Grinding experience at Afton

Lovering, J. ; Siewert, P. ; Wilhelm, H.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 5
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1987
Introduction The Afton property is located 290 km (180 miles) by air east-northeast from Vancouver and 14 km (8.7 miles) west of Kamloops, a city of 60,000 people, in south central British Columbia, Canada. The mine is adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway at an elevation of 670 m (2198 ft) above sea level. The ore body is a porphyry copper deposit that has undergone supergene alteration. The major economic minerals in the supergene zone are native copper and chalcocite with chalcopyrite and bornite in the hypergene areas. The grade is 1% with an overall copper distribution - 70% native, 25% chalcocite, and 5% chalcopyrite with bornite and covellite. The ore also contains important but variable amounts of gold and silver. The mill was designed to treat 6350 t/d (7000 stpd). Semiautogenous grinding was selected to minimize capital cost and because of the expected high clay content of the ore, which would have caused problems in a conventional crushing and screening plant. Test work indicated that a recovery of 87% was possible in a circuit incorporating both flotation and gravity separation. Flowsheet Run-of-mine ore is crushed in a 1.06 x 1.65-m (3.5 x 5.4-ft) Allis Chalmers gyratory crusher set at 228.6 mm (9 in.), closed side setting. The surge pocket, below the crusher, is emptied by a Hydrastroke feeder onto number one conveyor, which discharges onto a 180,000-t (198,416-st) coarse ore stockpile. Six Hydrastroke feeders on two conveyors withdraw the crushed material from the bottom of the pile. These two conveyors, in turn, discharge onto the belt feeding the semiautogenous mill. The live storage in the stockpile is approximately 22,000 t (24,250 st), sufficient for three days' mill feed. Primary grinding is accomplished in an 8.5-m (28-ft) diam by 3.7-m (12-ft) long Koppers (Hardinge Cascade) mill (Fig. 1) containing a 10% ball charge and driven by a 4000-kW dc variable speed motor. The mill dis¬charge is pumped by a 10 x 12 G.I.W. pump to a 1.22 x 4.88-m (4 x 16-ft) stationary screen sloped at 20°. Screen oversize returns to the semiautogenous mill (SAM), and the undersize flows by gravity to the ball mill discharge pump box. Secondary grinding is performed in a 5-m (16.4-ft) diam by 8.84-m (29-ft) Koppers overflow ball mill driven by a 3430-kW synchronous motor through an air clutch. The mill is in closed circuit with a Krebs Cyclopac containing 10 635-mm (25-in.) cyclones and the cyclone overflow, at 35% solids and 65% to 70% -200 mesh, is flotation feed. In order to limit the buildup of native copper, circulating in the secondary grinding circuit, a portion of the underflow from the cyclones is processed in a circuit containing screens, cyclones, and shaking tables to produce a finished metallic copper concentrate. Primary mill variable speed drive The overall waste to ore ratio at Afton was 4.5:1. The mining was to be done with only three shovels, which meant that it was highly unlikely that more than one of them would be in ore at any one time. The resulting inability to blend the mill feed made it impossible to prevent wide swings in the grade and grindability. The variable speed do drive motor installed on the semiautogenous mill was selected because of the extreme variability of the Afton ore body. This variability has persisted throughout the lifetime of the mine. There are times, however, when due to ore conditions, the mill is operated at full speed (78% of critical) for extended periods of several shifts duration. There are other times when the mill speed may be changed several times in a 12-hour shift due to changing ore conditions. When ore is processed that contains a fairly large proportion of fine native copper, the primary mill speed and, consequently, the tonnage may be reduced to improve the secondary grind and to maintain an acceptable grind and recovery. High clay ores require less mill speed and more dilute grinding densities. In the latter case, the slower primary mill speed also helps to minimize damage to the mill liners. Approximately 57% of the time the mill operates between 90% and 100% of full speed or between 71% and 78% of critical. The variable speed is also used for inching during mill relines.
Full Article Download:
(588 kb)