Automated Mineralogy – From Concept to Process Control and Optimisation
Automated mineralogy is a term used to describe the automated characterisation of ores, minerals and geological samples. The data produced by the automated mineralogy system can be used to characterise ore bodies as well as directly influence process design and process optimisation.
When automated mineralogy solutions such as the TIMA-X are integrated into the workflow of a minesite, the generated data can be used to achieve large gains through optimised grinding and flotation, which ultimately result in increased recovery rates and improved profitability.
Origins of Automated Mineralogy
The concept of automated mineralogy stems from the 1970’s. CSIRO was a pioneer in the field building the first prototype in 1982. This system consisted of an analog SEM with three PGT EDS detectors.
Back then, the X-ray acquisition rates of EDS detectors was slow, they required liquid nitrogen cooling and were unable to detect light elements. The SEMs were analog, lacked automation and had poor integration with the EDS. Computer technology was also limited, with slow processor speeds and small data storage volumes.
The technology has advanced immensely since the prototype was built. EDS detectors now feature the latest SDD (Silicon drift detector) technology that offer high count rates, they do not require LN2 cooling and have superior light element detection capabilities. SEMs are now digital, with high levels of automation, while current generation computing provides massively faster processing speeds and vastly increased data storage. Furthermore, increasingly sophisticated software/algorithms enable more detailed analysis while hardware and software of leading systems is now integrating seamlessly and offers offline data processing as well as unattended operation. The best part however is, samples can now be fully and automatically analysed and characterised in minutes as opposed to hours, providing data in close to real time.
Traditionally Automated Mineralogy has been used as a tool to optimise the process metallurgy flow sheet determining optimum grind size and liberation. In more recent times it has evolved into a much more versatile tool providing so much more value.
Paul Gottlieb is considered to be one of the Godfathers of automated mineralogy helping to develop the prototype and technology at CSIRO. His expertise and experience is now being applied to the TIMA-X at TESCAN, where he serves as the product manager for the TIMA-X.
Automated Mineralogy Today
Automated Mineralogy has come a long way in the past 30 years. Modern technology has automated what the traditional mineralogist could only aspire to do. Fast accurate outputs for quantitative mineralogy combined with mineral associations, texture and grain size operating unattended 24/7! Element deportment studies reveal your exact mineralogy allowing optimal extraction methodologies to be designed
With the latest generation hardware and software the TIMA-X automated mineralogy solution can be located onsite to minimise delays due to transport. It offers the ultimate in speed and reliability, producing results in almost real time to ensure optimal plant performance. These results have better precision and accuracy than ever before, allowing you to better optimise your operation for efficiency and profitability.
With an easier to use operator interface, the system is now even simpler to use. The addition of the autoloader, unique to the TIMA-X, also allows you to queue 100 samples so the system is operating to its maximum potential and operator input is minimised providing for 24/7 operation. Remote access allows operators to monitor the system from offsite, with the ability to login at any time of the day or night.
Automated outputs such as definitive mineral assemblages take away the guesswork for geologists enabling them to define lithology in addition to paragenetic and crystal morphology studies to decipher the sequence of mineral formations. Accurate characterisation of all minerals to 0.01% integrated into block modeling aids scheduling of ore as well as gangue for mining, stockpiling and blending.
The data from the TIMA-X can integrated into your process workflow and fed directly back into the process control system so that adjustments can be made dynamically to your production environment to increase the efficiency of your process and to realise higher recovery rates.
TIMA automated mineralogy can be used to generate benefits in the following areas: