Bulk sensing for effective ore sorting – learnings over 35 years

Kurth, Balzan

Presented at the Preconcentration Digital Conference November 2020


The potential for bulk diversion was identified and quickly implemented following the development of bulk sensing technologies applied to conveyed flows. In the early 1980s real time analysis of ash in coal was intended to improve the understanding and control of quality variability. By the end of the 1980s approximately 5% of coal analysers installed were being utilised for bulk sorting; diverting flows to create stockpiles to improve blending flexibility and boiler feed consistency, diverting waste material, or bypassing the beneficiation process when the coal met product quality criteria.

In the 1990s bulk sensing and sorting utilising natural gamma detection was applied to conveyed waste in gold-uranium mineralisation and allowed ore to be recovered and processed that would otherwise have been discarded. Further applications developed in the iron ore sector where product quality ore could be diverted to bypass beneficiation and save significant unnecessary processing costs and improve recovery by avoiding process inefficiency losses. Plant capacity was freed up to be utilised by material that required processing.

Similar benefits became evident in the phosphate industry and in base metals where multi-elemental analysis using Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis provides ideal opportunities to representatively measure 30 second conveyed increments at high accuracies. This has been successfully adopted in copper, nickel, platinum and lead-zinc to improve waste removal after primary crushing to eliminate unnecessary expense and improve plant efficiency. The benefits include increased output from existing operating capacity, significant reductions in consumable costs and generation of fewer detrimental waste streams.

The paper outlines the technologies and discusses case studies covering the above commodities, demonstrating the immense value that representative real time measurement of conveyed flows can create. Measurement data concurrently provides multiple benefits in operational performance besides sorting, through ore reconciliation, ore blending, feedforward control and metal accounting, adding further value.


H Kurth1 and L Balzan2

1. FAusIMM, Minerals Consultant, Scantech International Pty Ltd, Brisbane, Queensland, 4119. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2. Technical Manager, Scantech International Pty Ltd, Adelaide, South Australia, 5038. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions made by the companies mentioned in each case study and Scantech International Pty Ltd for approval to publish.

If you are interested in purchasing proceedings or abstracts, please use this link.