Sie sind auf Seite 1von 5
 

Some Key Facts and Concepts in the Evolution of Sampling and Assaying Practices at Codelco

P Carrasco 1

ABSTRACT

Incorrect sampling and measurement operations and misunderstanding the components of variability can cause huge economic losses to the mining industry. The main objective of this paper is to illustrate by means of four historical facts how Codelco has been evolving in those issues since the late 1980s. The El Abra bias, the awareness of the different kind of sampling errors and the role of Francis Pitard, the awareness of weighting errors, and the understanding of the components of nature and process variability are described. It has been a slow but a consistent process. Much progress has been achieved but still there are many opportunities for improvement to transit from the tonnage culture to the productivity culture.

INTRODUCTION

In order to optimise the management of the mining business it is very relevant to do good measurements. Unfortunately this is not always the case in our mines. By good measurements I mean accurate and precise or reproducible measurements. Accuracy and precision are functions of the objectives of the decisions to be made along the mining business value chain. Generally the objective is to minimise the economical losses, not the hidden, in a sort of individualistic way. As a consequence the optimisation of the system is not achieved. Some of the key variables to measure are grades and tonnages. If the key measurements are not properly done, there is no possible way to learn from the process and therefore continuous improvement becomes a myth. The abundant models used to design, plan and materialise the business cannot be verified and validated and production cannot be reconciled. Another of our main weaknesses is the lack of understanding about the variability and more precisely the different kinds of variability. This impedes us from optimising the net present value because we are not able to understand the real nature of our process from rock to cathodes, hence the hidden losses are difficult to discover. The main objective of this paper is to illustrate by means of four historical facts how Codelco has been evolving in those issues and to share with the sampling community some key facts and concepts learned over the last 30 years. It has been a slow but a consistent process. Much progress has been achieved but still there are many opportunities for improvement to transit from the tonnage culture to the productivity culture.

FACT ONE – EL ABRA AND RADOMIRO TOMIC ASSAY BIAS

In the late 1980s Codelco top management decided to sell part of some mining assets. As a consequence 51 per cent of El Abra was sold. During the due diligence process an analytical bias was discovered. This bias indicated an overestimation of the mean grade of the deposit of 0.05 per cent Cu in the oxide zone. The bias was not constant; it was conditional to grade. As the grade decreased the bias increased. For a high tonnage-low grade deposit this bias was very significant from the economic view point (Carrasco, Carrasco and Jara, 2004).

1. Director de Especialidad Tecnica, Codelco, Chile. Email: PCarrasc@codelco.cl

At the same time Codelco was studying the feasibility of mining the oxide zone of Radomiro Tomic, a world class high tonnage-low grade porphyry copper. After the El Abra assaying bias experience Radomiro Tomic copper assays were checked. Unfortunately, an analytical bias was also discovered here. Figure 1 shows the time evolution of the analytical error and the analytical techniques at the laboratory involved in the bias, based on pulp duplicates from Radomiro Tomic.

in the bias, based on pulp duplicates from Radomiro Tomic. F IG 1 - Evolution of

FIG 1 - Evolution of the analytical error over time and the analytical techniques used at the laboratory.

This figure gives us many lessons:

Precision and accuracy are very variable over time. As a consequence a systematic QA/QC program must always exist.

Precision is a function of the technique. In this case AA was always more precise than volumetry.

XRF is very imprecise and highly biased.

Atomic absorption is always more precise than the other techniques. Late AA, although biased, is more precise than the early AA.

Before 1974 the technique was short volumetry; as can be seen it was biased, probably because of bad assaying practices. Then AA equipment was acquired in order to modernise the assaying process. At the beginning AA was accurate and then because the AA was not matching the volumetry checks the AA results were corrected. This was the main cause of the El Abra bias. Then XRF was implemented by the chief chemist in order to increase productivity. At that time the main mined ore was secondary sulfides, therefore the chemist set the technique up accordingly. The geologists did not explain they were sending oxides samples from a different ore unit; the chemist did not explain to the geologists the sensitivity of the technique to the matrix. This was the main cause of the Radomiro Tomic bias. Summarising, imprecision and inaccuracy could be explained by several causes:

lack of QA/QC systems,

lack of communication between geologists and chemists,

P CARRASCO

wrong optimisations strategies – each one made honest efforts to optimise their job ignoring the optimisation of the system in a holistic way,

incompetence, and/or

ignorance.

