Pebbles Mills

Crocker, B. S.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 14
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
Introduction Pebble mill grinding can be defined as wet or dry grinding in a tumbling mill with pebbles used as grinding media instead of metal balls. To clarify the terminology, which may differ in the various mineral industries, it is essential to point out the differences between grinding with partially sized and carefully sized grinding media. When grinding with partially sized media (limited top size only), sizing is usually the setting of the primary crusher and there is no bottom sizing-all fines, chips, sand, and small sizes are included. This is often called run-of-mine or primary autogenous grinding. In this case the entire crusher discharge is fed into the mill and part of it becomes "charge" and the rest is "sand feed." When grinding with carefully sized media (i.e., media that is sized both at the top and bottom of the size range), no fines or chips should be present in the charge to the mill. This is pebble milling and the grinding media consists of ore, rock, Danish pebbles, gravel pebbles, or ceramic pebbles-media that is appreciably lighter than steel balls. The grind¬ing charge is fed to the mill to maintain a load and it does the grinding usually on a classified sand product of suitable size. If the grinding media is the same as the raw material being ground, this type of grinding is also called secondary autogenous grinding. Pebble milling was in common use in the gold mines of South Africa in the early 1900s. It is by far the oldest form of autogenous grinding. It may be used to grind crushed ores from a maximum size of about -% in. to all -10 µm. Pebble milling differs from "run of mine" grinding in many ways, but two big differences are: I) The ore itself is crushed to approximately t/4 in., or it may be further reduced to 8 or 10 mesh in a rod mill or fine crusher. 2) Then carefully screened ore of the correct size is placed in one or more stages of pebble mills to grind the ore to its desired final size. The media size is carefully selected to be the most efficient for the particular size reduction required in each stage. This is a precise practice, and pebble mills can be designed as easily and accu¬rately as can rod mills or ball mills by those skilled in the art. A pebble mill is a rotating cylinder in which the grinding media has been carefully sized for the job in hand. If the mill is doing coarse grinding, the media will be correspondingly large and the mill might be called a primary (or intermediate) pebble mill or a lump mill. If it is to do fine grinding, the media selected is proportionately smaller and the mill would be called a secondary or tertiary pebble mill. The media itself is normally rounded pebbles made from screened ore from the primary-crusher discharge. The charge could be rounded pebbles of the correct size removed from a primary autogenous mill, or the pebbles could be carefully sized gravel, sized beach pebbles, or sized flint pebbles. Usually the specific gravity of a pebble is from 35 to 55% of that of steel balls. It commonly varies from 2.66 to 4.2, depending on the specific gravity of the ore. Primary pebble mills, or lump mills, would be charged with pieces of rock up to 10 in. maximum and 5 in. minimum and would grind crusher discharge with a maximum size of 1/4 in. on hard ores and 3/8 in. on softer ores. Secondary pebble mills could be charged with pieces of rock screened on 4 x 4-in. square mesh and retained on 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 in. These mills would grind material with a top size of 8 to 10 mesh. Tertiary pebble mills could be charged with screened rock that would pass 3 x 3 in. and be retained on 1 x 1 in. and grind 35 to 48 mesh sands. Principles of Operation Media Size To operate a pebble mill efficiently it is imperative that great care be taken in screening the rock feed that is fed into the mill to round up into a range of pebble sizes that are suitable for grinding of the sands that are also being fed into the mill, having regard to the top size and the average size of such sands. Since most mill operators know from experience the correct size of steel balls to be used in a mill to handle different sizes of sand feed, it is convenient to relate the pebble size to a ball size. If the correct ball size is not known, it is relatively simple to conduct batch laboratory tests in 12- to 18-in. laboratory mills to determine the optimum size of steel ball. Also, Bond and others have published formulas for calculating the optimum ball size. When the correct size of the individual steel ball is known, then a pebble of the same weight will perform the same grinding if used in the proper size of mill and under the proper conditions, which will be defined later. This media size, as defined by the average weight of the individual pieces, is most important. The following tests will serve to clarify this point. Laboratory Tests Using Steel Balls or Pebbles. Several labora¬tory grinds were made to compare a given size and weight of steel ball with a pebble of the same weight but larger size, and of the same size but lighter weight. The following loads were used in the 12-in. laboratory mill: All 1 1/4-in. steel balls weighing 122 ± 10 g. All 1 3/4-in. pebbles weighing 123 ± 5 g. All 1 1/4-in. pebbles weighing 45 ± 3 g. To equalize capacity, the test with the steel balls was run only 34% as long as the tests with pebbles. In each case, 2,500 g of primary sands were ground at the optimum gravity for the media being tested at a speed 78 1/2 % of critical speed, and for 170, 340, and 680 revolu¬tions for the steel balls, and 500, 1,000, and 2,000 revolutions for the pebbles. The first test is summarized in Table 74 by showing the 80% passing size in microns for the feed and for each of the grinds. Two other tests are summarized in Table 75 showing the screen analyses
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