One of the world’s biggest resources companies recently engaged the services of an Australian research consortium to examine deployment of cutting edge preconcentration techniques.
Olympic Dam is 560 kilometres north of Adelaide and is one of the world’s most significant deposits of copper, gold, silver, and uranium. This large BHP site is made up of underground and surface operations and conducts fully integrated processing from ore to metal.
The South Australian operation is one of the locations where BHP is actively examining bulk ore sensing and sorting opportunities – techniques within the Grade Engineering® suite of preconcentration technologies.
Grade Engineering is a key innovation of the Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE). It is an integrated approach to coarse rejection that matches a suite of separation technologies to ore specific characteristics and compares the net value of rejecting low value components in current feed streams to existing mine plans as part of a system-view.
CRC ORE was requested by BHP to assist in the assessment of bulk ore sorting opportunities at Olympic Dam.
BHP Principal Technology Lee Bolden said that as a CRC ORE Participant, the diversified miner had watched with interest the sorting and sensing work that CRC ORE is undertaking in open pit and underground operations.
“It made sense for us to have CRC ORE provide us with valuable insights on this work and input into our bulk ore sorting plans,” Mr Bolden said.
BHP received a high-level bulk ore sorting deployment strategy from CRC ORE for Olympic Dam, along with a framework and calculator for the quantification and ranking of bulk ore sorting strategies at the operation.
CRC ORE also identified the critical work and data required to strengthen the evaluation of bulk ore sorting with the Olympic Dam Project team.
CRC ORE Chief Operating Officer Dr Luke Keeney said there were several deployment options among the opportunities assessed.
“We explored sublevel open stoping under the current mining environment, along with block caving as part of future-state mining options,” Dr Keeney said.
As part of the assessment, BHP received a high-level estimate of value from these deployment options.
Dr Keeney said the engagement of CRC ORE at Olympic Dam demonstrated the commitment of big miners to apply innovation to their processes.
“With the need for valuable minerals continuing to grow and mining these minerals becoming ever more difficult, mine operators need to think differently,” Dr Keeney said.
“Bulk ore sorting, and other Grade Engineering opportunities become increasingly competitive and complementary solutions where mined grades decline and mining dilution increases.”
More information on Grade Engineering can be found at crcore.org.au/gradeengineering.