The El Abra and Radomiro Tomic biases made top management aware about the economical relevance of improper analytical practices. As a consequence they lead a complete program of QA/QC of chemical analysis and sampling. Relevant actions were:

creation of a special group devoted to develop QA/QC at corporate level;

acquisition of a chemical laboratory managed by very experienced chemists in order to develop primary analytical methods for SRM – in our experience, after several international round robin exercises, the only safe laboratory is the one under your control;

development and implementation of corporate guidelines to prepare standard reference materials from Codelco ores, concentrates and tails (Cnam 009, 1998);

development and implementation of corporate sampling guidelines for chemical analysis purposes (Corporate Committee of Chemical Analysis, 1994);

development and implementation of corporate guidelines for chemical analysis verification (Cnam 010, 2007);

systematic training courses; and

systematic audits.

FACT TWO – AWARENESS OF SAMPLING ERRORS AND THE ROLE OF FRANCIS PITARD

Another relevant action trigged by the El Abra bias was to hire the services of Francis Pitard, a world reknown sampling consultant, disciple of Pierre Gy and Ingamells. In the early 1980s our knowledge of the sampling theory was limited. Indeed, we were just aware of the fundamental error. We made some efforts to better understand the theory but unfortunately the existing books were very cryptic. Francis Pitard played a fundamental role in educating us about the theory of sampling. As well, he helped us to convince top managers to improve sampling and assaying systems all along the mining value chain from rock to cathodes. Also, he encouraged us to better understand the relevance of process variability to optimise the mining business and to begin the transition from the culture of tonnage (quantity) to the culture of productivity (quality). Some major improvements at corporate level were:

development and implementation of guidelines to estimate the sampling constants of Codelco mines ore types (Cnam 008, 1998; Cnam 011, 2000; Carrasco et al, 2005);

development and implementation of guidelines for the optimisation of sampling protocols for ores, concentrates, tails, anodes, cathodes, etc (Cnam 013, 2003; Cnam 015, 2004);

development and implementation of guidelines to improve the quality of sampling preparation equipment (Cnam 012; Cnam 013, 2003);

systematic courses of sampling theory for operators, geologists, mining engineers, metallurgists and chemists;

systematic reports for top managers;

design and building of head, concentrate and tails sampling stations in all Codelco concentrators and projects (Cnam 007,

1996);

incorporation of all the former issues into the Corporate Capital System for new relevant projects (Cnam 016, 2004);

introduction of chronostatistics in order to better understand the components of the variability of process;

introduction of the concept of chronostatistics process control;

improvement of weighing systems (Cnam 014, 2004); and

systematic audits.

FACT THREE – AWARENESS OF WEIGHING ERRORS

The proper measurement of the tonnage is very relevant for the mining industry. The estimation error of the in situ tonnage is relevant to determine the incertitude classification of the ore resources (inferred, indicated or measured). Many challenges for the geologist exist in order to solve this problem, because the incertitude of the in situ tonnage is a function of the incertitude of the volume of the geological unit that hosts mineralisation, the incertitude of the specific gravity and the incertitude of the moisture content. The mining tonnages are also an issue. A study proved the mine tonnages biased when estimated by truck constant factor. As a matter of fact the mine tonnages were overestimated by five per cent. Another study proves the weightometers biased at several belt points in the plants. The lesson was: generally, when the weightometers are not properly calibrated the tonnages are overestimated. The magnitude of the overestimation varied between four per cent and 14 per cent. The key experiment to be convinced about the unreliability of improper calibrated belt scales was the measurement of a big tonnage in a very precise scale (material test). Figure 2 to Figure 6 show the measurement process (Wilke, 2007).

2 to Figure 6 show the measurement process (Wilke, 2007). F IG 2 - Deviating the

FIG 2 - Deviating the material.

Some major improvements at corporate level were:

research and training program with the Geosciences Center of the Paris School of Mines to apply the truncated Gaussian simulation method to the assessment of the volume incertitude of ore units (Carrasco et al, 2007);

improvement of volume and mass measurements at several scales (drill core, mine bench, etc);

development and implementation of guidelines to improve the quality of weighing systems (Cnam 014; Cnam 016, 2004);

development and implementation of systematic material tests; and

an ongoing research program to implement the measurement of mass by proportional sampling (Gy, 1998).

SOME KEY FACTS AND CONCEPTS IN THE EVOLUTION OF SAMPLING AND ASSAYING PRACTICES AT CODELCO

THE EVOLUTION OF SAMPLING AND ASSAYING PRACTICES AT CODELCO F IG 3 - Stockpiling. F IG

FIG 3 - Stockpiling.

AND ASSAYING PRACTICES AT CODELCO F IG 3 - Stockpiling. F IG 4 - Final stockpile.

FIG 4 - Final stockpile.

