Geometallurgy: the cornerstone of whole-of-mine optimization

After much success discussing the topic of geometallurgy in Moscow at the XXIX International Mineral Processing Congress as well as the MINEX Russia Forum, we thought it would be interesting to bring the discussion over to Digging Deeper.

AMC defines geometallurgy as:

The integration of geological, geotechnical, mining, metallurgical, environmental and economic information to maximize the Net Present Value (NPV) of an orebody while minimizing technical, operational, and environmental risk.

Geometallurgy typically provides the benefits of:

  • Better control of the comminution characteristics of the run of mine ore, resulting in less variability of feed to the crushing circuit and greater throughput.
  • Improved knowledge of the ore mineral species or textures, leading to improved metal recovery.
  • Improved knowledge of the distribution of waste mineral species,¬†such as talc, graphite, etc, that may interfere with metal recovery leading to improved metal recovery and/or lower reagent consumption, improved concentrate quality, etc.
  • Identification of ore preconcentration and beneficiation opportunities.

These benefits translate to lower operating costs and greater profitability.

A mining business consists of a series of linked processes that extract a mineral of value from the ground to be sold at a profit. The decisions made at any stage of the business may affect the inputs and/or outcomes of preceding and successive stages. Decisions made in isolation at any stage are unlikely to be optimal, and often have unforeseen and unintended consequences in other parts of the business. The geometallurgical approach enables a mining business to be optimized more efficiently by using innovative thinking and shared production goals to integrate traditional one-discipline silos.

Importantly, the geometallurgical approach includes the forecasting of ore processing response variables such as throughput or energy consumption. Many of these characteristics are estimated from proxy variables; these are attributes of the ore that can be measured cheaply, and in large quantity, and used to predict processing behaviours that were traditionally forecast from a very small number of expensive direct measurements. Proxy variables provide an avenue for estimation and scheduling, at a detailed scale, of characteristics such as mineral recovery, energy consumption and reagent consumption in the process plant.

Operating mines are moving from narrowly focussed grade control to broader ore control in which both grade and estimated processing responses are forecast, managed and used to improve whole-of-mine performance.

Geometallurgy is becoming an expected part of feasibility studies, mining operations and business improvement. It challenges traditional discipline-centric key performance indicators and requires top-down leadership, site-wide ownership and cross-disciplinary thinking.

Ian Lipton

Corporate Consulting Manager / Principal Geologist

Don’t miss the next edition of Digging Deeper where Ian Lipton will answer the question: should I use composite or variability samples for metallurgical testing?