Towards waterless operations from mine to mill

Towards waterless operations from mine to mill

Saija Luukkanena,•, Antti Tanhuaa, Zongxian Zhanga, Raul Mollehuara Canalesa, Ilpo Auranenb

a/University of Oulu, Faculty of Technology, Oulu Mining School, PO Box 3000, FI-90014, Finland

b /MA Engineering, Sinikalliontie 3B, 02630 Espoo, Finland


Keywords: Mine-to-mill, Waterless unit operations, Fine grain size 



To respond to the increased demand for commodities, increased volumes of prima1y ores need to be mined. This could lead to major challenges with water and tailings management since ore grades are low and many mining operations take place in high water stress areas. The current mineral processing methods used are highly water intensive and, consequently, there is increasing interest in finding alternative solutions to produce raw material concentrates using little or no water. D1y separation technologies capable of efficient recove1y of commodities are relatively rare and highly dependent on the materials to be separated.

Low-grade complex ores require energy-efficient solutions for liberating material. Controlled optimisation of the rock fragmentation chain from blasting to comminution can be seen as a viable option to reduce the need for energy-intensive grinding. Application of pre-concentration methods to remove barren waste prior to grinding, developing cost-efficient and energy-efficient methods for comminution, use of mechanical or chemical pre­ treatment methods for modifying the mineral surfaces and replacing water with solvents for leaching are all good tools when considering the change from wet to non-aqueous processing. Nevertheless, considerable rnultidisciplina1y research, along with many new methods and holistic, innovative solutions are required to enable the change.