Start-up and Early Optimisation of the New Afton Concentrator

New Gold Inc.’s New Afton concentrator commenced operation in June 2012, producing a copper-gold-silver concentrate. During the first two years of operation, various optimization efforts have improved mill throughput, recoveries and concentrate grade. Daily mill throughput has increased 20% above the design rate. This was achieved through more consistent instantaneous feed rate and size distribution from the mine reclaim stockpile, higher pebble crusher reliability, changes to the SAG and ball mill grinding media sizes, larger SAG grate openings, reduced SAG discharge screen-deck aperture size and an increase in the maximum ball mill power draw limit. Metal recoveries at New Afton are primarily limited by liberation in the coarser size fractions; therefore, improving the grind size at a given mill throughput has been the main means of improving recovery. The average rougher flotation feed F80 size was reduced from 175µm in Q1 2013 to 165µm in Q1 2014, while the average operating mill throughput increased by 25%. Other flotation circuit changes focusing on recovery improvement include the addition of froth crowders to the rougher cells and the use of a stronger frother. The average concentrate grade increased from 22% Cu in Q1 2013 to 25% Cu in Q1 2014. This was achieved by redirecting the flash flotation concentrate stream to the regrind circuit and by the addition of lime to the cleaner circuit.

This paper describes the above improvements made at the New Afton mill. The paper describes the objectives, timing and end result of each area of improvement.