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Presentation to The Mill Optimisation Summit 2011

Optimising SAG mill throughput:

A case study in tuning

Presented by:
Paul Wilson
Technology Manager
Calibre Automation, Communications & Technology Group

Two SAG mills

The mills
Porgera Mine, PNG
4.5 Megawatt, variable speed drive
About 500 tonnes per hour per mill
Highly variable lithology with grinding factors from
6 to 18 kilowatt hours per tonne

The mills

Unstable behaviour
The mills were often unstable, seen as oscillations
in the feedrate trend graphs

Loss of production
As much as 15% on bad days
Up to 380 ounces of gold per day on bad
At $425 US per ounce = $160,000 per day
You could hire a very good plant operator
for that kind of money

Natural instability
Poor tuning causes natural instability

Operator-caused instability
Poor operator skills also forces instability

The control system

Highest level
Minnovex expert system control
Optional top level control
Constraint control
Closed loop control
Bottom level
Delta-V distributed control system

The Minnovex expert system

A fuzzy rules based artificial intelligence system
Running on a G2 expert system shell
Running on a Windows NT PC platform
Takes data from, & feeds setpoints to, the loop
controllers on the Delta-V

Performance comparison
Expert system control is far better than poor operator control

Why mills go unstable (#1)

Mills stall (bog or centrifuge). The behaviour
at maximum throughput is highly non-linear

Why mills go unstable (#2)

Dynamic behaviour of a mill is type 1
Control engineers recognise that type 1
systems are more likely to be unstable than
type 0 systems
Caused by the inherent integration in the mill
transfer function

Why mills go unstable (#2)

Mill load (level) is the integral of the nett
level = (Qin Qout).dt
This induces a -90o phase shift in the transfer
function which leads to reduced stability


Why mills go unstable (#2)

The integration causes a phase shift

Simulated integral response


Why mills go unstable (#3)

1. When a mill stalls it stops working.
2. The mill fills with unground material.
3. It takes time to grind out the rock and get the
outflow going again
So: the control system / plant operator must be:


The result of operator impatience


Mill under tuned expert system control


Expert system recovers from a motor

overheat event

Section A to B is the maximum speed of recovery to

prevent stalling the mill again

The result
In 2004 / 2005 mill production rose from
850,000 ounces to 1,000,000 ounces
At $425 US per ounce that was
$63.75 million US increase per year

Not possible without increasing SAG mill throughput


Extra energy used

The difference in energy usage between
the unstable zone and the stable zone is:
the unstable zone averages
25% more motor energy per tonne of product
than the stable zone and produces
15% less product
Which adds 10% to the energy costs for the remainder of
the processing plant

How was it done?

Develop a mathematical model
Use trend plots and tests to characterise the
mill (find the characteristics of mill behaviour)
Estimate fastest possible recovery times on
the worst-case ores
Retune the expert system rules for robust,
always-stable behaviour


How was it done?

Block diagram model of mill behaviour


How was it done?

Transfer function of mill load to ore feedrate


Additional development
The decision to secondary crush the harder
A secondary crusher was installed. With a bit of clever
mathematics we were able to estimate SAG mill
grinding factor at the primary crusher. We used this
to feed some of the hard ore (GF > 10 kWhr per
tonne) through the secondary crusher thus
increasing SAG mill throughput on the harder ore.



Your questions are welcome

Plant characterisation & transfer function development
is a complex process. I am happy to discuss some
of the methods afterwards with anyone interested.