'Closing the Loop' - Using Actual Concentrator Performance to Determine the True Value of Ore Sources

CIM Montreal 2003
A. Zuzunaga,
Abstract "Closing the Loop" - Using Actual Concentrator Performance to Determine the True Value of Ore Sources

The Antamina orebody is geologically complex, polymetallic skarn located in the Peruvian Andes. Different copper and copper-zinc ores are campaigned separately through the concentrator producing copper and zinc concentrates as well as lead and molybdenum by-products.

Ore type classification at Antamina is based on chemical assays; geological or lithological variations are not considered. Consequently, each ore type demonstrates a wide range of concentrator performance.

Antamina is currently implementing a system to track ore movements from the shovel face to the concentrator. Sophisticated models of the ROM and coarse ore stockpiles ahead of the mill will be used to account for the variable delay between mining and milling.

One of the numerous benefits of ore tracking is the ability to directly associate the measured concentrator performance with a physical location in the orebody. Using existing mine planning software, three-dimensional models can be created of such performance measures as metal recovery, concentrate quality, operating cost and reagent consumption.

Such a database of information allows the true value of different ore sources to be determined. The value of an ore source is conventionally measured as metal content (individual or combined ‘equivalent’) with a cut-off grade applied to indicate some base level operating cost. However, the true value of an ore source should include dynamic factors like haulage cost, reagent use, smelter penalties and even prevailing metal prices.

If an ore source is considered from all perspectives rather than simply its potential to deliver value, the concept of ‘ore’ becomes more flexible. Unprofitable ore sources can be eliminated from the mine plan or blended to improve their value. The ability to predict mill performance – and thereby profitability – is a powerful tool.

In an operation such as Antamina, where managing ore sources, campaigns and the delivery of a variety of concentrates in a narrow timeline to customers is a daily challenge, prediction is the key to success and improved efficiency.

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