Data-driven insights are the new norm in mineral processing, boosting the efficiency of operations while minimizing costs and environmental impacts
Mineral processing operations were early adopters of digitally enabled solutions, and the trend continues as mines strive to optimize their production while driving down waste and energy consumption.
Automation and remote monitoring capabilities in particular have come into their own since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020. Today, these features are considered fundamental both in the fight against downtime and in counteracting the absence of personnel on-site.
In this area of mining, digitally enabled processes are no longer “nice to have,” they are essential in maintaining a competitive advantage through increasingly unpredictable market conditions.
ANDRITZ Enables Intelligent Processing
The efficiency and reliability of many mineral processing steps can be significantly improved through digitalization, and automation can make it easier to operate and control machines precisely. Many mining operations are already subject to strict environmental requirements and are proactively implementing digital solutions in anticipation of more stringent regulations. The team at ANDRITZ is following these trends closely, not only in mining and minerals, but across all industries it serves.
Mario Gerards, industry director for mining and minerals at ANDRITZ Separation, said, “Mining companies have recognized that electrification, digitalization and automation can make their plants more reliable, sustainable and significantly more productive.
“As an international technology group, we know that it is no longer sufficient to concentrate purely on machinery. Today, complex systems and smart solutions are required to support the user as much as possible during operation. Mineral and mining plants, in particular, can be found in the most remote places on Earth, where specialized operating and service personnel are hard to find. In the future, we will address this by making our machines even more intelligent so that they constantly inform the operator on their operating status, maintenance requirements and overall performance. This area is also being pushed by the ongoing, difficult COVID-19 situation in which personnel are often restricted in their movements.”
ANDRITZ works with both internal and external partners to make use of digital technologies and tools that are already available and can be adapted to the specific needs of its mining clients. Many tasks in mining and mineral processing are very complex and collaborating with highly experienced partners ensures that ANDRITZ provides the most efficient and sustainable solutions to its customers.
“For instance, ANDRITZ Automation, one of our internal partners, offers innovative solutions for plant control and optimization across all industries,” Gerards said. “These digital solutions open up significant advantages for our customers in many areas, going far beyond individual machine technology. One example worth mentioning is the interaction of several filter presses within a plant, each of which is equipped with an intelligent control system called Metris addIQ ACE, thus coordinating the entire plant control system to optimum benefit.”
Going forward, Gerards sees a growing need for intelligent machines and plants in the minerals and mining industry.
“Nowadays, it must be possible to inform plant operators on the current performance status of their plant anytime and anywhere,” he said. “Also, the operator should not have to find out for themselves that the machine needs to be overhauled, maintained or perhaps even repaired. If possible, the machine itself should be able to report this to the operator.”
If desired, these reports can also be sent directly to ANDRITZ so that its expert team can take action where necessary. Time is often the critical factor, and operators can no longer afford longer unplanned downtime.
“We at ANDRITZ recognized this fact a long time ago and offer proven solutions for optimization of maintenance costs based on data models, as well as for increased availability and reduction of operating costs or variable costs,” Gerards added.
Smart Solutions and Services
As part of ANDRITZ’s comprehensive, digital solutions offered under the technology brand Metris, the company has developed the Metris addIQ control system, one of the most innovative automation solutions for mechanical and thermal separation processes on the market today. Its various packages and add-ons allow any separation business to optimize its performance — from control of the complete process line down to single equipment units.
State-of-the-art service solutions have also been developed with a focus on process availability through ANDRITZ Service Level Agreements. By choosing a Service Level Agreement (SLA), customers are guaranteed fast and straightforward emergency support with easily calculable costs thanks to fixed prices for basic packages and all options as well as an easy purchasing process. Sustainable asset management is provided with the help of preventive maintenance features and transparent documentation of all service interventions.
