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CFD Aids Mineral Processing Industry
Posted Tue October 26, 2004 @08:23PM
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Application An AMIRA research program has delivered to the minerals-processing industry $295 million in direct financial benefits over the last six years for an investment of about $10 million, an independent evaluation has found. The industry-sponsored AMIRA P266 project to improve gravity thickeners has the potential to deliver an additional $250 million in benefits.

Dr John Farrow, of the Parker Centre and CSIRO Minerals, and leader of the P266 research team, says the concerted research focus on the performance of gravity thickeners has illuminated their mysterious inner workings.

Dr Robert La Nauze, WMC Resources' General Manager, Technology, says company engineers, working with Dr Farrow's team, had used the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model developed by the team to improve flocculant dispersal in a thickener at its Mt Keith nickel operation in Western Australia.

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The resulting increase in solids concentration, and substantial water savings, had allowed WMC to avoid the significant capital cost of increasing flow from its water bores.

Similarly, at Olympic Dam in South Australia, the CFD model allowed WMC to improve its thickener operations to the point where it avoided the capital cost of a new thickener.

“People think of thickeners as a pretty archaic technology, but there's still much that can be done to make very significant improvements," says Perth-based Dr Farrow.

Gravity thickeners are used wherever mineral processing involves wetting the ore. Thickeners separate fine particles from the fluids, holding them in suspension to produce a thick mineral-rich slurry (the underflow) and a clear liquid stream (the overflow).

Some thickeners are up to 100 metres in diameter and treat tens of thousands of cubic metres of suspension per day. There are an estimated 2000 thickeners in the operations of the Australian and international companies who sponsor the current phase of the P266 project.

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