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The importance of grinding media on the subsequent beneficiation of sulphide ore

by flotation: from laboratory test work to plant trial.


1

Simon Jacques , Jessica Kinal , Christopher Greet


1.
2.
3.

Zone Metallurgist- South America, Magotteaux Andino SA, El Trovador 4253, Oficina 101, Las
Condes. Santiago, Chile. Email: simon.jacques@magotteaux.com
Manager Metallurgy - Implementation, Magotteaux Andino SA, El Trovador 4253, Oficina 101,
Las Condes. Santiago, Chile. Email: jessica.kinal@magotteaux.com
Manager Mineral Processing Research, Magotteaux Australia Pty Ltd, PO Box 54 Mansfield Park
SA 5012 Australia. Email: christopher.greet@magotteaux.com

Abstract:
Most operations, when considering their comminution circuit, are primarily concerned with achieving
the desired particle size distribution to obtain adequate liberation for the separation process, at
minimum cost. Invariably, the effect that the grinding media has on the subsequent separation
process (e.g. flotation) is not taken into account when selecting the media. This choice is driven by
cost rather than metallurgical outcomes.
However, it is widely accepted that the type of grinding media has an impact on grinding chemistry
and subsequent flotation behaviour of the sulphide minerals being separated. There are countless
laboratory investigations in the literature demonstrating that inert grinding media produces more
oxidising pulp potentials, reduced levels of grinding media corrosion products and improves the
metallurgical performances (concentrate grade and recovery) of the valuable metal; leading to
significant extra revenue for the concentrator.
This paper describes the methodology used to investigate the impact of more inert grinding media
(such as high chrome media) at both laboratory and plant scale. The methodology is then reviewed
through a practical case study. During the first step, the practical laboratory investigation examining
the effect of high chrome grinding media suggests that, as demonstrated in the literature, changing
grinding media type from forged to high chrome impacts the pulp chemistry and results in superior
metallurgical performances of the ore. Then, the industrial application is investigated where the ball
mill was converted from forged steel to high chrome media and the changes in pulp chemistry and
plant metallurgical performance are examined.

1. Introduction
The key to a successful separation in mineral processing is the preparation of particles with
adequate liberation under the correct pulp chemical conditions.
While the importance of liberation for flotation separation is generally understood and well
documented in the literature (Johnson, 1987; Jackson, et al., 1989; Young, et al., 1997; Greet and
Freeman, 2000), the importance of pulp chemistry is more nebulous, particularly with regard to the
impact of grinding media. Extensive work examining the electrochemical interactions between
grinding media and sulphide minerals has been completed (for example, Iwasaki et al., 1983;
Natarajan and Iwasaki, 1984; Yelloji Rao and Natarajan, 1989(a); Yelloji Rao and Natarajan,
1989(b)). Bruckard et al. (2011) also recently published a review describing the impact of the
grinding environment on sulphide flotation.

These studies indicate that the most commonly accepted mechanisms affecting sulphide flotation
during grinding are the galvanic interactions between grinding media and sulphide minerals. Most
sulphide minerals are more noble than the grinding media used during comminution, therefore
when contact between the sulphide mineral and media occurs, a galvanic couple is formed and the
following redox reactions take place between the anode (media) and cathode (sulphide mineral):
Anode (grinding media): Fe Fe

2+

+ 2e

(1)
-

Cathode (sulphide mineral): O2 + H2O + 2e 2OH

(2)

At the anode, the oxidation reaction (1) increases the corrosion rate of the grinding media. At the
cathode, the corrosion products of the grinding media precipitate (2) as iron hydroxide products
onto the sulphide mineral surface creating surface passivation. These interactions increase the iron
hydroxide species present at the sulphide surface, lower the dissolved oxygen content of the pulp,
decrease the pulp oxido-reductive potential (ORP) and limit the collector-sulphide interactions
thereby affecting floatability (Bruckard et al., 2011; Greet and Steinier, 2004; Peng and Grano,
2010), Johnson, 2002).
The application of more electrochemically inert grinding media (such as high chromium media)
instead of the commonly used electrochemically active forged steel media has the potential to
significantly reduce the number of galvanic interactions, thereby improving the floatability of the
sulphide mineral and decrease the media wear rate. However, despite the substantial benefits of
improved flotation performances and decreased grinding media consumption, the use of high
chromium media at industrial scale has not gained universal acceptance. The aim of this paper is
to provide a protocol for conducting laboratory and plant test work that clearly demonstrates that
metallurgical benefits are not only possible, but measureable, through the use of an example that
encompasses both laboratory and plant scale results.

