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Gold heap leach simulation and optimization using a multiphysics model

Minerals & Metallurgical Processing , 2010, Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 196-204

Garcia, S.; Ramon, C.; Esplin, A.; Gebhardt, J.E.; Hernandez, A.; McBride, D.; Cross, M.


The Minera Yanacocha operation presents various operating challenges, due to the complex structure of several heaps interconnected with ponds and gold recovery plants. A comprehensive process model has been developed in order to better understand the effects of certain operating parameters on issues such as water usage and inventory. An integral component of the water/mass balance of the process is a model of each heap that describes the flow and chemical behavior based on the individual characteristics of the heap. A computational fluid dynamic (CFD) software framework is used to model the individual heaps. The structure, calibration and validation of the model are described. Several examples demonstrating application of the process heap model are presented for the La Quinua heap. The effects of loss of solution flow to the heap (i.e., pump failure), increased cyanide levels in applied solutions and higher copper head grades on the process operation and balance are investigated with model simulations and compared to the baseline operating conditions. An example of estimating gold production and inventory based on projected heap loading plans is provided.