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S. Mackinnon

a

, D. Yan

a,

*

, R. Dunne

b

a

WA School of Mines, Curtin University, LB 22 Kalgoorlie, WA 6433, Australia

b

Newcrest Mining Ltd., Perth, Australia

Received 9 May 2003; accepted 7 July 2003

Abstract

Flash otation is an important unit operation within many grinding circuits. It provides an opportunity for the valuable mineral

to be recovered as early as possible in the processing plant. This prevents liberated valuable mineral from building up in the re-

circulating load of the mill, and reduces the occurrence of overgrinding. Overgrinding can place a signicant limitation on overall

recovery, because it causes the production of valuable nes that are dicult to recover by otation.

The ash otation cell is fed by the cyclone underow in a closed grinding circuit. This feed stream represents the optimal particle

size distributions of valuable mineral and gangue for otation kinetics, selectivity and grade. The ash cell treats the recirculating

load of the ball mill, and therefore inuences the performance of both the mill and the hydrocyclone classier. The eect of a ash

cell in the grinding circuit is dicult to determine since ash cells in Australia are introduced at the design stage and so no plant data

is available before and after the introduction of the ash otation unit. By establishing a computer simulation of the closed-circuit

grinding with ash otation, the interaction of ash otation with grinding can be estimated. The models can be used to predict the

eect of various changes to the operating conditions on circuit performance as well as the expected grinding performance in the

absence of ash otation. This enables the eect of ash otation and any possible benets to be evaluated.

The model was developed from unit models of the ball milling, hydrocyclone classication and ash otation processes. An

empirical model was used for the ash cell, and generic models were tted to the ball mill and hydrocyclone based on the matrix

model and the Plitt model respectively. The data required for the development of the models was obtained from plant surveys of the

Kanowna Belle gold mine and laboratory batch grinding and otation tests.

The model accurately represents the plant grinding and ash otation circuit while operating under normal conditions. Simu-

lation of the circuit using the model enabled the eect of variations to ash cell operating conditions on the ash concentrate,

recirculating load and cyclone overow to be determined.

2003 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Keywords: Froth otation; Grinding; Modelling; Simulation

1. Introduction

Flash otation is a process that is included in many

new mineral processing plants as part of the grinding

circuit. Some of the valuable minerals can often be lib-

erated at coarse sizes, however, these particles will re-

main in the recirculating load of the mill until they are

reground small enough to report to the cyclone over-

ow. In addition, minerals of high density report to the

cyclone underow despite being ne in size. This can

lead to overgrinding and makes the recovery of valuable

nes by otation dicult (Jennings and Traczyk, 1988).

Flash otation is used to remove the readily oated

coarse particles as early as possible and can therefore

prevent overgrinding.

The objective was to develop an integrated model to

simulate the interaction of ash otation with closed

circuit grinding and to predict the aect of various cir-

cuit changes on the circuit performance. Ultimately, the

desired outcome is to be able to predict the performance

of the circuit with and without ash otation.

2. Flash otation technology

The major design dierence between the SkimAir

ash otation cell and conventional otation cells is

the conical discharge. The bottom discharge and inlet

*

Corresponding author. Tel.: +61-8-9088-6180; fax: +61-8-9088-

6181.

E-mail address: yand@wasm.curtin.edu.au (D. Yan).

0892-6875/$ - see front matter 2003 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

doi:10.1016/j.mineng.2003.07.019

Minerals Engineering 16 (2003) 11491160

This article is also available online at:

www.elsevier.com/locate/mineng

location are designed to handle the extremely coarse

material in the ash cell feed. This coarse material is

short circuited directly to the bottom discharge. This

prevents the material from interfering with the otation,

where it could lead to a higher pulp density in the cell

and the prevention of particles rising to the surface.

SkimAir otation cells can also be tted with dual

outlets for the purpose of optimising mill eciency and

ash performance in combination (see Fig. 1). The top

discharge is of a lower pulp density (4050% solids)

compared to the bottom discharge (6070% solids)

and is sometimes bypassed to the mill discharge. The

bottom discharge of the ash cell is used to feed the ball

mill. In the cell, there is a distinct pulp density prole,

where the density increases with depth in the cell. In this

way the circuit is able to cope with the dierent water

requirements of ash otation and grinding.

2.1. Modelling

In the closed circuit to be simulated, there are three

separate mineral processing units. Therefore, three in-

dividual models need to be developed: a model for the

ball mill, the hydrocyclone classier and the ash o-

tation cell. It was not intended to develop a new model

for either the grinding or classication processes as they

are already adequately described by existing models

(Lynch, 1977; Plitt, 1976). However, coarse particle

otation is a much less understood process, and is not

satisfactorily explained by the generic otation models,

which are better suited to conventional otation. The

focus of the experimental work was on developing a

model that well describes the ash otation process, and

incorporating this in a circuit with ball mill and cyclone

models that have been tted to suitable generic models

from experimental data.

