Mikael Normark, CEO of Xore, takes a little time to talk to Mining Technology about the development of online analysis for smelter plants.
What has the situation with online analysis in smelters been like up to now?
Generally speaking, it has not been something that has been asked for so much. We have a client that has used it since 2001, but it has not been a big demand. It is only in the last few years that we have noticed a sharp increase in interest and quotes for applications to smelter plants, from all over the world.
What are the applications of your products in smelters?
If the smelter has a milling circuit we can analyse the material there just as good as the slurry in an ore concentrator. We can also analyse liquids, like electrolyte and leaching solutions, from other process steps in the smelter plant. In fact, we can supply a hybrid analyser for eight slurry streams and eight liquid samples – that is quite unique! Our analyser can also be used to monitor metal content in process water and the water treatment process, as ESG measures are increased we think there will be demand for this too. We have 20 years of experience in analysing process water and electrolyte, so we definitively know what it takes to make it work.
What are the benefits to the user?
Naturally, the precise benefit depends on the application, and there are a few of them discussed here, but it essentially boils down to prediction and planning. Without online analysis, the operators and control room will react to what they are seeing in the moment or data from lab analysis that often is a few hours old when it is finished.
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As an example on a leaching plant, they can analyse the metal content in the various process steps, but also in mixing or storage tanks in between. As they know what is going on in a previous step, they can also predict how it will develop in the following steps and plan ahead how to counteract any changes effectively. The material balance in a plant can be a powerful tool, and online analysis is what enables it to be used.
In cases like water treatment or leaching processes where flocculants are added, online analysis is the tool that will make the dosing of chemicals just right. This can be a real money saver.
A softer benefit in the ESG context is that online analysis can provide data on e.g. clean water discharged from the water treatment plant. This, together with precision dosing, is how it becomes a worthwhile investment for a water treatment plant.
How long will the product last, the samples must be very corrosive?
Yes, the samples are typically very low pH and many times the temperature is also high. The metal parts of the product are all made from stainless steel, but we make sure that all parts in contact with corrosive liquids are made from compatible plastic materials. We often have a dialogue with the client to make sure they get the right material in hoses to rubber seals, and we keep a record, so they get the right spare parts.
If the plastic parts are replaced every two years or so, the analyser will last 10 years or more, easily. As said in the beginning, we have a client that has analysed electrolyte since 2001 and they are still using the same analyser. However, it has been properly maintained and also gone through a major upgrade two years ago.
That is another strength of our product, where competitors would replace the whole analyser with a new one, we can replace or upgrade some modules as the development goes forward. It can extend the service life of the product and thus lower the cost for the user, and it is also better for the environment.