2. Methodology
It is not a simple matter of knocking on the door and telling the mining company that converting to a
more inert grinding media will solve all of their problems; there is no such thing as a magic bullet.
However, by careful experimentation it is possible to demonstrate at both laboratory and plant scale
that converting from forged steel to high chrome grinding media will alter the pulp chemistry and
have a positive effect on metallurgical performance. The laboratory test regime is about mitigating
risk (both financial and technical), and providing the customer with sufficient evidence to advance to
plant trial (Greet et al., 2013).
2.1. Laboratory test protocol
The key to success for any laboratory experiment is to ensure that the experimental conditions
match the plant operational conditions; i.e., that the mineral particles have the same surface
chemistry as well as the same degree of liberation at laboratory scale as at plant scale. To that end,

the Magotteaux Mill has been developed (Greet et al., 2004). It allows the researcher to generate a
product in the laboratory that has nominally the same physical properties (particle size distribution)
and pulp chemical properties (pH, ORP, dissolved oxygen, temperature, oxygen demand and EDTA
extractable ions) as an equivalent sample taken from the plant. This is achieved by grinding an
representative sample to achieve the particle size distribution of the flotation feed, whilst
manipulating the pulp chemistry by purging the system with an inert gas, so that it matches the plant
mill discharge chemistry.

This strategy is completed in 3 phases as described below:


Phase 1 - Plant data collection
The collection of plant data is vital to the success of the test program, for this data forms the basis
of the calibration process by defining the target parameters. This initial step involves:

Collection of reagent dosage rates and flotation particle size distribution targets;
The completion of a pulp chemical and EDTA extractable metal ion survey of the grinding and
adjoining flotation circuit;
Determination of the oxygen demand at strategic points within the circuit;
The completion of a metallurgical survey; and
The collection of a bulk sample of the grinding circuit feed for further laboratory testing.

Phase 2 Establishment of a standard test


The data collected in Phase 1 essentially describes the circuit under consideration and provides

targets for the Magotteaux Mill calibration and the adjustment of the flotation conditions.

Grinding calibration: the Magotteaux Mill calibration process uses the same grinding media
and same water as the operating plant. The objective of the calibration process is to produce a
laboratory mill discharge which has the same particle size distribution as the conditioned
flotation feed, and the pulp chemistry of the plant ball mill discharge. To achieve this match
involves careful manipulation of the ORP, pH, dissolved oxygen and grinding time, such that all
the measured parameters line up when grinding the bulk sample collected during the
metallurgical survey. This task is not trivial.

Figure 1: Schematic representation of the Magotteaux Mill

Pulp chemistry calibration: Once the Magotteaux Mill is calibrated, oxygen demand tests are
completed on the ground ore in order to determine the aeration time required (if any) to adjust
the oxygen demand of the laboratory pulp to match that of the plant flotation feed. After
aeration, the reagents (collector, frother, lime, etc) are added as per the plant requirement.
Flotation calibration: Finally, flotation tests are completed and the flotation time (as well as
reagent dosage rates if necessary) is adjusted to ensure that the laboratory metallurgical
performance matches that measured in the plant during Phase 1 of the program.