The basic SLA package includes a range of services. Customers receive outstanding technical support from local and global ANDRITZ experts via phone or the Metris remote assistance app, with augmented reality features for live, remote analysis and troubleshooting. This is complemented by free web access to the Metris Spare Parts Catalog to ensure easy spare and wear parts ordering. Preventive maintenance features are also included in the basic SLA. A control system performance check is conducted every three months, with remote checks on critical system components (PLC, HMI, VFD, etc.), performed using Metris addIQ Connect.
“A favorite feature of the basic SLA is the issue of regular reports with predefined KPIs,” Gerards said. “Specific machine and production reports with predefined KPIs are automatically generated and emailed straight to our customers’ inboxes at intervals of their choosing — per shift, day, week or month.”
The optional extras that can be included in a SLA are specific to each customer, but popular options include a critical alarm service, where a mobile app notifies the customer of predefined, critical machine, and process alarms and events.
Gerards explained: “A great place to start with process optimization is machine and process monitoring — online machine and process data are shown by the Metris addIQ Monitoring with an update interval of one minute. The self-explanatory app allows an unlimited number of users and comes with intuitive graphics to aid operators with varying language or technical skills. Another common add-on is the periodical machine readjustment. After a performance audit, which is an on-site check on current plant performance, the plant and associated control loops (originally delivered by ANDRITZ) are readjusted.”
IIoT for Intelligent Filtration
The ANDRITZ Intelligent Filter Press should also be mentioned. In many industries, efficient filtration is the key to achieving the desired quality in the end product, and one of the most common technologies in filtration is the filter press.
Gerards explained: “By combining our proven filter press automation solutions with Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies, an increase in product quality and a decrease in operating costs can be achieved with the Intelligent Filter Press. Smart sensors collect all the relevant operating data from the filter press, after which sophisticated data analytics select the relevant details and display this information for the operator.”
The technology can be used for manual operations as well as fully automated filter presses and is useful for predictive maintenance solutions as well as process monitoring, troubleshooting and long-term trending. Further features such as process optimization, mechanical innovation, predictive maintenance, and industrial digitalization increase production capacity thanks to cycle time optimization.
In addition, the process can be made more reliable thanks to quality monitoring features, and entire filter press plants can make significant productivity gains with minimal intervention when artificial intelligence is applied with the Metris addIQ ACE control system for filter presses.
“In addition, we develop smaller and stand-alone Metris features for our customers that can often be very helpful, not exclusively for ANDRITZ equipment but also for machines from other manufacturers,” Gerards said. “For example, the Metris addIQ RheoScan is the world’s first optical measurement system for automatic polymer dosage in belt presses and gravity belt tables used in various thickening and dewatering processes, such as tailings treatment. Optimized dosage saves polymer, resulting in OPEX reduction by up to 40% for different types of sludge.”
For more information on ANDRITZ solutions, visit www.andritz.com/separation.
Precise Process Control From EnviroChemie
Water treatment specialist, EnviroChemie, has found that energy supply is one of the biggest challenges its mining and metals clients face as operations look to boost their efficiency and cut costs. Developing customized, innovative solutions for wastewater treatment, as well as management of the complete water cycle are also key concerns.
“Extraction costs are one of the main aspects in the search for optimal water treatment solutions,” said Dr. Maria Natcheva-Schwarz at EnviroChemie. “Optimization of maintenance, spare parts and reagent consumption are also crucial considerations when an investment decision has to be taken.”
The company strongly believes that the mining industry could benefit from using data, technology and digital analytics to optimize both mineral processing and water treatment operations, improve their performance and reduce risk.
“Our aim at EnviroChemie is to build the best possible treatment plant for the customer and to prove its performance during operation,” said Sebastian Spielhoff of EnviroChemie. “That is why we launched our WaterExpert digital services platform during 2021. Depending on the needs of the customer, the best service solution can be provided.”
WaterExpert provides a complete overview of plant operation and all the processes within a treatment plant to help operators stay compliant with strict requirements for monitoring and control. Using WaterExpert, mines can remotely monitor system performance data, digitalize routine plant inspection tours, and store alarms and messages together with detailed instructions. They can also implement an effective inspection and maintenance program and minimize recurring paperwork. Additionally, the platform can improve knowledge transfer between team members and reduce the potential for knowledge loss.
