIG 4 - Observed versus predicted tumbling mill circuit specific


energy.

2
y = 1.0059x

1.8

R = 0.9647

Coefficient variance

3.9

3.8

1.6

WHICH MODELS/EQUATIONS?
The choice of which models or equations to be used should be
driven by their demonstrable ability to predict the performance
of existing plants. Once again the more the better rule applies
in that the more (and varied) data that exist to prove the accuracy
of the technique the stronger is the argument to adopt it.
In design studies the most relevant data with which to evaluate
the suitability of a technique should be those from existing
comminution circuits whose performance has been predicted
then checked against high quality operating data from the same
circuit. Regardless of claims by the developers of particular
design/geometallurgical models/techniques about how suitable
and accurate they are, if a large volume of appropriately varied
data cannot be presented to validate claimed accuracy,
metallurgists should be extremely wary of utilising such models/
techniques.
The development of the SMC Test and the use of the
parameters that it generates in predicting comminution circuit

Tenth Mill Operators Conference

1.2
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0
0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.2

1.4

1.6

1.8

Predicted (kWh/t)

FIG 5 - Observed versus predicted crusher specific energy.


4
y = 0.999x

3.5

R = 0.9423

Observed (kWh/t) 1

of the test itself plus variability associated with any differences


between labs in testing machine or operating standards. As can
be seen the coefficient of variation was only 3.9 per cent for
estimates of the DWi and 3.8 per cent for the estimated A b
value. It should be noted that the SMC Test estimates of A b
were done without reference to associated drop-weight tests, ie
they were not calibrated with actual drop-weight test data but
used the raw SMC Test results and global factors derived from
the SMC Test database. The magnitude of the coefficient of
variation is very low, indicating a very precise test. The result can
be compared with the much larger value of 5.7 per cent quoted
by Stark, Perkins and Napier Munn (2008) from doing repeat full
drop-weight tests using the same drop-weight machine at
JKTech. These results indicate that the SMC Test is inherently
more precise than the full drop-weight test in estimating A b
values.

Observed (kWh/t 1)

1.4

2.5
2
1.5
1
0.5
0
0

0.5

1.5

2.5

3.5

Predicted (kWh/t)

FIG 6 - Observed versus predicted high pressure grinding rolls


specific energy.

The SMC Test is unique in that from the one test a number of
parameters are generated which can be used for a variety of
equipment, thus saving money which would otherwise have to
spent on separate tests for each different type of equipment. Such
is the case with Bonds suite of tests which need separate tests
for crushers, rod mills and ball mills.

Adelaide, SA, 12 - 14 October 2009

169

S MORRELL

For validation of geometallurgical models, the most


appropriate data are from production records over relatively long
periods. Such an example is shown in Figure 7 and demonstrates
the accuracy of a model based on the use of SMC Test and
Bond ball mill work index data.

Weekly treated ore (ton)


d

1,800,000

Observed
Modelled

1,600,000
1,400,000
1,200,000
1,000,000
800,000
600,000

REFERENCES

400,000

Oct 3

Oct 1

Sep 3

Sep 1

Ago 3

Jul 3

Ago 1

Jul 1

Jun 3

Jun 1

May 3

Abr 3

Abr 1

Mar 3

Feb 3

Mar 1

Feb 1

Ene 3

Ene 1

May 1

200,000

Weeks January - October 2008

FIG 7 - Example of the accuracy of a geometallurgical model (after


Alruiz et al, 2009).

CONCLUSIONS
Given the tighter constraints on finances for ore characterisation
programs, metallurgists will need to be far more selective in their
choice of tests in future to ensure that accuracy is not necessarily
sacrificed.
The choice of appropriate test(s) should be made on the basis
of measured precision as well as demonstrated accuracy of the
techniques that subsequently use the test results to predict plant
performance.

170

This accuracy can only be truly demonstrated from analysing


large varied databases of relevant plant performances. Regardless
of claims by the developers of particular design/geometallurgical
models/techniques about how suitable and accurate they are, if
such data cannot be presented to validate claimed accuracy,
metallurgists should be extremely wary of utilising such models/
techniques.
In terms of the required number of tests, a staged approach is
recommended in which, as projects develop from the prefeasibility
stage, knowledge of the variability of the deposit is progressively
built and used to drive the number of tests required in subsequent
stages.

Alruiz, O M, Morrell, S, Suarzo, C J and Naranjo, A, 2009. A novel


approach to the geometallurgical modelling of the Collahuasi
grinding circuit, Minerals Engineering, 22(12):1060-1067.
Angove, J E and Dunne, R C, 1997. A review of standard physical ore
property determinations, in Proceedings World Gold 97, pp 139-144
(The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).
Morrell, S, 2004. Predicting the specific energy of autogenous and
semi-autogenous mills from small diameter drill core samples,
Minerals Engineering, 17(3):447-451.
Morrell, S, 2008. A method for predicting the specific energy
requirement of comminution circuits and assessing their energy
utilisation efficiency, Minerals Engineering, 21(3)224-233.
Morrell, S, 2009. Predicting the overall specific energy requirement of
crushing, high pressure grinding roll and tumbling mill circuits,
Minerals Engineering, 22(6)544-549.
Stark, S, Perkins, T and Napier Munn, T J, 2008. JK drop weight
parameters A statistical analysis of their accuracy and precision and
the effect on SAG mill comminution circuit design, in MetPlant 2008,
pp 147-156 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy:
Melbourne).

Adelaide, SA, 12 - 14 October 2009

Tenth Mill Operators Conference