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MEI Online: Froth Flotation: Latest News: September 19th 2001


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:: Floatability Rig Improves Platinum Operations

A revolutionary approach to the design and construction of platinum processing operations has increased revenue for South Africas third largest producer by several million rand a month. Lonmin Platinum was the first to trial the JKMRC-AMIRA P9 projects Floatablity Characterisation Test Rig, which has led to increased metal recovery at the companys Karee operation, northwest of Johannesburg. Built by Baker Process, now Eimco, the P9 FCTR is essentially a portable pilot plant of flotation cells, pipes and monitoring equipment placed beside an actual processing plant. Like a medical doctors stethoscope the FCTR reads the heart beat of the processing plant. By temporarily redirecting mineral slurry through its bank of small pilot-scale flotation cells, it can help determine the overall health of the operation.

Lonmin Chief Metallurgist Mr Bert Knopjes said the company embraced the FCTR concept as a quick and easy way to evaluate circuit changes and trial new equipment before any expensive decisions were made inside the actual processing plant. The FCTR is having an influence on new plant design, Mr Knopjes said.

The results have been so impressive that Lonmin has built their own version of the P9 FCTR which will influence the design and construction of two new plants coming on line in 2002. This is in addition to applying results obtained from FCTR technology to fine-tune Lonmins five other concentrators on the platinum belt.

Being first in the queue through P9 project sponsorship, Lonmins use of the test rig has paid off. There are things we have installed in our new processing plants that we wouldnt have done without P9s FCTR, Mr Knopjes said. We would have liked to have kept the original FCTR forever, but we had to let it go to Australia as part of P9s international research program.

The original test rig was relocated mid-way through 2001 to WMCs Kambalda nickel mine in Western Australia. Unfazed, Lonmin has since decided to build not one but two FCTRs to replace the P9 rig. Modelled on the original P9 version, the first of Lonmins test rigs has been built and installed at the Eastern Platinum concentrator, which has a throughput of 190,000 tonnes a month.

Lonmin Platinums Research and Development Superintendent, Dr Craig Goodall, said the involvement of the P9 project has continued throughout the design phase of the Lonmin rig. We've bounced a lot of ideas for our FCTR off Dr Emmy Manlapig and Professor J-P Franzidis from the JKMRC, and Dr Malcolm Powell and Martin Harris at UCT, Dr Goodall said. The new FCTR has as much control as any full scale plant, including Minteks PlantStar, which includes milling and flotation control modules, Dr Goodall said.



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