Several points in the ore processing plant would pump slurry samples through the analyser. With the Boxray Compact, you have up to 16 sample points. And with its bigger sibling, the Boxray 24, you can have up to 24 sampling points.
In any case, slurry samples are pumped to the analyser and the points would be analysed according to a configurable sequence. The analyser will then calculate the percentage of solid material in the slurry and how much copper, lead, zinc etc. there is in the ore. The samples are then returned to the process.
Can you tell us about the history of its development for the mining sector?
In the early 1980s, the first generation of Boxray analyser came to the market. In terms of how the samples are handled, it’s been the same for the last 40 years. What’s happened over the years is that as particularly the X-ray detectors have developed, we have incorporated new generations of X-ray detectors and that’s in the main driver in product development. So any client would be able to upgrade or replace their old analyser with a new one without changing the sampling system.
We’ve been involved in slurry processing since the 1980s while we’ve analysed water treatment materials since 2001. We have also worked with smelter and leaching plants since 2001 so our analysers are very well-proven in the mining sector applications.
What benefits does it offer clients and how does it stand out from other analysing solutions?
Knowing the metal concentration in the ore is the foundation of any process optimisation. For any client who doesn’t have this already such as less-developed mining countries, they would still run manual samples from laboratory personnel going out, essentially grabbing a cup of a sample, taking it to the lab, analysing it – it takes maybe four hours, sometimes more – to get the result. With our analyser, you will have a new measurement available every 30 seconds, so it’s even faster, which gives the operators and metallurgists much better foundations to make decisions to optimise the process. In terms of productivity, the improvement is usually somewhere between 2% up to 20%.
Our analysers are your key investment to having good data for making good decisions for process optimisation.
They are also easier to maintain because we buy quality components from well-recognised suppliers in the business, as they are easier to source and that maintenance staff, electricians etc., are used to handling the same or similar components – we aim to provide good, complete products and if we are not satisfied with the supplier, we can change.
Aside from mining and water treatment applications, what other applications can the analyser be used?
For instance, in a copper smelter, we would have tanks with sulphuric acid in the tank house. We know, from experience with the client, that maintaining the copper concentration in the electrolytes within a certain window will keep the process running better. It’s an unusual application but the copper smelter we are referring to is world-class in terms of productivity and efficiency.
Another application is to analyse lead content in leaching solutions. Sometimes you use the leaching process to extract the value metal from the material that they get. That is also quite new – we are getting queries from this type of client and they know they can keep an even balance of the materials in the different process stages gives them better productivity. If they don’t, they may have a build-up of material in one stage of the process and then they will be short of material for the next stage of the process.
Consequently, if you have build-up in one place, you might not be able to push any more material in there so you need to make sure you don’t overflow it. The material balance in the process can be predicted if you have online analysis of the metal copper in the leaching solution during various process stages.
You recently performed an installation a plant in Skelleftea, what were the client’s main objectives and did the analyser achieve them?
The client’s objectives comprise a solid foundation for process optimisation. All the trends in the industry are ‘big data’ and so on – where is the data going to come from? The big mining companies may not be so worried but they should be because if you’re going to have big data analysis and process optimisation, you need a lot of data.
Our higher-end product takes typically 20 seconds to perform a measurement, which is high-performance for this type of equipment. We now have just incorporated a new generation of X-ray detector last year, which would enable us to offer even shorter analysis times with the same quality of data. This is especially important for large-scale operations in countries like Chile, Canada or Sweden, or where head grades are very low – it is about having more data to understand better how to optimise the process.
In that case, more data is better because there is always a variation within the nature of online analysis. You’re going to have deviations in the samples, coming from the process, coming from the primary sampler – both are very difficult to make, and it is common knowledge that the primary samplers are not always great. So you need a couple of measurements to really see a trend and if you have measurements coming in 15 minutes apart, you’re behind already.
But if you have a few measurements coming in only a few minutes apart, you can detect the trend – it is not hidden. For clients with lesser degree of automation – we have two of those installations last year – the difference can be massive, raising recovery rates from 55% to 85% just by having online analysis.
Can you tell us about any planned installations/future developments?
We have more than one installation coming up in leaching applications, for which we are experiencing a growth in demand.
Our analysers are also upgradable, so clients can enjoy the benefits of their development and get a better product.