3 June 2019: A renowned British expert in the modelling and simulation of minerals processing recently visited the Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE) to review one of its key initiatives.
Professor Stephen Neethling is a Professor of Minerals Processing in the Royal School of Mines at Imperial College London. He was approached by the Board of CRC ORE to undertake an independent review of the Integrated Extraction Simulator (IES).
IES represents the next generation of high performance mineral processing simulation driven by the power of cloud computing.CRC ORE developed IES and incorporated the industry leading equipment models developed by the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC) in conjunction with Australian Mining Industry Research Association (AMIRA) and its global network of leading research institutes. IES provides the mining industry with a system that can simulate and optimise the mineral processing value chain from blasting through to final concentrate on the massively powerful computing platform provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS).
During an immersive two week review, Professor Neethling examined the functionality of IES and how it compared to the current state of the art in the field. He also explored how IES is used in both industry and academia, the improvements and additional functionality that both should and could be implemented within IES, and what form IES and its support should take in the future.
“I found IES to be a user friendly and powerful simulator and I feel that there are two main benefits of IES relative to other simulation packages,” Professor Neethling said.
“The first is the Mass Simulation capability that allows it to be run with hundreds of thousands of different conditions.”
“These can be based, for instance, on resource block models, thus allowing process simulation to expand from its current roles in concentrator design and throughput debottlenecking, to be a key component in mine scheduling, budgeting and project evaluation.”
Professor Neethling said that the second important attraction of IES is that it is a key tool in a range of proven mine optimisation strategies.
While in Brisbane for the IES review, Professor Neethling provided his thoughts about technology in mining. He said that the continuing decrease in ore grades coupled to the environmental and economic constraints associated with energy and water consumption are strong drivers for the need for innovation.
“The key to meeting these challenges is likely to lie in achieving both mineral liberation and gangue rejection at coarser particle sizes,” he said.
“This will require both new comminution and mineral separation technologies, the alternative is to avoid the need for liberation and leach the metal out at coarser particle sizes, although this has a range of its own challenges.”
Professor Neethling also noted that while innovative solutions such as IES are needed by the mining industry, the challenge lays with industry acceptance of new ideas.
“There are challenges in the development and implementation of new technology in the mining industry,” he said.
“A major challenge is that the scale at which mining, and minerals processing occurs means that it is hard and expensive to translate ideas from the laboratory scale up to the demonstration and industrial scales.”
“This is exacerbated by the decline in in-house research and development activity in most mining companies.”
CRC ORE approached Professor Neethling to review IES as the main areas of his research are in the modelling and simulation of multiphase flow with particular application to minerals processing. This has been accompanied by research into advanced imaging techniques to complement simulations, including micro-computed tomography (microCT) and positron emission particle tracking (PEPT) studies. This research has resulted in over 100 publications in international journals.
Professor Neethling’s work has a strong mining industry focus, with research and consulting projects carried out for a wide range of mining companies and equipment manufacturers including Anglo American, BHP, Outotec, Rio Tinto, Weir Minerals and Imerys.
CRC ORE will undertake a full assessment of Professor Neethling’s report findings and recommendations to further strengthen IES as an important tool to support future planning and decision making in mining.
CRC ORE is a Cooperative Research Centre focused on Optimising Resource Extraction for the mining sector. It delivers value through increased unit metal production, and reduced water and energy consumption.