McArthur River Mine Heavy Medium Plant – The Benefits of Applying Modern Coal Plant Design Principles to Base Metal Heavy Medium Separation


In 2012, a single module heavy medium cyclone plant (HMP) was installed at the Glencore Zinc’s (then Xstrata Zinc) McArthur River lead zinc mine. The HMP formed the first part of the MRM Phase 3 Project to increase run of mine (ROM) capacity from 2.4 to 5.5 Mt/a.

The purpose of the HMP is to remove liberated gangue from the crusher product at minimal loss of valuable mineral. The McArthur ores are very finely disseminated requiring a fine primary grind size prior to rougher flotation. Rejecting waste prior to grinding therefore offers significant power and grinding media savings. The plant was designed to treat only those ores with a reasonable upgrade ratio at the target zinc recovery across the HMP of 95%.

On this basis, a 1.8 Mt/a single module plant was built based on 250 t/h feed rate and 82% availability. In contrast to existing base metal heavy medium plants in Australia, the MRM Flow sheet utilised the principles in modern coal heavy medium cyclone plant design. Since commissioning, the plant feed rate has been significantly increased and is now normally operated up to 540 t/h (dry basis).

Although this throughput increase is partially due to debottlenecking work, it is also attributable to the conservative design parameters for base metal heavy medium cyclone circuits in comparison to those used in equivalent coal circuits.

This paper discusses Flow sheet design and compares traditional base metal design parameters with those achieved at MRM and those of modern coal plants. It provides information on plant capital and operating costs and the net savings realised by its installation. In addition to power and grinding cost savings, the paper also highlights the savings in water through rejection of near dry waste and reduction of tailings pumped to the storage dam.

This paper may be accessed on the AusIMM web site. Published in: 2015   The presentation is available here.