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COMMERCIAL LABORATORIES MOVE TOWARDS AUTOMATED PULVERIZING

Commercial laboratories around the world are moving from manual labour intensive pulverisers to fully automated HPM 1500 pulverizers. Intertek Darwin laboratory in Australia has taken delivery of their third fully automated mill and magazines, while Accurassay in Canada have taken delivery of twelve automated pulverisers and an automated crushing system.  
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QUALITY OF PGE AND GOLD FIRE ASSAY DATA USING SPARK ANALYSIS ON LEAD BUTTONS

ABSTRACT Traditional fire assay dates back over 3000 years and has changed very little over that time. The only improvement has been to replace the gravimetric finish with dissolution of the Precious Metal bead followed by AA or ICP analysis of the solution. The newly developed FIFA (Fast In-line Fire Assay) method allows full automation of the fire assay process from sample preparation to spark analysis of the Pb button. This results in fully quantitative analyses for Pt, Pd, Rh, Ru, Ir, Au and Ag in typically less than an hour after a sample is entered into the system. Detection limits are theoretically Pt 0.08 ppm, Pd 0.002 ppm, Rh 0.002 ppm, Au 0.08 ppm and Ag 0.002 ppm but in practice the lower measurable limits are about double these figures. To establish the validity of the method IMP has recently participated in the round robin exercise to establish recommended values for a new series of Precious Metal reference materials. The precision of the results was excellent being on average Pt 2.05%, Pd 1.25%, Rh 4.08% and Ru 4.94% being expressed as Relative Standard Deviation. The excellent precision is a reflection of the excellent collection of PGEs in the Pb buttons and the homogeneity of the Pb buttons. However, the accuracy was not as good.   
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THE APPLICATION OF AUTOMATION IN MODERN MINING ANALYTICAL LABORATORIES

ABSTRACT - SME Conference - 2005. It is only recently that automation has been applied to mining analytical laboratories. This paper describes the use of automation in the laboratory analytical process of hard-rock mining and geological samples and slurries in mining concentrator plant process control laboratories. Types of analysis include fire assay, XRF, ICP and wet chemistry. The benefits of automation are reduced unit cost of analyses, greatly reduced staff requirements, higher quality of data and very fast turn-around times.   
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REVIEW OF THE CURRENT STATUS OF AUTOMATION OF SAMPLE PREPARATION METHODS AND ANALYSIS IN ANALYTICAL LABORATORIES IN THE HEAVY MINERAL MINING INDUSTRY

ABSTRACT - SAIMM HMC 2009 - Conventional analytical laboratories by their very nature are very manual. Sample preparation is slow and laborious, samples are moved from stage to stage manually and, typically, all samples are processed in batches so a sample which is the first to be milled has to wait for the completion of the batch before it advances to the next stage. Inevitably this results in long sample data turn-around times for laboratories handling large numbers of samples. The introduction of automation into analytical laboratories now allows for an incredible improvement in turn-around times from days to minutes. Automation means the use of air tubes, conveyor belts and robots to move samples through the various stages of sample preparation and analysis. Samples can now be processed sequentially instead of in batches and 24/7 (continuous laboratory operation) costs no more in staff than operating a single manual shift per day. Even the cleaning of all equipment is automated. A survey of heavy mineral laboratories shows that many of the available automated systems have been incorporated in these laboratories. These include moving samples by air-tube systems and the use of a robot to carry out sample preparation and analysis of sand samples involving milling, pressed powder pellets preparation and XRFS.   
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PLANNING A NEW ANALYTICAL LABORATORY FOR AN URANIUM MINE TAKING AUTOMATION INTO CONSIDERATION