A comprehensive model of a two-component (valu-

able mineral and gangue) otation system will include

equations of recovery for all size intervals of the two

components. This enables the total recovery and con-

centrate grade to be determined for variations in the

feed grade and size distribution. This will allow ash

otation performance to be predicted as the recirculat-

ing load of the mill changes.

2.2. Modelling closed circuit grinding with ash otation

A matrix modelling approach could be used for ash

otation in closed circuit grinding, similar to the meth-

ods used by Laplante et al. (1995) to predict the recovery

of gold by gravity concentration. This technique models

gravity concentration in terms of the entire milling cir-

cuit, therefore including the concepts of grinding, lib-

eration and classication as well as the recovery within

the concentrator. The model is a population balance

that is developed from a combination of plant data and

laboratory results. In eect, Laplantes prediction of

gravity recoverable gold (GRG) incorporated models of

a ball mill, hydrocyclone and gravity concentrator.

Laplante and Dunne (2002) applied this approach to

GRG in a grinding circuit with ash otation, rather

than a gravity concentrator, to predict the recovery of

free gold in the ash concentrate.

The GRG model could also be applied to the recov-

ery of pyrite in the ash cell and takes a convenient

matrix form. It demonstrates a way by which the indi-

Fig. 1. Cross-section of a ash otation cell.

1150 S. Mackinnon et al. / Minerals Engineering 16 (2003) 11491160

vidual models may be combined to simulate the entire

grinding circuit, and this approach was used in the

model development for this investigation.

Flash otation removes liberated valuable minerals

from the recirculating load of the mill. This means that

the feed to the mill is signicantly altered by the presence

of ash otation. This changes the mill product, the

cyclone underow and the returned load to the mill. The

simulation of closed circuit grinding with ash otation

requires the ball mill, the hydrocyclone and the ash cell

to all reach steady state, as they all inuence the per-

formance of the others in a loop. The models of each

unit process can be integrated so that iterations can be

performed on the models until steady state is reached in

the circuit, from a given new feed. This will enable

closed circuit grinding to be simulated at steady state

with and without the inclusion of a ash cell, so that the

eect of ash otation on the performance of the mill

can be determined. The mill performance can be looked

at in terms of recirculating load, ash cell concentrate

ow rate and the classication eciency and split size of

the hydrocyclone. The distribution of particle sizes and

sulphur in the cyclone overow is indicative of the

impact of ash otation on the feed to conventional

otation (the cyclone overow) and the expected per-

formance of the otation circuit.

2.3. Model development

The model of the grinding circuit is a composite of

the circuit models for both componentspyrite and

gangue. Sucient data was available to determine a

function that accurately related the size distribution of

total solids with the size distribution of pyrite in the ore.

The full circuit model for each component is composed

of three individual process models (ball mill grinding,

hydrocyclone classication and ash otation) that are

linked together in a process loop. In turn, ash otation

involves two partsash internal classication and

ash otation recovery. These individual process mod-

els, with the exception of ash otation recovery, are

developed from the plant survey data. The ash ota-

tion recovery model is developed from a combination of

laboratory otation results and plant survey data.

The circuit model is based on matrices and vectors,

and is structured to be non-iterative. This means that

streams can be calculated all around the process loop so

that unknowns can be substituted out of the equations.

Each process model is included as a transformation

matrix. The transformation matrices are ball mill

grinding G, hydrocyclone classication C, partial

bypass P, ash internal classication D and ash

otation recovery R. Each stream was divided into 18

size intervals making each transformation matrix an

18 18 matrix. All streams are represented by 18 1

vectors of the component mass ows in each size inter-

val, where the only input vector that the model requires

is f, the SAG mill discharge. All other streams can be

determined by a single calculation involving f and the

transformation matrices. The model owsheet is shown

in Fig. 2 and a key for the stream vectors is shown in

Table 1.

All model calculations involve matrix addition, sub-

traction, multiplication and inversion. Starting in the

discharge hopper, the cyclone feed is dened as Eq. (1),

where m and r are unknowns.

c f m r 1

The cyclone underow is calculated by applying the

transformation matrix C (Eq. (2)).

u C f m r 2

Similarly, the ash top discharge, r, can be calculated by

applying P, D and R in sequence, as in Eq. (3), where I is

the 18 18 identity matrix.

r I R I D P C f m r 3

This can be rearranged so that r is dened by f, m, C, P,

D and R only (Eq. (4)).