Once the calibration has been completed, and a match between the laboratory and plant reached,
the results generated from this standard test are used as a baseline for the grinding media
investigation.
Phase 3 Media testing
Once the standard test conditions have been established, alternative grinding media are substituted
into the mill for testing while all other parameters remain equal. In this way, it is possible to
measure changes in pulp chemistry and flotation response purely driven by the change in grinding
media type. Flotation tests are completed in triplicate for each media tested and six times for the
standard test to provide higher confidence in the data produced.
Generally, a number of different ore types are tested to firstly validate the data generated and
secondly to determine the variation in the magnitude of the improvement as the mineralogy of the
sample changes. If used correctly, this approach provides a robust laboratory methodology that
firstly provides a link between the laboratory and the plant using the existing grinding media and
secondly investigates changes to the pulp chemistry and metallurgical outcome when high chrome
grinding media is substituted into the grinding circuit. Further, it provides a means of estimating
plant performance should the best high chrome grinding media be tested at pilot plant scale or
installed in the plant.
2.2. Plant Trial Protocol
Conducting grinding media plant trials are inherently difficult. The fact that the entire charge in the
mill must be replaced defines the difficulty. The inevitable operational variability is another reason
for the high resistance an operation has to conduct grinding media trials; the recovery improvement
to achieve being most of the time smaller than the daily variation in recovery.
The need to replace the charge in a mill is a concept that many operational personnel have not
contemplated. This can be achieved by either dumping the charge and replacing it with a new
graded charge, or by gradually replacing the old charge by topping up with the new media.
Dumping the mill has the advantage of producing direct results, whereby the plant data prior to
dumping the mill can be compared to the data collected immediately after replacing the whole
charge. That is, the results are demonstrated sooner and are not complicated by the time delay
which is inherent to the purge method. Purging a mill takes usually between 6 to 12 months,
depending on the media wear rate. As plant data from before the purge needs to be compared with
information gathered once the purge is complete, the trial time is considerably longer than just the
duration of the purge, and may extend out to 18 months. A lot can change in this time. For
example, the mineralogy of the ore, feed grade, throughput, circuit configuration, reagent regime,
and operating personnel, to name but a few. These variations present considerable challenges in
the analysis of the trial data.
In terms of evaluating the change in plant metallurgical performances resulting from a conversion of
grinding media type, robust statistical methods are required to be able to deal with the inevitable
daily variability of the plant data. Adopting a correct trial procedure and the right analysis method
will always produce the right answer in the minimum time and at minimum cost (Napier-Muun
2010).

2.2.1.

Plant trial planning

Once the plant has agreed to advance to plant trial and the conversion method fixed, the conditions
under which the trial will run must be examined to ensure that the trial has a higher probability of
producing a result. Ideally, the following items need to be considered when planning the plant trial:

Which mill(s) is to be converted.


Access to sampling points within the grinding and flotation circuits.
The stability of the operation during the trial period.
The mine plan. Ideally, there should not be a major change in the ore blend entering the
plant during the plant trial.
Introduction of any major equipment or circuit changes during the trial period that would
complicate the analysis should be avoided.
Any reagent trials during the trial period that would complicate the analysis should be
carefully planned.

Obviously, there will be variations during the course of the trial simply because of the time required
to complete the test. However, if these variations can be foreseen, their impact on the trial can be
minimised. The key is to have good communication between the site metallurgist and the
researcher conducting the trial.
2.2.2.

Data collection

The data collected during the plant trial can be divided into two categories: data which is collected
by the researchers to measure changes in the pulp chemistry; and routine inventory sampling
completed by the operation to measure reagent consumption and metallurgical performance.
Pulp chemical data
In agreeing to conduct a plant trial, the researcher will ask for access to the site to complete pulp
chemistry surveys of the grinding and flotation circuits before and after the mills have been
converted to the new grinding media. In order to obtain sufficient data, each visit is nominally of two
weeks duration. During each site visit pulp chemical (pH, ORP, dissolved oxygen, temperature and
oxygen demand), and EDTA extraction data are collected from critical process streams such as:

Ball mill cyclone underflow;


Ball mill discharge;
Ball mill cyclone overflow;
Rougher feed (conditioned with reagents); and
Rougher tailings.

The data are used to demonstrate the changes in the pulp chemistry that occur with the change in
grinding media.
Metallurgical data
By far the best source of information to measure the metallurgical performance as the mill converts
from one grinding media to another is the shift mass balanced data. The shift data provides information
about:

Throughput,
Plant availability
Particle size distribution,
Feed grades,
Concentrate grades,

Recoveries, and
Reagent consumption.