FACT FOUR – UNDERSTANDING VARIABILITY

The understanding of variability and its components always conducts to economical optimisation of the mining business. Unfortunately, one of the main weaknesses is the lack of understanding of the variability from rock to cathodes. Indeed, the top management generally makes decisions by using averages. Averages summarise too much in such a way that crucial information is lost. More interesting is to learn from the natural and mining process by studying the variations along space and time. As Louis D Brandeis said:

I abhor averages. I like the individual case. A man may have six meals one day and none the next, making an average of three meals per day, but that is not a good way to live.

of three meals per day, but that is not a good way to live. F IG

FIG 5 - Loading.

day, but that is not a good way to live. F IG 5 - Loading. F

FIG 6 - Weighing.

The science which studies the variations in the space and/or time is called geostatistics. It was developed by Georges Matheron at the Paris School of Mines in the early 1960s (Matheron, 1962). Since then, geostatistics has made significant progress because of Matheron and the contributions of his disciples in France and around the world. Some geostatistical concepts are essential to understanding natural and process variability:

Support effect – the perception of variability is a function of the volume of the samples. As the sample volume increases the variance of the random function decreases. Table 1 shows the gold grades of diamond drill holes and their neighbouring blastholes.

TABLE 1

The gold grades of diamond drill holes (DDH) and their neighbouring blastholes.

 

Blastholes

DDH

Mean (g/t)

1.59

0.87

Variance (g/t) 2

9.23

5.21

The first conclusion from the table is the existence of a contradiction. The variance of the blasthole grades cannot be higher than the variance of the diamond drill holes because the sample volume of the blastholes is by large bigger than the

P CARRASCO

sample volume of the diamond holes. Besides, the mean grade of the blastholes is significantly higher of the mean grade of the diamond drills. The conclusion is that the diamond drill samples are not capable to represent the variability of the gold grades because its volume is too small and the sample number insufficient. This is possible in high nugget effect – skewed lognormal populations where the mean is higher than the mode.

Information effect – the perception of variability is a function of the amount of information and the quality of the estimation. As estimation is never equal to reality, decisions made on estimates could be very different to decisions made on true values. This is very important in selective mining of complex ores.

Variability and scale – the variability is a function of the scale. Figure 7 shows the variance as a function of the scale for a stationary random function at different ranges.

scale for a stationary random function at different ranges. F IG 7 - Variance as a

FIG 7 - Variance as a function of the scale for a stationary random function at different ranges.

Sampling and assay errors – if the sampling errors are independent of the grade, mutually independent and of the same variance, then the error variance adds to variogram as a nugget component (Chiles and Delfiner, 1999). This additional variability does not belong to the nature nor to the process. It is called irrelevant variability. Misunderstanding the irrelevant variability can be very expensive (Carrasco, Carrasco and Jara, 2004; Carrasco, Wilke, Jara and Suarez, 2007).

Variogram – the variogram is a powerful tool to study natural and process variability. Many messages are inside the experimental variograms. It is very useful to study continuity, range of influence, stationarity and anisotropy, and is essential for the application of all geostatistical estimation and simulation techniques.

Maybe because of cultural reasons the understanding of variability is uncommon. As a matter of fact, the Judean-Christian culture is essentially deterministic. In addition the occidental science has an important deterministic heritage. As a consequence, to convince about the economical importance of variability and to fight against the very common paradigm of homogeneity is not an easy task. In our experience one crucial experiment was very important to convince the top management about the importance of variability. The variation of the cooper head grade was measured at a frequency of 6 min for 4 h. Figure 8 shows the results.

Figure 8 is explicit about the variations inside a half shift period of time and about the uselessness of the average. The plant manager would be very happy with the performance if only the average is seen. A very different perception arises when looking at the grades on a 6 min basis. This study allowed finding out the origin of the low-grade values. The cause was the increase of ore coming from draw points with high dilution content. As a consequence mine planning and drawing practices were improved.

mine planning and drawing practices were improved. F IG 8 - Variability of the copper head

FIG 8 - Variability of the copper head grade versus time.

As many wise managers know, the understanding of variability is always translated into better economical results (Carrasco, Carrasco and Jara, 1994). The following example is explicit. Let us consider several cyclic random functions with the same mean grade but different variances for the copper grade. Also let us assume that the low grade ore has a lower recovery than the high grades. Figure 9 and Figure 10 show the results.

the high grades. Figure 9 and Figure 10 show the results. F IG 9 - Head

FIG 9 - Head copper grade versus time.

Surprisingly, the recovery is very sensible to the variations of the head grade variability in such a way that when the grade variability decreases the metallurgical recovery increases.