IIR ID P C rIR ID P C f m

rIIR ID P C

1

IR ID P C f m

4

t

Conventional

Flotation feed

SAG mill discharge

d

r

x

i

p

b

u

o

m c

f

Flash

Internal Classification

D

Flash Recovery

R

Partial Bypass

P

Hydrocyclone

Classification

C

Ball Mill Grinding

G

Fig. 2. Grinding/ash otation model circuit owsheet.

Table 1

Circuit streams and their model representations

Stream Stream vector

SAG mill discharge f

Ball mill discharge m

Cyclone feed c

Cyclone overow o

Cyclone underow u

Flash bypass b

Flash feed p

Flash concentrate d

Flash classication top product t

Flash top discharge r

Flash bottom discharge i

Recirculating load x

S. Mackinnon et al. / Minerals Engineering 16 (2003) 11491160 1151

For simplicity, we can dene T in Eq. (5).

r T f m where 5

T I I R I D P C

1

I R I D P C

The ball mill discharge is dened as follows (Eq. (6)).

m G I P D P C f m r 6

M is dened as

m M f m r where 7

M G I P D P C

We can substitute r from Eq. (5) into Eq. (7) and rear-

range to solve for m (Eq. (8)).

m I M I T

1

M I T f 8

Similarly, r can be determined by substituting m into

Eq. (5).

r T fI I M I T

1

M I Tg f 9

Eqs. (8) and (9) allow all streams in the circuit to be

dened by the new feed f and the process model

transformation matrices. These equations are the fun-

damental solutions to the circuit model.

Microsoft Excel has been used to host the model. The

only inputs to the model are the mass ow, sulphur

grade and size distribution for the SAG mill discharge.

Additionally, the ash cell is controlled by a mass pull

factor and the split of the cyclone underow to the ash

cell can be entered. From this data, the model can fully

dene all streams in the circuit and calculate the relevant

performance indicators. The circuit model operates as a

two-component (pyrite and gangue) system. As there is

a very strong correlation between the distribution of

total solids to the distribution of pyrite, the pyrite dis-

tribution is calculated from the input SAG mill dis-

charge distribution. This enables the model to dene the

new feed distributions of both components.

3. Experimental procedure

The model of ash otation and closed-circuit

grinding was developed using two data sourcesoper-

ating data from a plant survey and the results of labo-

ratory otation tests. The objective of the laboratory

testwork was to simulate ash otation so that the re-

sults were comparable to the performance of ash o-

tation in the plant. The otation performance could

then be determined experimentally with changes to the

operating conditions in the laboratory cell. The equiv-

alent performance of the plant ash cell can be ascer-

tained without having to change parameters within the

plant, by scaling the results from the laboratory tests.

This requires the replication of plant conditions in the

laboratory and the simulation of the ash cell feed by

laboratory grinding and classication.

3.1. Kanowna Belle grinding and ash otation circuit

survey

This project required knowledge of the composition

of all grinding and ash otation streams in the plant. A

survey of the milling circuit was conducted at Kanowna

Belle. Samples were collected over the duration of an

hour, where samples were taken every 10 min to obtain a

composite sample. Plant parameters (most importantly

mill feed rate, cyclone feed rate and ash cell operating

variables) were recorded from the control system for the

period of the survey. Samples were obtained for the

following streams:

SAG mill discharge,

ball mill discharge,

cyclone feed,

cyclone overow,

cyclone underow,

ash concentrate,

ash top discharge.

It was not possible to sample the ash bottom dis-

charge due to the absence of a sampling point, though

this stream can be reconstituted from data obtained for

other streams around the ash cell. The samples were

analysed for particle size and gold and sulphur grades.

3.2. Analysis of raw plant data

Survey results were conrmed to be suitable for use in

modelling by balancing the data both manually and with

JKSimMet v5.1. The data balanced adequately at all

owsheet nodes for each component (total solids, water,

gold and sulphur) as total stream values, and also by

particle size. Survey data also indicated that the plant

was operating at steady state, with typical operating and

performance parameters. Therefore, the survey data was

acceptable for use in the development of a representative

circuit model and no repeat survey was required.

3.3. Ore, process water and reagents

The ore and reagents used in the laboratory tests were

collected from the Kanowna Belle Gold Mine. The

mineralogy of the ore is relatively simple and it can be

considered as a two-component (pyrite and gangue)

system. It should be noted that there is a small amount

of arsenopyrite, which also hosts gold, in the ore.

However, no attempt was made to dierentiate between

pyrite and arsenopyrite in this testwork. Due to the

strong relationship between gold and sulphide in the ore,

only assays for sulphur were required for these tests.