2.3. Data evaluation


The procedure used to determine the impact of high chrome media on the plant metallurgical
performance involves adequate quantitative statistical techniques, which, when applied correctly,
can determine the magnitude of any improvement and provide a confidence value that can be given
to that improvement. The methodology described in this paper has been developed by Tim NapierMunn (2014).
Basically, the method consists of:
1. Reviewing and (in consultation with site personnel) cleaning the data by removing:
o Days with major down time (i.e. less than 22 hours operating),
o Any missing data, and
o Outliers defined by standard residual analysis.
2. Comparing the main feed parameters to ensure that the forged and high chrome periods
are comparable.
3. Applying various analysis methods to the cleaned data to determine the impact of the
conversion to high chrome media. The statistical methods used include:
o Time series charts,
o Cumulative sum (cusum) charts,
o Students t-test,
o Comparison of regression lines, and
o Multiple variable regression modelling.
More information about these statistical methodologies can be found in Napier Munn (2014). A
practical case study using these methods is discussed in the following section.

4. Case Study
A considerable amount of work has been completed over the last few years employing the above
methodology to copper, lead/zinc, nickel, platinum, silver and gold ores to demonstrate the
beneficial effect of using high chrome media at both laboratory and plant scale. Table 1 outlines
some of these. The Ernest Henry case study has been selected for this paper to demonstrate the
success of this methodology (Greet et al., 2011).
Table 1: Published case studies
Commodity
Mine
Cu
Cu
Cu/Zn
Cu/Au
Pb/Zn
Pb/Zn

Glencore Ernest Henry


KGHM Polkowice
Kagara Mount Garnet
Newcrest Ridgeway
Perilya Broken Hill
Rosh Pinah Zinc Corp

Improvement

Reference

2.00.6%Cu
1.60.9% Cu
5.6% Cu, 3.6% Zn
1.00.5% Cu, 2.11.0% Au
1.81.3 % Zn
5.51.9 % Zn

Greet et al. 2011


Greet et al. 2013
Kinal et al. 2006
Greet et al. 2012
Greet and Myllenen 2009
Greet et al. 2013

The Ernest Henry case study:


The Glencore Ernest Henry Mine (EHM) is located in Queensland, Australia. It treats copper ore
averaging 1.1% copper, 0.5 g/t gold and 5% pyrite. EHM produces a combined copper-gold
concentrate containing 25 000 t of copper and 35 000 oz of gold annually. The concentrator

processes an average of 11 million tons of ore per year through a conventional grinding circuit
(11MW SAG, 5.4MW Ball mill) followed by a four stage flotation circuit.
Laboratory test:
Various laboratory studies were completed on a series of SAG mill feed sample to demonstrate the
impact of the high chrome media on the pulp chemistry and flotation performances of Ernest Henry
copper ore (Small and Grano, 2004; Kinal 2004, 2005a, 2005b and 2006, Small 2009). The protocol
previously described was applied to all tests.

Table 2: Magotteaux Mill discharge pulp chemistry and flotation feed EDTA extractable iron
levels for tests completed with the forged and high chrome media, comparing against plant
conditions (Small 2009).
Parameter
Media
pH
ORP, mV (SHE)
DO, ppm
EDTA Fe, %
Plant target (Forged)
10.8
100
0.8
Forged (laboratory)
10.8
115
1.0
0.56
HiCr (laboratory)
11.0
130
1.1
0.21

14.0
12.0

Grade - Cu (%)

10.0
8.0
6.0
4.0
2.0
0.0
70.0

75.0

80.0

85.0
90.0
Recovery - Cu (%)
Forged

95.0

100.0

HiCr

Figure 1: Copper grade recovery curve comparing forged steel and high chrome media
(Small 2009).

The Magotteaux Mill discharge pulp chemistry data for the forged steel and high chrome media are
summarised in Table 2 and compared to the plant conditions. The data indicates that the

Magotteaux Mill was able to replicate the plant chemistry with similar pH, oxidation-reduction
potential (ORP) and dissolved oxygen (DO) values. Table 2 also indicates that when changing from
forged steel to high chrome media, the pulp chemistry shifted to more oxidative conditions with
higher ORP potentials and dissolved oxygen levels. In addition the level of EDTA extractable iron
was halved with the change from forged steel to high chrome media suggesting that the media
corrosion decreased when high chrome media was used.
Changing from forged steel to high chrome media not only had a positive impact on the pulp
chemistry but also significantly improved the copper and gold metallurgy (Figure 1). For example, at
8% copper concentrate grade, the data indicates that the copper recovery increased from 88.5 to