ABSTRACT SAIMM Base metals conference 2007 - Obviously all mining operations require much analytical work to be carried out. This starts with exploration, becomes more stringent with the evaluation of a mineralised area and finally becomes on-going when mining operations are under way. All these phases are carried out by geologists, metallurgists and mining engineers. They require analyses to carry out their functions but usually have no involvement in the analyses themselves. Analyses are carried out at commercial laboratories or in-house analytical laboratories. In the past in South Africa the tendency was for the larger mining houses to have their own centralised laboratories for exploration samples with each mine having it’s own laboratory to meet only that mine’s requirements. The centralised laboratory maintains QC functions at the subsidiary laboratories. In other mining areas of the world there has been a strong tendency for all geological analytical requirements, especially for exploration and mining, to be carried out at commercial analytical laboratories. In recent years there has been a tendency for mines in South Africa to move in the same direction.  
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LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN THE NEW FAST IN-LINE FIRE ASSAY (FIFA) METHOD FOR THE RAPID AND ACCURATE DETERMINATION OF PRECIOUS METALS

ABSTRACT. Pt Symposium Finland 2005 - Traditional fire assay dates back over 3000 years and has changed very little over that time. The only improvement is to replace the gravimetric finish with dissolution of the Precious Metal bead followed by AA or ICP analysis of the solution. The newly developed FIFA (Fast In-line Fire Assay) method allows full automation of the fire assay process from sample preparation to spark analysis of the Pb button. This results in fully quantitative analyses for Pt, Pd, Rh, Ru, Ir, Au and Ag in typically less than an hour after a sample is entered into the system. This rapid turn-around time and accurate analysis now allows FIFA data to be used for the control of Precious Metal concentrator plants and mining. Detection limits are typically Pt 0.08 ppm, Pd 0.002 ppm, Rh 0.002 ppm, Au 0.08 ppm and Ag 0.002 ppm.  
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QUALITY OF PGE AND GOLD FIRE ASSAY DATA USING SPARK ANALYSIS ON LEAD BUTTONS

ABSTRACT - Precious metals 2007 Brisbane - Traditional fire assay dates back over 3000 years and has changed very little over that time. The only improvement has been to replace the gravimetric finish with dissolution of the Precious Metal bead followed by AA or ICP analysis of the solution. The newly developed FIFA (Fast In-line Fire Assay) method allows full automation of the fire assay process from sample preparation to spark analysis of the Pb button. This results in fully quantitative analyses for Pt, Pd, Rh, Ru, Ir, Au and Ag in typically less than an hour after a sample is entered into the system. Detection limits are theoretically Pt 0.08 ppm, Pd 0.002 ppm, Rh 0.002 ppm, Au 0.08 ppm and Ag 0.002 ppm but in practice the lower measurable limits are about double these figures. To establish the validity of the method IMP has recently participated in the round robin exercise to establish recommended values for a new series of Precious Metal reference materials. The precision of the results was excellent being on average Pt 2.05%, Pd 1.25%, Rh 4.08% and Ru 4.94% being expressed as Relative Standard Deviation. The excellent precision is a reflection of the excellent collection of PGEs in the Pb buttons and the homogeneity of the Pb buttons. However, the accuracy was not as good. The poorer accuracy is interpreted as the calibration of the spectrometer not being as good as desired due to the difficulty in acquiring a suitable range of standards with reliable recommended values for the PGEs. This paper also reports the quality of Au data obtained on the first FIFA Au assay facility in the world which is situated in Kalgoorlie, Australia. As in conventional fire assay, the quality of data diminishes as the detection limit of the method is reached. As determined by a number of replicate assays of standards, between 0.2 and 0.4ppm the coefficient of variation (precision) was 30.2%. From 0.4ppm to 1ppm the RSD was 10.6% and from 1ppm to 14ppm the RSD was 6.3%. The paper presents the quality of data achieved in detail. The FIFA system is now a viable alternative to the conventional fire assay method when large numbers of samples need to be assayed on a routine basis.   
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DEVELOPMENTS IN AUTOMATION IN MINING ANALYTICAL LABORATORIES

