Comminution: Past Developments, Current Innovation and Future Challenges

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1992
Comminution of solids is surely one of the oldest technologies which even in this day and age of DNAs, chips and space exploration continues to challenge our scientific acumen and engineering ingenuity. In essence, this challenge is two-fold. One, as much as three to four per cent of all electric power generated world-wide is consumed in crushing and grinding primarily because the utilisation of energy is woefully poor. Studies have shown that the efficiency of mechanical size reduction processes is of the order of 1.5 to 12 per cent only (Schoenert 1986). Two, with the grinding technologies available to us, we have, at best, inadequate and, at worst, almost negligible control over the shape of the comminuted particles, size dispersion of the ground mass, and the sharpness of mineral liberation. Low energy efficiency and lack of control in the sense mentioned above have far-reaching implications for resource conservation, performance of down stream unit operations, and damage to the environment. Our problem is in fact central to the mineral-energy resources triangle shown in Figure 1 which depicts the close interrelationships among mineral resources which are becoming poorer in content and more complex in mineralogy each day, energy resources which are depleting rapidly without any viable alternate on the horizon, and environmental concerns which can no longer be ignored. It is evident that any improvement in the efficiency of the comminution process impacts directly on the control of environmental damage, conservation of energy and the economics of the operation. These concerns have special relevance for the processing of non-ferrous ores.
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