90.7%; an increase of 2.2% (Table 3). The table also shows that the gold metallurgy was improved
as well as copper selectivity against iron sulphides and arsenic bearing minerals.
Table 3: Copper and gold recoveries and molybdenum and diluent grades, at 8% copper
rougher concentrate grade comparing forged steel and high chrome media (Small 2009).
Recovery, %
Diluent grade
Media
Cu
Au
Mo, ppm
As, ppm
IS, %
NSG, %
Forged
88.5
69.4
932
3.4
41.1
27.0
HiCr
90.7
74.1
928
2.8
37.7
31.8
Given the consistently positive results achieved in the laboratory, a pilot plant study was carried out.
The pilot plant study involved taking ball mill cyclone feed material from the plant to feed the pilot
plant, which consisted of two parallel grinding and rougher flotation lines (Figure 2). One mill was
loaded with forged steel grinding media and the other with high chrome media. The products from
the two grinding circuits were fed to the flotation banks. In order to minimise any bias introduced by
differences in the flotation circuits, a randomised block trial was designed for the pilot plant whereby
the feeds to the flotation lines were swapped periodically. Once the pilot plant reached steady
state, pulp chemical and metallurgical surveys were completed. A total of 65 metallurgical data sets
were collected during the operation of the pilot plant.
The pulp chemical surveys indicated that grinding with high chrome grinding media produced a ball
mill discharge pulp chemistry which was more oxidising than the forged steel case. Further, the
EDTA extractable iron data indicated that the circuit employing forged steel grinding media
produced higher concentrations of EDTA extractable iron than the line operated with high chrome.
This suggested that the addition of high chrome grinding media to the ball mill effectively reduced
grinding media corrosion.

SAG mill discharge

Main plant

Reagents

Forged pilot plant ball mill


in closed circuit with
cyclone

Surge
tank

Cu rougher
cells 1 and 2

Cu rougher
cells 3 and 4

Cu rougher cells 5 to 8

Cu rougher cells 9 to 12

Rougher tailing

Cu rougher concentrate
Reagents

HiCr pilot plant ball mill in


closed circuit with cyclone

Surge
tank

Cu rougher
cells 1 and 2

Cu rougher
cells 3 and 4

Cu rougher cells 5 to 8

Cu rougher cells 9 to 12

Rougher tailing

Cu rougher concentrate

Figure 2: Pilot plant configuration (Greet 2008)


The surveys collected during the pilot plant were mass balanced and the results statistically
analysed. Paired t-tests revealed that the use of high chrome media resulted in:
A copper recovery improvement of 2.8 1.8% with greater than 99% confidence
A copper rougher concentrate grade increase of 1.3 0.8% with great than 95% confidence;
and
A gold recovery improvement of 3.4 2.2% with greater than 99% confidence.

Plant trial analysis:


Following good success at both laboratory and pilot plant scale, the plant decided to move to
industrial trial. In November 2009 the decision was made to dump the ball mill charge and to
replace it with a graded high chrome charge.
Multiple plant pulp chemistry surveys were completed before and after the conversion to high
chrome media and the data were compared. The average ball mill discharge pulp chemical data
comparing forged steel and high chrome media are summarised in Table 4.
Table 4: Ball mill discharge pulp chemistry comparing forged steel and high chrome media
(Chung 2010).
Parameter
Media
pH
ORP, mV (SHE)
DO, ppm
EDTA Fe, %
Forged
11.4
65
0.8
0.35
HiCr
11.1
95
1.1
0.06
The data indicates that the conversion from forged steel to high chrome media shifted the pulp
chemistry to more oxidative conditions with higher levels of ORP and dissolved oxygen of the pulp.
The pH measured with high chrome media was slightly lower, a result of pyrite oxidation. The EDTA
extractable iron level, a good indicator of grinding media corrosion, showed that there was a
marked decrease, which could be directly linked to the grinding media wear rate (as discussed
below). The significant change of chemistry observed resulted in a direct improvement of the copper
metallurgy of the Ernest Henry concentrator as demonstrated by statistical analysis of the plant
data.
Table 5: Students t-test analysis comparing the main plant feed parameters when using
forged steel and high chrome media (Chung 2010).
Parameter
Forged
HiCr
Tonnes per shift
12433
12094
Number of samples
96
171
Mean difference (HiCr Forged), tps
-339 174
Confidence level of the difference (2 sided), %
>99
P80
203
210
Number of samples
96
171
Mean difference (HiCr Forged),m
74
Confidence level of the difference (2 sided), %
>99
Cu head grade, %
0.24
0.21
Number of samples
96
171
Mean difference (HiCr Forged), %
-0.03 0.01
Confidence level of the difference (2 sided), %
>99
Following the methodology described in Section 2.2, a statistical analysis was completed on the
metallurgical data. Firstly the data were cleaned and the main feed parameters compared.
Students t-tests were performed to quantify the magnitude of any mean difference observed
between both periods. The results for the throughput, P80 and copper feed grade are presented in
Table 5. The data indicates that the differences were statistically valid but the amplitude
comparatively small. Hence it is reasonable to assume that the feed parameters were the same,
and therefore,it was deemed possible to make a valid comparison.