Abstract - Perth 2004 - Automation has been used in many industries for many years but it is only recently that the advantages of automation has been recognised for analytical laboratories in which a high throughput of samples need to be put through the same analysis. Many aspects of automation could be used directly but many automation systems have had to be developed. This paper describes the development of automating the fire assay process, which had not been automated before, and also outlines other developments in laboratory automation. It also outlines the advantages of automation and summarises all the laboratory analytical procedures which have now been automated. A list of types of mines now utilising automated analytical laboratories is also given.   
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THE INFLUENCE OF USING AUTOMATED SAMPLE PREPARATION AND PRESSED POWDER PELLETS ON DATA QUALITY WHEN ANALYSING IRON ORE SAMPLES USING XRFS TECHNIQUES

ABSTRACT - Perth Iron Ore Conference 2007 - It is acknowledged that the analysis of iron ores using XRF for major and minor elements is best carried out on fusion discs. This method of sample preparation eliminates mineral and particle size effects which can lead to biased results when using pressed powder pellets. However, the fusion disc method is costly as it requires a high capital investment in platinumware, requires experienced operators and uses expensive fluxes. Also the dilution effect complicates the analysis of trace elements. For many applications, such as exploration and mining control, the method of XRF analysis of iron ores by pressed powder pellet probably provides data of adequate quality.   
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THE BENEFITS OF AUTOMATION FOR MINING METALLURGICAL PLANT ANALYTICAL LABORATORIES

ABSTRACT - Metplant 2008 - In all metallurgical plants metallurgists require analyses of the various intermediate products eg. flotation feeds, flotation concentrates, tailings, mattes, slags etc., to monitor the efficiency of the plant processes and for plant control purposes. Traditionally these samples have gone to off-site laboratories and there can be some considerable delay before analytical data is received. On-line monitors have to be used for plant control purposes and these are difficult to maintain and poor quality data. Recent technological advances in automation in analytical laboratories now allow a far quicker turn-around time for analytical data so they can be of more use to the metallurgist. Automation, which involves the use of robots and fewer people in laboratories has the added benefit of providing higher quality data as the possibility of human error and bias is minimized. Differences between conventional manual laboratories and automated laboratories are described. Automated analytical laboratories are now becoming the laboratories of choice for mining companies which require large numbers of samples to be analysed on a 24/7 basis on similar sample types using the same sample preparation methods and analytical procedures. Automated laboratories have now been installed in platinum, iron ore, copper and aluminium producing mining companies. A further advantage to metallurgical plants is now the possibility of siting automated analytical laboratories in-plant and designing the plant around the laboratory. Concentrator streams, slags etc. can be sampled by automated samplers, the samples transferred by automation to the in-plant laboratories and all sample preparation and analyses carried out by automated processes. These laboratories require a minimum of staff. Such automated in-plant laboratories have been installed on a platinum mine flotation plant, a platinum mine smelter and steel plants. One is in process of being installed on an iron-ore mine with the sampling being carried out by an automated sampling tower. The procedures followed in planning an automated analytical laboratory for a metallurgical plant are described in detail in the paper. The platinum plant smelter automated system which includes rapid transport of samples by air-tube to the laboratory for the analysis of the samples by XRFS is also described in the paper. It is concluded that automated analytical laboratories can be retro-fitted to most metallurgical plants but they are best suited to a greenfield site.   
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IMPROVING PROCESS CONTROL IN MINING FLOTATION PLANTS BY USING IN-PLANT AUTOMATED ANALYTICAL LABORATORIES

ABSTRACT To monitor efficiency in flotation plant processes it is essential for metallurgists to have analytical information on the process streams. This information should be available immediately and updated constantly otherwise remedial action cannot be taken to timeously effect corrections to variables occurring in those process streams. On-line analyzers are widely used for this purpose. However, due to dilution and other effects, on-line analysis is not very sensitive and data generated in this way cannot be used for other purposes eg. metal accounting. Also most flotation reagents, being organic in nature, cannot be measured in this way. A further disadvantage of on-line analysis is that some metals to be recovered, such as Platinum Group Elements (PGEs), occur in concentrations too low to be measured directly so associated elements, eg. Cu, Ni and S, have to be measured instead. Shift composite samples analyzed at an off-site laboratory give historical data on a plant’s performance and cannot be used for process control as the turn-around time, typically one to two days, is too long. Appreciable losses of recoverable metals can occur before necessary changes can be made.   
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QUALITY OF PGE FIRE ASSAYS USING SPARK ANALYSIS ON LEAD BUTTONS

