Comminution and Material Handling

Increasing recovery to reap the benefits of high metal prices

Optimizing recovery is one of the highest return on investment (ROI) steps you can take at a mine. Furthermore, recovery is sustainable – it produces more metal at better utilization rates. In a country where permitting new projects is a growing challenge, and in a context of thriving metal prices, companies involved in the processing and handling of ore are particularly valuable.

On June 30th, 2020, Finnish giants Metso and Outotec finalized their merger to create Metso Outotec, combining the product offerings of two global leaders in technology and services for the mining and metal refining industries. The doubling of Metso Outotec’s share price in the 12 months preceding the merger is an indication of the current strength of the service industry.

Fernando Samanez, Metso Outotec’s VP mining equipment sales for South America, commented that the current priority for customers is to recover water and fines from tailings dams containing copper and gold. Samanez observed that the capex investment for a recovery plant is best suited to operations producing over 50,000 tonnes per day (mt/d).

“For example, a customer that spent, a customer that spent US$1.50 per tonne for water recovery at its tailings dam wanted a solution which would lower capex. We were able to build a solution with a recovery cost of US$1.30 per tonne, which gives a ROI within 30 months,” he detailed.

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“Currently, the most important aspect for customers is to recover water and fines from tailings dams with copper and gold content. With the current high metal prices, recovery means extra revenue.”

Fernando Samanez, VP Mining Equipment Sales – South America, Metso Outotec

Another multinational in the space, Weir Minerals plans to open its sixth service center in Peru in Q3 2021, inaugurating a Moquegua branch to ensure it’s support for Anglo American’s Quellaveco mine as it transitions from construction to operation. Karina Zevallos, managing director of Weir Minerals Peru, revealed that the company has been investing in the R&D of technologies for the transition to Industry 4.0 in mining, such as its Synertrex platform. “Synertrex is a control and data collection system that obtains on-site equipment information, such as how different equipment interacts in the process, and product efficiency,” she explained, adding that collected data is then analyzed by experts to optimize the performance of the entire circuit in real time.

Zevallos also highlighted the release of the second version of Weir Minerals’ Hydrociclones Cavex 2 separation product. “The Cavex 2 allows customers to process more and have a better particle size cut, but with the same footprint as the original Cavex,” she stated, before summarizing: “The better you can classify in a mill circuit, the better recovery you will have, maximizing profits.”

Javier Schmal, vice president of Martin Engineering’s Latin American operations, mentioned that remote monitoring and remote technical support have become paramount, particularly during the Covid. Martin Engineering’s remote monitoring solutions are currently available for its primary belt cleaner products, but will soon be applied to other product lines. To illustrate the potential cost savings of Martin Engineering’s conveyor belt cleaners, Schmal related: “One of our customers revealed that they used to spend 10 times the money to actually clean their equipment compared to what they invested in our products to prevent cleaning.”

Schmal went on to emphasize how the company’s solutions focus on protecting workers from injury or illness, eliminating wasted motion and energy use, and to move as much product as possible in the system per given length of time.

One of the Peruvian players in the segment, Tecnomina, managed to increase its earnings in 2020 despite the disturbance of the strict lockdown in Peru, according to general manager Fernando Barrio. Barrio detailed that the company performed well in spite of the pandemic through the sale of Sempertrans conveyor belts to Las Bambas, Rema Tip Top cleaning systems to Las Bambas, Cerro Verde and Antapaccay, and a seven-month service for the maintenance of conveyor belts for Southern Peru Cuajone.

Barrio elaborated on the evolution of Tecnomina, which now provides clients with diagnosis and offers customized solutions. “We are getting increasingly involved in preventive maintenance, using high-tech equipment to evaluate the condition of conveyor belts, including dynamic radiographic equipment, ultrasound sensor equipment and scanning equipment,” he said, adding that the technology can be used while the conveyor is in operation.

Grinding media

The increasing trend towards large-scale processing plants used in copper production is driving demand for grinding media. Upgrading grinding equipment not only increases productivity, but can also lower the opex of an operation. As companies reap the free cash flow from all-time-high copper prices, the capex decision to invest in new equipment has become more appealing.

Aceros Chilca is working with its customers to provide cast steel liners for crushers and SAG or ball mills, allowing the company to maintain significant volumes while developing its alloys. “We are currently working in a strategic relationship with ours bars supplier to develop balls that are specific to each type of mineral and mine site, looking to increase our customers’ productivity and decrease their cost of operation”, explained Rafael Ravettino, general manager of Aceros Chilca.

He explained that the industry has migrated from smelted to forged balls in the last years, which are more wear resistant, reliable, and can process more ore. Aceros expects to expand production this year and, in 2022, to merge its plants in Chilca and Lima into one new and centralized foundry plant in Chilca with an annual production of 1,500 tons of pieces.

The export market also presents some appealing opportunities; Aceros exports to Chile, Canada, the US and Brazil, but plans to broaden this horizon towards Europe and Asia.

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Eduardo Jiménez, technical director of Magotteaux, the Belgian company belonging to the Sigdo Koppers Group, underlined its expertise in manufacturing with high chromium, allowing for strong and resistant materials with a long lifespan.

“Magotteaux has used these composite materials to patent technologies such as Xcc and Xwin, which deliver an increased resistance to wear and shock, allowing our company to offer solutions that are set apart from the standard steel and iron foundry products”, he explained.

Rudy Jaramillo, sales manager, added that clients can experience a 15-20 % cost reduction by using these products. The company is currently focused on generating synergies among the different companies of the Sigdo Koppers group to become more competitive, sustainable, to reduce costs and to incorporate new technologies.

Image courtesy of MMG-Las Bambas