Figure 3 overlays the time series and cusum plots of copper recovery during the trial period. When
examining the time series plot, the data shows significant daily variation in copper recovery for both
periods. Visually, the high chrome period seems to correspond to higher copper recoveries than
that observed with forged steel media. The change in recovery from the forged steel to high chrome
media periods is highlighted by the cusum plot whereby a negative slope indicates a recovery lower
than the mean and a positive slope indicating a recovery higher than the mean. In this particular
case, the minimum point in the curve corresponds to the change of grinding media and hence
suggests that the conversion to high chrome media had an immediate direct impact on copper
recoveries.

100

Forged

90

20

0
-20

85

80

Change in Cu recoverey

Copper Recovery, %

95

High Chrome

-40
-60

75

-80

70

-100

65

-120

60

shift recovery

55

cusum

50
0

20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240 260 280 300

-140
-160
-

Shift Number

Figure 3: Time series and cusum plots of the EHM copper recovery during the grinding
media plant trial (Chung 2010).
The magnitude of this recovery improvement was determined by three additional statistical
methods: Students t-test (Table 6), comparison of regression lines (Figure 4) and multiple
regression modelling (Table 7).
Table 6 Students t-test analysis comparing copper recovery between forged steel and high
chrome media (Chung 2010).
Parameter
Forged
HiCr
Copper recovery, %
85.3
87.5
Number of samples
96
171
Mean difference (HiCr Forged), %
+2.2 0.6
Confidence level of the difference (2 sided), %
>99
The t-test analysis comparing the mean of the two periods indicates that the copper recovery
increased by 2.2 0.6% with greater than 99% confidence. The comparison of regression lines
method exploits the linear relationship that exists between one variable and another and compares
the two lines under different conditions to determine if the change in conditions has significantly
affected the outcome (Napier-Munn, 2005). This is a particularly useful tool in metallurgical plant
trials in order to remove the effect of head grade on recovery and make the comparison valid across
the full range of feed grades encountered during the trial. Figure 4 displays the copper feed grade
versus copper recovery for both periods. To statistically establish the difference between the two

10

Copper recovery, %

regression lines, several criteria must be met. These criteria (in the grey shaded box in Figure 4)
indicated that the comparison could be made and therefore the test for separation showed that the
magnitude of the recovery improvement observed when high chrome media was used was 2.6
0.6% with greater than 99% confidence.

94
92
90
88
86
84
82
80
-test for residual MsS: p(F) =0.05
78
-test for slopes: p(F)=0.64
76
-Test for intercept: p(F)= 1.54E-12
74
-separation: +2.6 0.6 %
72
-confidence level on the separation: >99%
70
0.05
0.10
0.15
0.20
0.25
Feed copper grade, %
Forged
HiCr

0.30

0.35

Figure 4: Comparison of regression lines for copper feed grade versus copper recovery data
comparing forged steel and high chrome grinding media (Chung 2010).
Table 7: Summary of multiple variable regression analysis for copper recovery comparing
forged steel and high chrome grinding media (Chung 2010).
2
Adjusted R
0.24
Std. Error
2.52
-15
Significance P
2.31 x 10
Constituent

