The Benefits of Using SmartEar™at Pueblo Viejo

Volume Title: 12th Mill Operators' Conference 2014

Semi-autogenous grinding (SAG) mill control is complex and depends on many dynamic process variables. Good control strategies ensure that a mill is operating as close to optimal as possible, resulting in significant economic benefits to an operation. Pueblo Viejo, a gold mine in the Dominican Republic, has been actively improving their control strategies since start-up in 2012, and one of these initiatives was to install an acoustic monitoring system on the SAG mill. The data from the system is used to optimise the mill’s performance by limiting the time the mill is either running too quiet or too loud. The lower limit is an indication that the charge in the mill is too high for efficient breakage or that the mill speed is too low and grinding media are not striking the toe of the charge. Conversely, when the acoustic emissions from the mill are too high, this can indicate that the balls are striking above the toe of the charge, resulting in inefficient grinding and excessive liner and lifter wear. Adjusting mill operating conditions to keep acoustic emissions in the ‘sweet spot’ between these limits results in more efficient grinding.

Pueblo Viejo installed a Metso SmartEar™ to monitor the acoustic emissions of their SAG mill in January 2013. This system has been installed on many mills around the world and is specifically designed for optimising SAG mill control. One system output is the impact counter which measures steel-on-steel impacts on the mill shell. The impact counter uses both frequency and time domain analysis to approximate the number of ball impacts per minute. This method of analysis excludes parts of the sound signal not associated with steel-on-steel impacts and gives an accurate measure of this critical control parameter. After the acoustic system was installed, Pueblo Viejo collected data to determine the upper and lower limits for the impact count variable. The live data is available to the mill operators and it is used as one of the key operating variables to control the mill.

Through continuous improvement and the use of advanced technologies like SmartEar™, Pueblo Viejo are improving the control and operation of their SAG mill, resulting in reduced liner wear, more efficient mill performance and optimised energy consumption. This paper discusses the installation of the system, and the measureable benefits obtained by using acoustic monitoring to control their SAG mill.


Shuen, D, Sales, R, Wortley, M and La Rosa, D, 2014. The benefits of using SmartEar™at Pueblo Viejo, in Proceedings 12th AusIMM Mill Operators’ Conference 2014 , pp 297–304 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).