Investigation of sorting technology to remove hard pebbles from an Autogenous Milling Circuit

Palabora Mining Copper has a unique ore body composition which unlike other copper ore bodies has three main components in significant proportions; these are copper bearing ore, magnetite and dolerite. The high content of dolerite, a hard barren material, creates a high proportion of pebbles which normally are recycled back to the mill. This action increases the mill bearing pressure and power progressively until corrective actions are taken.

A logical action to solve the pebbles generation would be to incorporate a pebble crusher. This in fact was done however two fundamental issues were encountered; the high content of magnetite and existence of a cyclone classification section. Due to the high content of magnetite, metal detectors have not been able to work efficiently to separate tramp metal which causes damage to the pebble crushers. The existence of cyclones in the circuit had a detrimental effect on the final product when the pebbles crusher was online producing coarse sandy material.

Due to the difficulties in treating pebbles via conventional procedures and the unique Palabora ore composition and characteristics, sorting technology was investigated at laboratory and pilot scale. It was found that a combination of optical and electromagnetic sorting could efficiently separate dolerite from the copper bearing and magnetite ores.

This paper reports the findings of the laboratory and pilot scale work performed and discusses the additional benefits to the circuit.

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