Hackathons helping to solve comminution issues: Steel Ballers take out Nickel West grinding circuit challenge with machine learning solution

Unearthed’s hackathons are bringing together the world’s sharpest minds to solve tough industry challenges using innovative approaches and new technology. The latest in a series of events was the 54-hour Perth hack on 13-15 April, set up to solve real challenges at BHP’s Nickel West.

Steel Ballers (a team comprising Rohan Mehra, Adam Tynas, Jade Forlani-Brennan, Stephen Mott and Naomi Naveh) took out the event with an approach that addressed grinding circuit optimisation issues at the Mt Keith operation. Mt Keith has two parallel grinding modules (a SAG mill and ball mill per module) and a third ball mill which takes a split of feed from each module to help maintain a target product size. It has a nominal throughput of 10.5Mtpa.

The Steel Ballers used machine learning regressions to create a digital model of the SAG mill in tandem with a genetic algorithm to adjust operator tuneable parameters. This approach increased grinding circuit throughput by 3%.

Runner-up was Eclipse with its holistic process solution to the regulation of the Kwinana Nickel Refinery’s leach recovery. Rush Hour took out the young innovator award with its work to prevent shutdowns at Kwinana from solid scale build-up in pipes.

For full coverage on this event, see the Mining Monthly article by Noel Dyson here.