Samples of the blended ore were taken and assayed to

ascertain whether or not the ore was suitable for use in

otation trials. The average grades were 4.75 g/t gold

1152 S. Mackinnon et al. / Minerals Engineering 16 (2003) 11491160

and 0.99% sulphur. This is typical of plant feed, so ap-

proximately 100 kg of the ore was crushed and screening

at 5 mm. The )5 mm material was then blended and

split into 1 kg samples, which assayed at 4.54 g/t gold

(standard deviation 0.065) and 0.88% sulphur (standard

deviation 0.022). The sample bags were stored in a

freezer until they were to be used in the laboratory tests.

Process water was also collected from Kanowna Belle

for use in the laboratory tests. This was so that the pulp

chemistry in the laboratory would be similar to that in

the plant. The process water was to be uses in both

laboratory grinding and otation as the source of water.

All reagents to be used in the laboratory tests were

the same as used at Kanowna Belle. These were potas-

sium amyl xanthate, copper sulphate, Dowfroth 400 and

guar gum.

3.4. Laboratory otation tests

The ore for each otation test was prepared accord-

ing to the same methods of grinding and classication.

Approximately 1 kg of ore was prepared and placed in

the 1.5 l agitair cell and pulped with an appropriate

amount of process water. The reagent dosages, condi-

tioning times and agitation rate (900 rpm) were kept

constant throughout the tests. The oat tests were

conducted at the same percentage solids as the plant

ash cell upper section of 43% solids.

The eect of aeration rate was investigated by varying

the air rate from 2 to 6 l/min.

4. Results and discussion

4.1. Plant survey

The recovery of total solids, gold and pyrite by the

ash cell and with respect to the overall grinding circuit

is shown in Table 2. The ash cell was operating at a

concentrate grade of 22.2% sulphur and 101.1 g/t gold.

The eect of particle size on the recovery of gold, sul-

phur and total solids is shown in Fig. 3, along with the

feed distributions. It can be observed that the recovery

of pyrite by the ash cell is only signicant below 300

lm, where the optimal particle size for otation is ap-

proximately 100 lm. In contrast, the recovery of gangue

increases as particle size becomes smaller, indicating that

the mechanism of gangue recovery is essentially by non-

selective otation (entrainment).

4.2. Laboratory oat tests

The concentrate grades and recoveries for four dif-

ferent aeration rates are shown in Table 3. Plant re-

coveries, obtained from the grinding/ash otation

circuit survey are also included for comparison. It

should be noted that the plant recoveries have been re-

calculated based on recovery from the top product of

the ash internal classication, so that they can be

compared to the laboratory values.

The eect of aeration rate on recovery and grade is

shown in Fig. 4. The laboratory results were all in ac-

cordance with otation theory, where increasing aera-

tion rate results in an increase in the recovery of the

valuable mineral, though at the expense of the grade

of the concentrate. The laboratory results gave stable

Table 2

Flash otation performance relative to the ash cell and grinding

circuit feed

Recovery (%) Flash cell Grinding circuit

Total solids 2.0 3.2

Gold 51.3 77.8

Sulphur 49.2 75.1

0

2

4

6

8

10

12

14

16

18

20

9

5

0

0

6

7

0

0

4

7

5

0

3

3

5

0

2

3

6

0

1

7

0

0

1

1

8

0

8

5

0

6

0

0

4

2

5

3

0

0

2

1

2

1

5

0

1

0

6

7

5

5

3

3

8

2

5

Particle Size(m)

D

i

s

t

r

i

b

u

t

i

o

n

i

n

F

e

e

d

(

%

)

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

R

e

c

o

v

e

r

y

t

o

C

o

n

c

e

n

t

r

a

t

e

(

%

)

Mass Distribution

Gold Distribution

Sulphur Distribution

Mass Recovery

Gold Recovery

Sulphur Recovery

Fig. 3. Flash cell performance as a function of particle size.

S. Mackinnon et al. / Minerals Engineering 16 (2003) 11491160 1153

trends in a range that accommodated the performance

of the plant ash cell.

The pyrite recovery for tests 14 as a function of

particle size is presented in Fig. 5. The pyrite recoveries

followed otation theory, where there is an optimal

particle size for recovery. Above and below this particle

size, in this case approximately 100 lm, the recovery

decreases. As the gangue is non-selectively oated in the

ash cell, its recovery increases with decreasing particle

size due to the more signicant entrainment of nes.

