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Optimization of flotation plant performance using micro-price analysis

Mining Engineering , 2017, Vol. 69, No. 2, pp. 34-40

Luttrell, G.H.; Noble, A.



Flotation circuits play a key role in determining the profitability of base metal concentrators. Many companies have recognized this and have opted to install complex control systems that are designed to optimize performance based on one or more objective functions, such as circuit yield, grade or other measures of efficiency or cost. Unfortunately, field studies indicate that this generalized approach to optimization often does not provide a true financial optimum and, in fact, can often lead to worse performance in terms of overall profitability. Moreover, this blind approach to optimization provides little or no insight that can be used by plant operators on a day-to-day basis to improve concentrator performance. A more effective approach is to use micro-price analysis to identify and formulate optimization protocols for the concentrator. The micro-price concept assigns unit values to each particle (or groups of similar particles) passing through production units. Optimal performance occurs whenever all particles with positive value are recovered and passed to market, and all negative value particles are rejected as waste. This paper describes the micro-price concept as applied to froth flotation circuits in base metal concentrators. A hypothetical case study is provided to demonstrate the economic gains that can be realized through the application of this flexible optimization concept.