ABSTRACT. - 2nd Platinum conference 2006 - Traditional fire assay dates back over 3000 years and has changed very little over that time. The only improvement is to replace the gravimetric finish with dissolution of the Precious Metal bead followed by AA or ICP analysis of the solution. The newly developed FIFA (Fast In-line Fire Assay) method allows full automation of the fire assay process from sample preparation to spark analysis of the Pb button. This results in fully quantitative analyses for Pt, Pd, Rh, Ru, Ir, Au and Ag in typically less than an hour after a sample is entered into the system. Detection limits are theoretically Pt 0.08 ppm, Pd 0.002 ppm, Rh 0.002 ppm, Au 0.08 ppm and Ag 0.002 ppm but in practice the lower measurable limits are about double these figures. Few opportunities have been available to present data obtained using the FIFA system as all FIFA laboratories have been in the domain of a Pt mining company which prefers to keep all Pt analytical matters confidential.   
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THE PHELPS DODGE CENTRAL ANALYTICAL SERVICE CENTER: STEP CHANGE TECHNOLOGY IMPLEMENTING ROBOTICS SYSTEMS AND LAB AUTOMATION IN THE COPPER INDUSTRY

In 2003, Phelps Dodge Mining Company decided to pursue the design and construction of a Central Analytical Laboratory to provide chemical analyses for their Arizona and New Mexico operations. This centralized approach was selected instead of refurbishing 6 older laboratories that operated at the various Phelps Dodge sites, and which would not have permitted full automation and use of robotics. The new lab was designed by the PTC Material Characterization Group in cooperation with IMP from South Africa. This Central Analytical Service Center (CASC) encompasses fully automated sample preparation of blast holes and geological samples weighing up to 15 kg/sample. In addition, the CASC includes the first “wet chemistry module” worldwide to be operated by robotics systems to perform Total Cu, Acid Soluble Cu and Quick Leach Tests (QLT), and fully automated lab for electrowon copper cathode  
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IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY, SAFETY AND RESULTS WITH AN AUTOMATED MINING LABORATORY

IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY, SAFETY AND RESULTS WITH AN AUTOMATED MINING LABORATORY  
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XRF and TGA Commissioning outcomes at Cape Lambert Port B

The Cape Lambert Port B (CLB) project comprises the construction of a new Port facility adjacent to the Cape Lambert Port A facility (CLA). This involved the construction of a new 100Mt/a train unloading infrastructure, stockyard, ship-loading facilities (including a new ore wharf) and the construction of an automated sampling and analysis laboratory. Figure 1 shows CLB layout with the stockpiles in the background, followed by the rescreening plant and the pale large building in the foreground which houses the CLB sampling facility and analytical cell.  
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Cape Lambert B (CLB) Ship-loading Sampling and Analysis

The RTIO Cape Lambert Port B (CLB) project has involved the construction of a new 100 Mt/a iron ore port facilities adjacent to the existing Rio Tinto Cape Lambert Port A facility (CLA). The project is being carried out in two phases – each adding approximately 50 Mt/a of export capability. As part of the Cape Lambert Port B development, Rio Tinto has designed and constructed the largest automated iron ore port laboratory in the world. It will consist of four robots operating on two 20 metre long tracks.  
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The importance of incorporating TGA results as part of XRF analysis

Thermogravimetric analysis is used to determine the moisture content as well as the loss or gain on ignition when heating the samples to an elevated temperature (typically 1000oC). For illustrative purposes, typical iron ore samples have been used.  
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The advantages of zirconia stabilised platinum ware

Traditionally platinum ware consisting of platinum alloyed with gold or rhodium has been used for XRF fusion techniques for years. With the advent of high throughput, fully automated fusion machines, the traditional Pt 95% Au 5% alloys were found to be inadequate. IMP then introduced the zirconia (ZrO2) stabilized Pt 95% Au 5% alloy to meet the demands of these high throughput automated applications.  
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