There is a slight dierence in the shape of the recovery

curves for total solids and gangue down the nes end,

when comparing laboratory results to the plant perfor-

mance. This discrepancy is inherent in the dierent cell

designs, which can impact signicantly on the otation

performance. Similarly, the plant ash cell oats parti-

cles above 300 lm better than the laboratory cell, and

this is due to scale dierences and factors such as froth

depth, agitation rate and bubble size. Also, with the

nes removed by the cyclone, more collector becomes

available to oat the coarse particles, in cases where the

collector addition is into the cyclone underow. None-

theless, the laboratory results can be scaled so that they

represent the performance of the plant ash cell over a

reasonable range of operating conditions.

4.3. Calculation of process model matrices

The matrices G, C, P and D are all determined using

the plant survey data. P is merely the split of cyclones

that feed the ash cell and is therefore a diagonal matrix

where the diagonal elements are all n=8, where n is the

number of cyclones that feed the ash cell (eight is the

total number of cyclones). This value corresponds to

0.625 for the operation of the plant as observed during

the plant survey.

The two classication matrices, C and D are regres-

sions of the classication eciency curves, E, placed into

a matrix form. The classication eciency is calculated

according to Eq. (10).

E

i

Mass flow of size interval i in underflow

Mass flow of size interval i in feed

10

Therefore, the classication matrices can both be cal-

culated from the mass ows, size distribution and size

fraction sulphur assays of the underow and overow

streams at each classication stage.

The grinding matrix, G, is more dicult to determine

because it is a lower triangular matrix and contains

many more unknown elements that cannot be calculated

individually from experimental data. G was solved using

Excels equation solver to determine the transformation

matrix that converts recirculating load (x) to ball mill

discharge (m) with minimal error. However, this re-

quires more computational power than Excel has to

oer, so the calculation is simplied by using a modied

matrix model for grinding. This separates the grinding

matrix into a breakage function, B, and a selection

function, S. The relationship between B, S and G is

shown in Eq. (11) (Lynch, 1977). The breakage function

can be given a predetermined form, in this case a

modied RosinRammler distribution (Broadbent and

Table 3

Overall grade and recovery results for laboratory otation trials

Aeration

rate (l/min)

Total solids

recovery (%)

Sulphur

recovery (%)

Concentrate

grade (% S)

1 3.0 9.6 91.2 14.8

2 4.0 15.2 91.6 10.7

3 2.0 7.6 90.4 19.2

4 6.0 19.8 92.6 6.9

Plant 17.3 91.0 22.2

90

80

70

60

20

10

0

30

40

50

100

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Aeration Rate (L/min)

R

e

c

o

v

e

r

y

(

%

)

0

5

10

15

20

25

S

u

l

p

h

u

r

G

r

a

d

e

(

%

)

Total Solids Recovery Pyrite Recovery Gangue Recovery Concentrate Sulphur Grade

Fig. 4. The eect of aeration rate on recovery and grade.

1154 S. Mackinnon et al. / Minerals Engineering 16 (2003) 11491160

Calcott, 1956) with a scale factor (Eq. (12)). Addition-

ally, the breakage function is assumed to be normalised.

This enables Excel to t the selection function to the

experimental data with relative simplicity.

G B S I S 11

B

ij

a

i

1 e

xi =xj

1 e

1

12

where B

ij

is the breakage distribution function of size i

from size j, x

i

and x

j

are particle sizes such that x

i

6x

j

.

and a

i

is a constant.

Fig. 6 shows the model selection function calculated

from the plant survey data.

The nal process model matrix is the otation re-

covery matrix, R. This is taken from the laboratory

experimental data, where the data is scaled to correlate

with the data obtained from the plant survey. The major

factor controlling the performance of the ash cell is the

total mass pull rate of concentrate. This depends on

several operating parameters, including froth depth,

aeration rate and water addition. For simplicity, the

model will take this into account as a mass pull factor,

arbitrarily placed on a scale of zero to ten. The mass pull

factor is related directly to the actual total solids re-

covery of the ash cell by a simple linear relationship.

The recovery of pyrite and gangue at each particle size

was regressed against total solids recovery so that a re-

lationship was determined between mass pull factor and

recovery. The otation recovery matrix, R, is a diagonal

matrix containing these functions. Due to signicant

dierences in scale and design between the laboratory

and plant ash cells, the major distinction between the

performance of the plant ash cell and the laboratory

cell was the otation of gangue, so a scale factor was

required to make laboratory data representative of the

plant conditions.

0.0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6

0.7

0.8

0.9

1.0

0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 9000 1000

Particle Size (m)

S

e

l

e

c

t

i

o

n

f

u

n

c

t

i

o

n

Pyrite Gangue

Fig. 6. Model selection functions for pyrite and gangue.

