Outstanding particle breakage advance celebrated – presentation of the CEEC Medal at Procemin-Geomet 2017, Chile

CEEC CEO Alison Keogh presents the CEEC Medal (Technical Research) to Professor Frank Shi.
CEEC CEO Alison Keogh presents the CEEC Medal (Technical Research) to Professor Frank Shi.

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CEO Alison Keogh presented the CEEC Medal (technical research category) to Professor Fengnian (Frank) Shi, a researcher from the SMI-JKMRC of The University of Queensland, at a special presentation at Procemin-Geomet 2017 in Santiago on 6 October.

Professor Shi accepted the award on behalf of Dr Weiran Zuo and Professor Emmy Manlapig, his colleagues and co-authors of “Pre-concentration of copper ores by high voltage pulses. Part 2: Opportunities and challenges”, a paper published by Minerals Engineering in 2015.

Shi, Zuo and Manlapig identified a low-energy approach to particle breakage by high-voltage electrical pulses. The advance identifies a mechanism that can be used to achieve pre-concentration. High voltage pulses selectively break those particles containing mineralisation, after which size-based screening can be used to separate the feed into high and low grade products.

In their paper, the authors discuss: (1) the potential applications of electrical pulse ore pre-concentration techniques, (2) the challenge of implementing the technology at a full-scale operation, and (3) the research required to overcome the barriers and maximise the potential benefits of the technology for the mineral industry.

The authors identified four potential applications of the technology: (1) barren rock rejection from the AG/SAG mill pebble stream; (2) coarse waste rejection at the mine site to reduce ROM haulage, (3) pre-weakening and pre-concentration of the AG/SAG mill feed, and (4) separation to enable low and high-grade comminution and recovery circuits.

Understanding the effects of ore variation and overcoming the challenges of machine scale-up were identified as areas that needed to be addressed before the technology would be ready for operational uptake. Although the technology has potential, the authors suggest that further research is required to overcome these challenges and establish the financial viability of the technology. They propose a 4D characterisation plot to assist with the evaluation of the preconcentration potential of an ore and they demonstrated its use.

In accepting the award at the Procemin-Geomet presentation, Dr Shi said it was a great honour to receive the prestigious CEEC Medal (Technical Research).

“We hope that the JKMRC research outcomes in high voltage pulse technology can be used to help mining and other industries to address the challenges they face in terms of productivity, profitability and sustainability,” he said.

CEEC Director and Medal Evaluation Committee Chair Dr Zeljka Pokrajcic said she considered Shi, Zuo and Manlapig’s work to be a genuinely disruptive development that addressed many elements of the mining process including breakage, liberation and downstream energy and productivity.

“It has potential to significantly change the way mining companies liberate valuable minerals. It has the potential to disrupt and significantly advance processing approaches and energy consumption,” she said.

CEEC CEO Alison Keogh said although the technology was at an early stage of development, if successful, the impact could be broad and far-reaching.

“Shi, Zuo and Manlapig’s outstanding publication outlines an exciting, potentially industry-changing advance in energy-efficient comminution and mining,” she said.

The CEEC Medal is a prestigious annual award for the most outstanding published papers, articles or case studies that profile energy-efficient comminution and mineral processing strategies. Nominations are reviewed by the CEEC Medal Evaluation Committee for applicability, supporting research and documentation, prospective impact, potential energy savings, and presentation style. This year a record number of nominations were received and the competition was extraordinarily high.

Shi, Zuo and Manlapig’s paper were winners of the research category. Winners of the operations category of the CEEC Medal, Aidan Giblett and Steven Hart, were presented with their award by CEEC Chair Joe Pease at MetPlant 2017. Their paper, “Grinding Circuit Practices at Newmont”, was delivered at the AusIMM’s Mill Operators Conference in 2016.