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Glencore’s Mount Isa Mines is adding value by experimenting with the ball charge in the operation’s copper concentrator mills.

Mount Isa Mines metallurgy superintendent Lucian Cloete identified an opportunity to reduce overall ball consumption by 25-30 per cent by adjusting the ball load in the SAG mill and in the ball mills, with the additional benefit of reducing the power draw on the mills.

The adjustment involved a drop from 8 per cent to 6 per cent in the SAG mill and 40 per cent to 30-32 per cent in the ball mills.

“The trial was planned and implemented to maintain a constant output, while targeting an overall lower ball charge, an approach which ensures results can be measured accurately and without bias,” Mr Cloete said.

“So far, the trial has yielded promising results, with noted cost reductions and importantly no adverse impacts on production.”

The wear profile is being monitored periodically to ensure the actual media set points align with the online measurements.

Grinding in the concentrator is carried out in two stages and the first stage, Semi-Autogenous (SAG) milling, reduces the rocks from 150 millimetres to 1.5 millimetres.

The SAG mills are loaded with 105mm forged steel balls, known as media, to facilitate the grinding, with the addition of media programmed on a wear rate profile.

Ball milling further breaks the rocks down to about 0.15mm. Those mills are loaded with smaller 80mm chrome steel balls.

The site’s metallurgy team is also in the process of conducting a trial to quantify the wear profile on 105mm forged steel media when treating slag – a by-product from the copper smelter.

Glencore Queensland Metals general manager Isa processing Richard Harvey commended the initiative of the metallurgy team and encouraged others to share their continuous improvement ideas.

“I am really pleased to see the metallurgy team are seeing positive results from their trials, and look forward to seeing the long-term impact,” he said.

“Looking for opportunities to reduce operational costs, improve efficiency and simplify workflows all contribute to the sustainability of our assets.”