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

0 100 200 300 400 500 600

Particle Size (m)

R

e

c

o

v

e

r

y

(

%

)

1 2

3 4

Plant

Fig. 5. Recovery of pyrite by particle size for oat tests 14.

S. Mackinnon et al. / Minerals Engineering 16 (2003) 11491160 1155

4.4. Evaluation of model t to experimental data

To justify use in simulation, the model must be

demonstrated to accurately t the experimental data.

Eectively, the model balances the raw experimental

data so that pyrite and gangue mass ows balance

throughout the circuit on a particle size basis. The

comparison between model and experimental data can

be made for solids and pyrite distributions, sulphur

grades, total stream mass ows and recovery by the ash

cell. There was little error associated with mass ow, and

the error can be attributed to the balancing of the raw

experimental data by the model. However, there is a

greater error associated with the sulphur grades, and

this indicates that the plant survey data did not balance

as tightly on a grade basis. In terms of ash cell per-

formance, the model is satisfactory. The model accu-

rately predicts the recovery of pyrite by particle size, and

there is only an adjustment to ash cell pyrite recovery

by 7%. This reects the observations of previous plant

surveys, where the survey results indicated a higher py-

rite recovery than the ash cell was actually operating

at. The eect was that the ash cell appeared to dis-

charge more pyrite than was being fed into the unit, and

it can be inferred that the model ash recovery is likely

to be more accurate than the recovery indicated by the

survey results. There is also a corresponding adjustment

in ash concentrate grade, where the model predicts a

slightly lower grade. This can be attributed to more fa-

vourable conditions for ne gangue otation in the

laboratory cell than in the plant ash cell. As a result,

the model slightly overestimates the recovery of gangue,

particularly in the range of 50300 lm. This is demon-

strated by the ash concentrate grade by particle size,

shown in Fig. 7.

The experimental and model pyrite distributions for

the ash cell are shown in Fig. 8. It can be seen that the

two data sets correspond fairly well, especially when

considering that pyrite distributions of ash cell streams

is fairly delicate to determine experimentally, and

therefore the onus is on the model to balance pyrite

ows by particle size. This is the source of any deviation

of model distributions from the raw experimental data.

4.5. Circuit simulation

The completed circuit model can be used to simulate

the grinding circuit of the Kanowna Belle plant, so that

the circuit performance can be predicted over a range of

operating conditions without having to physically

change the operating parameters in the plant. The value

of this practice is that some understanding of the process

and the reaction of the circuit can be obtained prior to

making a change to conditions on the plant. This can

prevent the loss of plant stability or undesirable circuit

performance. Another valuable use of the grinding and

ash otation model is that it contributes to the better

understanding of the eect that the ash otation unit

has on the rest of the grinding circuit. For these pur-

poses, the circuit is simulated over the entire range of

ash cell conditions. This is achieved by adjusting the

controlling parameter of the ash cell, the ash mass

pull factor, over its stable range of 010.

4.5.1. Eect on ash concentrate

From fundamental otation theory, there is a con-

icting relationship between grade and recovery, where

the optimal plant performance gives the desired balance

of grade and recovery. The circuit simulation illustrates

this concept well, and from the simulation data, the

operating ash cell grade-recovery curve can be deter-

mined (Fig. 9). While the curve is a somewhat unusual

shape, this is likely a result of a change in cell conditions

such that there is actually a shift in the grade-recovery

0

5

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

10 100 1000

Particle Size (m)

C

o

n

c

e

n

t

r

a

t

e

S

u

l

p

h

u

r

G

r

a

d

e

(

%

S

)

Model Data Experimental Data

Fig. 7. Comparison of model and experimental ash concentrate grades by particle size.

1156 S. Mackinnon et al. / Minerals Engineering 16 (2003) 11491160

curve. The inection in the middle region of the curve

therefore represents a transition stage that joins the two

grade-recovery curves. The exact cause of this shift is

dicult to ascertain, though it is interesting to note that

a near-identically shaped grade-recovery curve has been

observed at Cadia Mines (Hart, 2002). From the origi-

nal plant survey, the ash concentrate grade was only

22% sulphur, signicantly below the set-point of 30%

sulphur. The simulation indicates that to achieve this

grade, so that the ash concentrate can be added directly

to the nal concentrate, a ash cell recovery sacrice of

almost two percent is required. This observation is

useful for rening the way that the ash cell is operated

to achieve its grade specications and indicates how the

ash performance may change as the operating point

moves along the grade-recovery curve due to a change to

operating conditions.

Flash cell performance can also be quantied by

looking at selectivity. In this case, selectivity is the re-

covery of the valuable mineral, pyrite, relative to the

recovery of gangue. Often selectivity is quantied as a

selectivity index (SI), which is the ratio of recoveries.

