Step Change in the Context of Comminution

Much has been written about innovation and the need for “game-changing” step change. There is no doubt that there are many challenges facing the mining and minerals industry and hence it is appropriate that the industry examines the level of response required. “Step Change” should not be regarded as a tightly defined, prescriptive descriptor, rather the industry needs to consider what it should mean in the context of the current and future challenges.

In terms of comminution, the area bears much of the burden for the use of energy in the mining-processing system. Given this specific issue it is reasonable to consider that step change should be targeted at the reduction of the energy input per unit of final product. It is important to consider energy in terms of the final output, as without this, effort could be misdirected.

To ensure the maximum effectiveness of innovation in this field, comminution must be regarded as a component of the wider system that encompasses the size reduction from the in-situ rock mass to a saleable product. In regard to the total system, some of the key considerations are philosophical, not technological. Such points include the need to simplify circuits, increase flexibility, examine the impact of variability and consider the end-game.

In essence the total system is not about breaking rocks to a size, it is about breaking only what requires size reduction, to the point at which a saleable product can be generated. With this in mind the context for step change is set and this forms the basis for the discussion.