Coefficient

Std Error

P-Value

Intercept
Throughput
Grind Size
Mass Recovery
Cu Conc. Grade
Grinding media

72.8
-4
6 x 10
-0.02
53.8
0.25
2.02

3.34
-4
2 x 10
0.01
11.2
0.08
0.36

8.34 x 10
0.003
0.02
-6
2.5 x 10
0.003
-8
5.1 x 10

-61

Lower 90%

Upper 90%

67.3
-4
2.9 x 10
-0.04
35.5
0.11
1.4

78.3
-4
2.9 x 10
0.006
72.3
0.38
2.6

The most important statistical technique employed in interrogating the data is the multiple variable
regression analysis (Table 7). In this method the copper recovery is modelled against independent
parameters (for example, particle size, mass recovery, copper feed grade, copper concentrate
grade and grinding media type) to determine the relationship between these variables and how they
affect the copper recovery. The output from this analysis suggested that throughput, grind size and
copper concentrate grade, although significant, had minimal impact on copper recovery. According
to Table 7, after removing the effect of the other variables, the change in grinding media from
forged steel to high chrome led to a 2.0 0.6% increase in copper recovery, with greater than 99%
confidence.

11

The three quantitative methods were in good agreement, giving high confidence in the results
obtained. Using a conservative estimate it was concluded that the copper recovery improved by at
least 1.4% with a very high level of confidence.
The same analysis was performed on the copper concentrate grade but statistically significant
results were only obtained with the t-test (0.7 0.4% Cu with greater than 99% confidence).
Therefore concentrate grade was not taken into account in the final trial evaluation.
In addition to the improvement in metallurgical performance, the use of high chrome media led to a
significant reduction of grinding media consumption as shown in Table 8. The marked ball test
completed in 2011 indicated a wear reduction of 29% which matched well with the actual results
from the industrial test of 26%.
Table 8 Differences in grinding media consumption comparing forged with high chrome.
Parameter
Forged
HiCr
Wear reduction, %
Coefficient of superiority* (MBT test 2001)

1.0

1.4

29

Wear rate, actual plant data (gr/KW)

43

32

26

* For example, a coefficient of superiority of 1.5 means that the quantity of grinding media recharged for the new quality is
1.5 times lower than the reference, i.e. 36% lower.

Reagent saving
The various laboratory studies completed prior to the plant trial also indicated that with the use of
high chrome media, the pH should able to be reduced with no negative impact on plant
performance. At high pH values (above 10.5), the forged media is passivated, so as the pH of the
system drops the media corrosion rate increases and floods the system with corrosion products,
affecting flotation. As the high chrome media is much more inert, pH has less of an effect on
copper flotation response.
In March 2012, after the success of the high chrome media trial, EHM ran a plant trial where the pH
in the roughers was dropped from 10.6 to 9.6 (Kirkwood et al., 2013). Statistical evaluation revealed
that there was even a slight improvement in copper recovery with no statistical change in either the
rougher or final copper concentrate grades for copper and gold (Kinal, 2012). With the reduction in
pH, there was a noticeable reduction in lime usage from 0.85 kg of lime per tonne of ore processed
to 0.55 kg/t. At the time, this saving was equivalent to approximately USD $505,000 per annum.

5. Conclusions
This paper aims to alert metallurgical professionals to the importance of pulp chemistry for the
flotation of sulphide minerals and therefore the importance of using the most appropriate grinding
media alloy in their operation. Theoretical and practical case studies at both laboratory and plant
scale have revealed that using the right type of grinding media alloy can favourably alter the pulp
chemistry to more optimum conditions leading to improved flotation performances along with a
reduction in grinding media wear and regent consumption; combining to substantially increase the
revenue generated by the concentrator.
Comprehensive theoretical background and a detailed robust methodology are provided to assist
the metallurgist in how to go about selecting the optimum grinding media alloy for their operation
and reduce the risk for undertaking a plant scale trial. This methodology includes carefully matching

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both liberation characteristics as well as particle surface chemistry (measured through pulp
chemistry) in the laboratory tests to actual plant conditions prior to flotation. Then, the impact of the
change of grinding media type on flotation response can easily be measured with a high level of
confidence for application to plant scale. During grinding media plant trials, strong statistical
analysis methods are critical to be able to determine the magnitude of changes in grades and
recoveries amongst day to day plant variation.
Proof of the application of these methodologies is given through the review of the Ernest Henry
case study where the validity of the methodology has been demonstrated, supported by a number
of other case studies referenced in this document.

6. Acknowledgments
The authors thank Glencore Copper and Magotteaux for giving permission to publish the data used
in this paper.

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