The ash cell operating curve is shown in Fig. 10. Se-

lectivity is seen to decrease as the concentrate mass pull

rate increases due to the increased prevalence of gangue

entrainment.

The eect of ash cell performance on the size dis-

tribution and pyrite distribution of the ash concentrate

is also important to consider. The particle size distri-

bution of the concentrate at several total solids recov-

eries is shown in Fig. 11, and from this it can be seen

that the ash concentrate is ner at higher mass pull

rates. This is due to the increased prevalence of ne

gangue entrainment, and is undesirable as a signicant

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

10 100 1000 10000

Particle Size (m)

C

u

m

u

l

a

t

i

v

e

P

e

r

c

e

n

t

P

a

s

s

i

n

g

Flash Feed Flash Concentrate Top Discharge Bottom Discharge

Flash Feed Flash Concentrate Top Discharge Bottom Discharge

Exp

Model

Fig. 8. Comparison of model and experimental ash cell pyrite size distribution.

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44

Sulphur Recovery (%)

C

o

n

c

e

n

t

r

a

t

e

G

r

a

d

e

(

%

S

)

Fig. 9. Simulated ash cell grade-recovery curve.

S. Mackinnon et al. / Minerals Engineering 16 (2003) 11491160 1157

benet of ash otation is the coarser concentrate ob-

tained and the increased ease of dewatering the con-

centrate. However, the eect of the ash cell operation

on the pyrite distribution is opposite, as at higher mass

pull rates, the ash cell has the ability to recover larger

pyrite particles, and the pyrite distribution becomes

coarser (Fig. 12). This eect is not as signicant though,

because a high degree of pyrite recovery is already

achieved, and the change is fairly marginal.

4.5.2. Eect on recirculating load

The eect that the ash cell has on the recirculating

load is an important trend to consider, as one of the

primary aims of ash otation is to reduce the valuable

component of the recirculating stream so that the ten-

dency to overgrind is reduced. Simulation of the circuit

showed that the recirculating load, expressed as a per-

centage of new circuit feed, decreased signicantly as

ash cell recovery increased. With the ash cell recov-

ering no concentrate (ash mass pull factor set at zero),

the model predicts the total solids recirculating load to

be 261%. The eect of increasing the ash mass pull

factor is shown in Fig. 13. Grinding eciency reaches

optimal conditions at a ash mass pull factor of ap-

proximately seven (1.7% solids recovery), beyond which

there is a gradual increase in recirculating load. The

eect is not merely a case of displacing part of the re-

circulating load to the ash concentrate, as for the 0

8.83 tph range of concentrate mass pull rates there is a

corresponding change in recirculating load from 621.8

to 608.5 tph. This indicates that the ash cell does have a

benecial eect on both grinding and classication e-

39.0

39.5

40.0

40.5

41.0

41.5

42.0

42.5

43.0

43.5

44.0

0.7 0.9 1.1 1.3 1.5 1.7

Gangue Recovery (%)

P

y

r

i

t

e

R

e

c

o

v

e

r

y

(

%

)

SI = 27

SI = 56

Fig. 10. Flash cell selectivity index (SI).

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

Particle Size (m)

C

u

m

u

l

a

t

i

v

e

P

e

r

c

e

n

t

P

a

s

s

i

n

g

(

%

)

1.24%

1.61%

2.00%

2.15%

0 100 200 300 400 500 600

Fig. 11. Eect of mass pull rate on ash concentrate size distribution.

1158 S. Mackinnon et al. / Minerals Engineering 16 (2003) 11491160

ciency in the circuit. This is also evident in the pyrite

recirculating load, which at a ash mass pull factor of

zero, is predicted to be 318%. The fact that this value is

higher than the corresponding total solids recirculating

load emphasises the tendency of the cyclone to enrich

the underow stream with the pyrite, and partly justies

the treatment of this stream by otation. There is a

much greater change in the pyrite recirculating load with

a variation in concentrate mass pull rates, as the pyrite is

more favourably recovered by the ash cell.

