Maximizing profits with fragmentation analysis

The goal of any business is to maximize profits by optimizing resources, processes and new technology. This is especially true in mining, where the initial extraction processes can drastically impact downstream activities and the overall profitability of an operation.

Open-pit mines often view blasting as separate from other extraction activities. However, results of the blast such as fragmentation, muck pile profile and displacement, impact downstream activities like mining, crushing and milling.

That’s why the complex, multi-layered process of drill and blast is arguably the first and most important step to get right. It can also be the toughest and most expensive.

Two copper mines in Peru recognized the need to create new drilling and blasting designs to improve mining and milling productivity. The mines hoped that changing the designs would allow a better distribution of energy during detonation and ultimately improve the fragmentation.

Fragmentation of rock – making rock small enough and loose enough to be efficiently excavated – is essential to mining and is the preparatory stage in the extraction process. Correct fragmentation means easier digging, reduced shovel cycle times, reduced rework, less oversize causing downtime at the crusher, lower cost crushing, and improved tons per hour (TPH) through the processing plant.

The two mines identified six key objectives to accomplish their goal:

  • Optimize resources, technologies and processes
  • Evaluate blast design to improve fragmentation from pit to plant
  • Improve the shape of the muckpile
  • Improve SAG milling energy efficiency
  • Increase equipment utilization efficiency
  • Increase SAG mill throughput

In order to meet these objectives, they needed a way to analyze their fragmentation.

The Split advantage

The mines selected HxGN Split to deliver high-quality fragmentation information.

HxGN Split measures particle-size distributions from mine-to-mill, to manage blast design, optimize fragmentation, increase mine site productivity and profits, with automated systems.

HxGN Split-ShovelCam, HxGN Split-TruckCam and HxGN Split-ConveyorCam trigger images of fragmentation and transmit them to a Split-server to process particle sizes automatically. This gives a mine a complete picture of what is going on with their fragmentation from the muck pile all the way to the conveyor belt.

HxGN Split-ShovelCam measures particle size distribution information as the ore is loaded into the shovel in the pit. By measuring at the muck pile face, the largest rocks are captured early in the process.

HxGN Split-TruckCam measures the particle size distribution (PSD) of post-blasted rock delivered to the primary crusher. Rock fragmentation from different blast designs can be measured to determine the most effective parameters for oversize reduction and crusher throughput

HxGN Split-ConveyorCam measures PSD information for any conveyor belt location. This system provides real-time analysis data for measuring particle size distribution, shape and color.

Closing the drill and blast gap

As a result of using HxGN Split to identify and reduce fragmentation size, the mines saw improvements to equipment efficiency, loading and transportation productivity, tonnage processed and energy consumption.

The implementation led to the following improvements:

  • 50% increase in material less than 1 inch (25.4 mm)
  • 20% increase in mining equipment productivity
  • 13% reduction in SAG mill specific energy consumption
  • 12% increase in SAG mill throughput
  • USD $7.5 million per month increase in revenue

The Peruvian mines illustrate the benefits of using fragmentation analysis to inform the drill and blast process, improving profitability from downstream activities like milling. It also helps explain why technology to tailor fragmentation outcomes must be integral to any drill and blast portfolio.

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