When operating mine drainage or wastewater with a Flomar flotation plant, it’s important to dose the operating chemicals precisely. EnviroChemie’s Adaptive Control and Intelligent Control solutions allow chemical dosage to be automatically and precisely adjusted to the respective operating conditions by means of intelligent control. In this way, the Flomar and Flomar smart flotation systems can be optimally operated and both overdosing and underdosing of chemicals is avoided.
The Adaptive Control module allows the optimization of chemical dosing in accordance with fluctuating wastewater composition. It reduces sludge accumulation and maintenance requirements, while optimizing treatment outcomes and operating costs. Intelligent Control offers all the benefits of Adaptive Control, but with further increases in operational safety through monitoring of the inflow and outflow using an online analyzer and monitoring of material flows at the plant. Monitoring ensures compliance with limit values or specified loads during the flotation process, optimization of operation through material flow balance and fault diagnostics, and even a reduction in the size of mixing and equalizing tanks.
Together with its parent company, SKion Water, EnviroChemie is developing a user-friendly software solution called opsCTRL. This allows mine operators to easily check water treatment plant performance, create reports, conduct maintenance and operator rounds.
“In addition, we are working on projects featuring advanced process control (APC), image recognition and augmented reality technologies,” Spielhoff added.
To find out more about Enviro-Chemie’s solutions, visit www.envirochemie.com/en/sectors/mining-ore-processing/.
allmineral Digitalizes Services, Bags New Orders
With smart online tools, operational failures or problems in mineral processing plants can be identified and corrected quickly.
“A quick investigation of the trendlines of our equipment and beneficiation plants, leads quite often, to a huge benefit for our customers,” said Marco Steinberg, CEO at allmineral. “We therefore recommend that our equipment and beneficiation plants should be checked at least once a year by one of our experts. All in all, digitization helps us to plan ahead to ensure smooth operations.”
At the beginning of 2020, allmineral began modernizing its allconnect machine control hardware and software offering and aligning them with smart technologies. allconnect has a wide range of applications and capabilities. On one hand, it provides a management dashboard with all necessary KPIs, which can be customized, on the other, it detects bottlenecks and, with the assistance of allmineral’s technical experts, can help the client to reduce their costs.
“Another important component of allconnect is our remote box,” Steinberg said. “The remote box offers three options: integration into the customer’s network via LAN, communication via a SIM card if no local network is available and setting up of a machine-related W-LAN network. With the remote box, we offer our customers a wide range of options and services.”
Via a locally generated W-LAN network, it’s possible to use the visualization tools on mobile devices such as phones or tablets within range to retrieve machine performance information. This means that operators and service staff can move freely and are not tied to the touch panel on control cabinets. Operating parameters can be changed within the legally permissible scope and in the process, the effects can be viewed directly on site.
“Together with our customers, we try to integrate operating experiences into our machine control systems and develop them further to meet customer requirements,” Steinberg added. “In doing so, we provide tools that go beyond pure machine operation.”
Besides the digitalization of its own mineral processing equipment, allmineral is also providing digital analysis technologies for entire beneficiation plants. The majority of plants operate equipment from multiple OEMs and so the company works with experts in different fields to optimize its solutions.
Earlier this year, HAZEMAG allmineral Australia supplied two allflux classifiers for a key customer in the Pilbara region. The manufacturing and factory assembly testing was handled in Perth, before the unit was transported under a heavy-haulage road escort to the mine site. The allflux classifier is designed to treat iron-ore particles in two classification stages that upgrade the valuable mineral by size and density with desliming in one step. Sorting, classification and cleaning are all performed in a single unit. Consistent material quality is delivered via automatic process control, low energy requirement and low wear.
For more information, visit www.allmineral.com/en/.