4.5.3. Eect on cyclone overow

The inuence of ash recovery on the cyclone over-

ow is reasonably straightforward, as the grade of the

cyclone overow will decrease as more of the pyrite is

recovered in the ash cell. This has implications for the

performance of the conventional otation circuit, which

is designed for residence times that are determined from

a given pyrite content. The other major eect that the

ash cell has on the cyclone overow is the pyrite dis-

tribution. While the total solids size distribution does

not change signicantly, the pyrite component does

become marginally ner at higher ash concentrate pull

rates, and this is due to the recovery of coarse pyrite by

the ash cell. Under these conditions, the exposure of

the pyrite to grinding is minimised. This could be ex-

pected to give a coarser cyclone overow pyrite distri-

bution, due to the reduction in overgrinding, but it is

apparent that the ash cell must recover a signicant

proportion of pyrite that is close to the pyrite cut size of

the cyclones. The recovery of this near-size material in

the ash cell concentrate is more signicant to the

overall cyclone overow pyrite distribution than the

reduction in the amount of pyrite slimes produced by

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

0 100 200 300 400 500 600

Particle Size m)

)

C

u

m

u

l

a

t

i

v

e

P

e

r

c

e

n

t

P

a

s

s

i

n

g

(

%

)

Flash Conc. O/F

1.24% full bypass

1.61% 0.61%

2.00% 1.61%

2.15% 2.15%

Fig. 12. Eect of mass pull rate (solids recovery) on ash concentrate and cyclone overow pyrite size distribution.

150

170

190

210

230

250

270

0.50 .7 0.91 .1 1.31 .5 1.71 .9 2.1 2.3

Total Solids Recovery (%)

R

e

c

i

r

c

u

l

a

t

i

n

g

L

o

a

d

(

%

)

Total Solids

Pyrite

Fig. 13. Eect of ash concentrate mass pull on recirculating load.

S. Mackinnon et al. / Minerals Engineering 16 (2003) 11491160 1159

overgrinding. The lesser production of pyrite slimes is

evident when looking at overall recoveries, but it can be

inferred that it only takes a minor amount of valuable

slimes to give signicant tails losses. However, the sim-

ulation of the circuit demonstrates that the cyclone

overow pyrite distribution becomes distinctly ner

when recovering no ash concentrate or with the ash

cell in bypass (Fig. 13). Full ash bypass results in a

cyclone overow 90% passing size of 140 lm, compared

with 170 lm for typical plant operation. This can be

interpreted as conditions under which the pyrite is likely

experiencing overgrinding and overall plant recovery

would be expected to suer as a result of this.

5. Conclusions

A model of ash otation has been developed that is

incorporated into a circuit containing grinding and

classication models. The overall circuit model simulates

the grinding and ash otation circuit of an operating

gold mine and can be used to predict the performance of

the circuit under a range of operating conditions. The

model was constructed as individual process unit models

from plant data and laboratory otation test results, and

the model takes a non-iterative matrix form. A com-

parison of the model results with plant survey data

demonstrates that the model accurately represents the

plant circuit while operating under normal conditions.

Simulation of the circuit has demonstrated that the

ash cell follows all trends that would be expected from

theory, and has yielded some key observations regarding

the operation of the ash cell to meet concentrate grade

requirements, including the ash otation selectivity and

the mechanism by which the gangue enters the concen-

trate. The model also gives a good indication of the ash

cell and circuit recovery that can be met to achieve a

ash concentrate grade of 30% sulphur. The eect of

alterations to the ash cell operation on the rest of the

circuit, including grinding and classication eciencies,

recirculating loads and the degree of pyrite exposure to

grinding can be simulated.

A successful model design has been developed that

represents ash otation in closed-circuit grinding, and

this design can accommodate further renements that

will ultimately yield a circuit model that can be used to

represent all processes that occur in the circuit and to

predict the circuit performance with precision.

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the support of Placer

Dome Asia Pacic, Kanowna Belle Operations and

Newcrest Mining Ltd. who were a wealth of information

and nancial support.

References

Broadbent, S., Calcott, T., 1956. A matrix analysis of processes

involving particle assemblies. Philosophical Transactions of the

Royal Society of London Series A 249, 99123, London.

Hart, S., 2002, private communication.

Jennings, M., Traczyk, F., 1988. Flash Flotation of Sulphide and

Oxide Ores at Echo Bay Minerals Company, Perth International

Gold Conference, Perth.

Laplante, A., Vincent, F., Noaparast, M., Woodcock, F., Boulet, A.,

Dubee, G., Robitaille, J., 1995. Predicting Gold Recovery by

Gravity, XIX International Mineral Processing Congress, San

Francisco, 4, pp. 1925 (Chapter 4).

Laplante, A., Dunne, R., 2002. The gravity recoverable gold test and

ash otation, in: Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the

Canadian Mineral Processors, Ottawa.

Lynch, A., 1977. Mineral Crushing and Grinding Circuits: Their

Simulation, Optimisation, Design and Control. Elsevier Scientic

Publishing, Amsterdam.

Plitt, L., 1976. A mathematical model of the hydrocyclone. Canadian

Institute of Metals Bulletin (December), 114123, Canada.

1160 S. Mackinnon et al. / Minerals Engineering 16 (2003) 11491160

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