How Energy Efficient is HPGR?

The world is rapidly becoming more "green" i.e. energy conscious. Since mining and mineral processing are massive energy users, the mining industry is seeking ways to reduce its energy footprint. In mining and mineral processing operations, energy is often the most expensive cost item. Comminution, i.e. grinding, is frequently the most energy-intensive step between mine and metal. High pressure grinding rolls (HPGR) are being installed in a rapidly growing number of "hard rock" mineral processing operations. In the energy conscious cement industry, HPGR grinding has been standard practice for decades. HPGR is known to be energy-efficient; the question is how energy efficient? How can the energy efficiency of HPGR be enhanced? This paper reviews recent HPGR applications for the processing particularly of copper, gold, platinum, PGM-Ni-Cu and iron ores. HPGR technology is discussed with respect to energy efficiency. The harder the ore the greater the energy savings are likely to be. Typical energy savings of 10-20% can be expected when installing HPGR vs. a SAG mill. Wipf(2005) showed why conventional Bond Work index tests on HPGR product is likely to under-estimate the energy savings that can be achieved by installing HPGR. Energy efficiency of HPGR is, however, ore-specific. The biggest energy savings of HPGR tested thus far is 9.5 kWh/tonne claimed for Vista Gold's Mt. Todd gold ore from Western Australia, a savings of over one-third of conventional SABC comminution energy. Several commercial scale iron-ore pellet feed plants install HPGR for fine-grinding of concentrate to increase the surface area of pellet feed in a manner that reduces overall energy consumption. Energy-consumption in comminution is, however, only part of the energy savings benefit story. HPGR typically also reduces the amount of steel lost through wear of mill liners and media. Marsden(2008) showed that when the energy that would have been consumed to produce the steel that is saved by applying HPGR is factored in, then the overall energy savings of HPGR is considerably greater. Johnson et al.(1988, 2005) tested HPGR in a flowsheet in which energy savings of around 50% can be expected if HPGR product screen oversize is recirculated to the HPGR. Innovative flowsheets have been proposed by Rule et al.(2008) and by Morley (2008) which are expected to result in significantly increased energy savings. HPGR applied in flowsheets in conjunction with coarse ore separation devices, e.g. ore sorting or DMS to remove barren waste from HPGR feed promises significantly greater energy efficiencies. Fine-grinding and ultra-fine grinding of ore or concentrates in conventional ball mills results in energy consumptions that increase exponentially with product fineness. Wipf (2009) presented a flowsheet in which he proposed the installation of HPGR ahead of the Aerosion "Disintegrator" for ultra-fine grinding of ores and/or concentrates. This dry grinding arrangement is expected to achieve ap80 = 7 µm using up to 100 kWh/t less energy than could be achieved by wet ball milling. Using conventional comminution, an ore might require grinding to p80 = 45µm (~325 mesh), for example, to liberate the valuable components, e.g. magnetite, from gangue, e.g. silica. Inter-particle comminution in HPGR may break some ores along grain boundaries thereby liberating valuable minerals from gangue at a much coarser particle sizes. Early magnetic separation rejection of silica gangue liberated from magnetite by HPGR at coarser grain sizes could further reduce downstream comminution energy consumption.