Functional Performance of Ball Milling Circuits – A Plant Metallurgist’s Tool for Process Characterisation and Optimisation

Volume Title: 12th Mill Operators' Conference 2014

A voracious consumer of energy and grinding media, the modern ball milling circuit has a huge direct cost impact on a mineral processing operation. Through optimisation, grinding also has the potential to unlock great improvements in recovery and throughput, but how can the complex interactions between mills, classifiers, tonnage, ore-type and downstream recovery be measured, understood and managed in a systematic manner?

Functional performance analysis provides the tools and insights needed to measure, understand and improve the two key process efficiencies in ball milling circuits: classification system efficiency (CSE) and mill grinding efficiency.

CSE measures the composite performance of the classification system as a whole. In short, the purpose of the classification system is to ensure that grinding mill energy is used to grind coarse particles while minimising overgrinding. CSE is simple to measure in the plant and it provides immediate feedback to the plant metallurgist, mill superintendent and management about the performance of the classification system and the amount of wasted energy in the grinding plant.

Mill grinding efficiency measures the capacity of the grinding mill to convert feed-sized material into product-sized material on a tonnes per kilowatt hour basis. It is normalised based upon the ore resistance to breakage, so it provides feedback about the ‘health’ of the milling process under varying operating conditions and ore types. Mill grinding efficiency is measured at the same time as CSE through circuit sampling.

Functional performance analysis combines CSE and mill grinding efficiency to provide a measureable, manageable optimisation objective. It also provides a link to tonnage, ore type and recovery. As a result, systematic optimisation of a grinding circuit is a measureable and manageable process to meet business objectives.


Bartholomew, K M, McIvor, R E and Arafat, O, 2014. Functional performance of ball milling circuits – a plant metallurgist’s tool for process characterisation and optimisation, in Proceedings 12th AusIMM Mill Operators’ Conference 2014 , pp 227–232 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).