In mining operations, the use of right set of technological innovations can mean increased profitability and production efficiency. It was this ideology which drove the development of sensor based ore processing and sorting technologies as ore grade qualities declined all over the world. According to Tim Woodward, Managing Director of San Francisco based Prelude Ventures “With fewer and lower grade deposits available and declining metal prices, the global mining industry is desperately seeking efficiencies to offset escalating costs and resulting margin squeeze.”
Sensor based ore sorting/electronic sorting/automated sorting singularly detects particles and ejects them by an amplified mechanical, pneumatic or hydraulic process. “You use a sensor and measure the quality of the rock which could involve studying frequency of light, the color, X-ray transmission, X-ray fluorescence, electromagnetic/infrared laser etc. and then compare this to the database of other rocks to determine whether the sample is ore or waste” says Brent Hilscher Principal Process Engineer with Sacre-Davey Engineering. According to Brent, globally, the grades of ores have decreased considerably especially in the gold industry which is affecting the industry profits.
Typically sensor based ore processing is applicable in the following applications.
The choice of the sensor based ore processing equipment to be used defines the success of the operation. The type of equipment to be used is defined by the type of mining application. The most common types of equipment include Channel-Type Sorters, Bucket-Wheel Type Sorters and Cone Type Sorters. Some of the leading suppliers of sensor based sorting technology include Outotec, Tomra, Redwave, Minesense, Scantech, Steinert GmbH etc. The new types of equipment that mines install are:
ADVANTAGES OF SENSOR BASED TECHNOLOGIES
Advantages of sensor based ore processing according to TOMRA, a sorting solutions technology developer:
The biggest disadvantage of sensor based sorting occurs when rejection of waste is set at maximum in the machines. This can result in the rejection of a slightly lower grade of the actual metal or product in the ore as well. This means that in case of precious metals like gold, the monetary loss could be much higher and thus, in such a scenario a sensor based sorting technology no longer remains economically viable. Mine operators have to be aware of this drawback not only while choosing the type of sensor based sorting equipment for their mine but also while establishing rejection settings.
Additionally there is always difficulty in breaking through the established styles of working however, with right set of marketing and education, there is higher acceptance of robotics, automation, sensors etc. This is also since mine operators want to be more efficient and environmentally friendly. “If you operate your mine more efficiently, you are more environmentally conscious” says Tom Palangio, President of WipWare.
Hilscher feels that the industry has come a long way and is moving in the right direction for the future. However, he feels there are improvements still to be expected as below:
Listen to the podcast – Ep 8: Understanding Sensor Based Ore Processing
Watch full podcast – Ep 8: Understanding Sensor Based Ore Processing
Watch interview with Brent Hilscher – Principal Engineer at Sacré-Davey Engineering
Watch Interview with Tom Palangio – President at WipWare Inc.