Innovative Process Control Technology For Milling And Flotation Circuit Operations

Smith, G. C.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 14
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2004
Process control applications in the minerals processing industry have grown extensively over the years due to the many benefits derived, both financially and operation-wise. Although control theory is widely known, conventional control does not address many of the problems posed by minerals processing circuits. Some of these problems include interactions between process units, large dead times, few and sometimes unreliable measurements of process variables, non-linear systems, disturbances entering the process, processes with varying dynamics, and many more. For the past 26 years Mintek has been active in the field of providing specific, customized solutions for the minerals processing industry. This paper focuses specifically on applications in milling and flotation control. The underlying control principles have been applied to a wide range of other processes including submerged arc furnaces. Advanced control application is implemented on a common advanced control platform, called the PlantStar. Much innovation has been brought to the fore in terms of adapting theoretical techniques and developing new methods to resolve specific milling and flotation circuit issues by using process control. The general approach adopted by Mintek when implementing advanced control is to enforce stabilization of the process as a solid foundation for optimization strategies to be built upon. In doing this, a robust control solution is presented, and the end result is flow and level stability, better product quality regulation, increase in throughput and a stable feed to downstream processes. The MillStar advanced milling control system ensures that the milling circuit is at all times easy to operate while achieving optimum product quality and throughput. Stabilization should include product size regulation and sump level control. Another important aspect of stabilization control is the handling of milling circuit constraints without introducing cyclical behaviour and with minimal disturbance to the final product quality. Process constraints may include factors such as process water limitations, cyclone feed density, and cyclone underflow angle. An optimization strategy should be developed to increase the mill throughput without affecting product quality or introducing mill overloads. The relationship between solids feed and power draw is examined and manipulated for optimization. The interactive nature of flotation circuits and the presence of recirculating streams tend to make satisfactory control almost impossible with conventional techniques such as PI (Proportional plus Integral) or PID (Proportional, Integral and Derivative) control. The FloatStar Level Stabilizer simultaneously considers all the flotation levels in a circuit by use of a multivariable algorithm, and takes compensating action in anticipation of disturbances. The FloatStar Flow Optimizer is an optimization strategy that controls the concentrate flow rate between various sections of a flotation circuit (e.g. Rougher ?Cleaner; Cleaner ?Recleaner). By controlling the concentrate flow between the sections, the mass pull, circulating loads and residence times of the circuit can be stabilized, thereby enhancing the performance of the flotation process. Optimizing grade and recovery are coupled with the dynamic optimization of circulating flows. The FloatStar Grade-Recovery Optimizer will maximize the grade in a section, whilst ensuring that recovery or any other process specific limits remain within predefined limits. With successful applications on several milling and flotation plants worldwide processing amongst others PGMs, gold, copper and nickel, Mintek has shown that it is a leader in milling and flotation control innovation
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