Odor Sensors for Ore Sorting and Mill Feed Control
Control of the feed provided to mineral processing facilities is a continuing challenge. Much effort is currently being devoted to overcoming these problems. These projects are usually described under the general headings of Mine-to-Mill Integration or Mine-Mill Optimization.
It should be possible to combine the knowledge of ore type, mineralogy, and other characteristics (located in the mine modelling system), with the advanced capabilities of state-of-the-art mill control systems, to achieve an improved level of control in mineral processing, allowing optimization of the mill processes on an almost real-time basis. This is not happening because, although the feed to the mill usually varies in composition and characteristics, it is often treated as a uniform material.
The University of Utah is investigating a novel method for maintaining traceability in ore production and processing. Odor sensors now used in food processing, environmental monitoring, and other applications can detect the presence of very small amounts (0.1 - 500 ppm) of certain types of molecules. An assortment of such molecules could be used to “tag” blocks of ore as they are mined, according to their respective characteristics. Then, as the ore came into the mill, an array of “electronic noses” could be used to assess the characteristics of that ore.