6

Perth, WA, 27 - 29 May 2008

Sampling Conference

SOME KEY FACTS AND CONCEPTS IN THE EVOLUTION OF SAMPLING AND ASSAYING PRACTICES AT CODELCO

THE EVOLUTION OF SAMPLING AND ASSAYING PRACTICES AT CODELCO F IG 10 - Metallurgical recovery of

FIG 10 - Metallurgical recovery of copper versus variability.

Some major improvements at corporate level were:

development and implementation of guidelines to consider the variability in ore resource estimation and grade control;

systematic courses of statistics, linear geostatistics, non-linear geostatistics and chronostatistics for geologists, mining engineers, metallurgists and chemists; and

research work to quantify the economical impact of natural and process variability misunderstanding.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Improper sampling, assaying and weighing practices and the misunderstanding of the natural and process components of variability can produce monumental value losses to the mining industry worldwide. Those losses lead as well to economic inefficiency and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, jeopardising the wealth of future generations and adding unnecessary negative externalities to society. The mining industry has a magnificent opportunity to increase their economic performance by discovering hidden losses. This can be done by applying optimal assaying techniques, the principles of the sampling theory, statistical and geostatistical thinking, effective chronostatistical process control, minimising the irrelevant variability, maximising the understanding of relevant process variability and by encouraging the work of multidisciplinary high level experts aligned with the main objectives of the mining business.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The author wishes to thank Mr Fernando Vivanco, corporate Projects Vice President, and Mr Julio Beniscelli, Manager of Technical Services, Codelco Chile, for their strong support in the implementation of good sampling, assaying and geostatistical practices along the copper business value chain.

I am also grateful to Francis Pitard for his wise advice and

lectures on sampling, assaying, chronostatistics and process control practices over the last 15 years.

I also would like to thank Patricio Guerra, Chief Chemist at El Teniente, Julio Tapia, Magali Campos and Ester Menichetti, chemist consultants at central office, Alfredo Wilke, QA/QC

chief at El Teniente, Victorino Moyano, former QA/QC at Codelco Norte, Eduardo Jara, Principal Geostatistician and Everardo Suarez, Trainee Engineer at central office, for their commitment to continuous improvement of sampling, assaying, material balance and process control practices and for their precious collaboration.

REFERENCES

Carrasco, P, 1998. Norma Codelco Cnam 008: Test de heterogeneidad para determinar constantes de muestreo y nomogramas de preparación de muestras, Codelco Chile, Casa Matriz, informe interno (unpublished). Carrasco, P, Campos, M, Tapia, J and Menichetti, E, 2000. Norma Cnam 011: Test de Ingamells, Codelco Chile, Casa Matriz (unpublished report). Carrasco, P, Campos, M, Tapia, J and Menichetti, E, 2003a. Norma Cnam 012: Operaciones estándar a seguir durante el sub muestreo en el laboratorio, Codelco Chile, Casa Matriz (unpublished report). Carrasco, P, Campos, M, Tapia, J and Menichetti, E, 2003b. Norma Cnam 013: Aseguramiento de calidad en preparación de muestras minerales para analisis quimico, Codelco Chile, Casa Matriz (unpublished report). Carrasco, P, Carrasco, P, Campos, M, Tapia, J and Menichetti, E, 1998. Norma Cnam 009: Obtención y certificación de materiales de referencia en los laboratorios químicos, Codelco Chile, Casa Matriz (unpublished report). Carrasco, P, Carrasco, P, Campos, M, Tapia, J and Menichetti, E, 1999. Norma Cnam 010: Verificación de resultados de análisis químicos, Codelco Chile, Casa Matriz (unpublished report). Carrasco, P, Carrasco, P, Campos, M, Tapia, J and Menichetti, E, 2005. Heterogeneity and Ingamells’s tests of some Chilean porphyry ores, in Proceedings Second World Conference on Sampling and Blending, pp 139-150 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy:

Melbourne). Carrasco, P, Carrasco, P, Ibarra, F, Rojas, R, Le Loc’h, G and Seguret, S, 2007. Application of the truncated Gaussian simulation method to a porphyry copper deposit in Proceedings APCOM, 33rd International Symposium on Application of Computers and Operations Research in the Mineral Industry, pp 31-39 (University of Chile: Santiago). Carrasco, P, Carrasco, P and Jara, E, 2004. The economic impact of correct sampling and analysis practices in the copper industry, Chemometrics and Intelligent Laboratory Systems, 74:209-213. Carrasco, P and Pitard, F, 2004. Norma Cnam 015: Muestreo y analisis de cátodos de cobre, Codelco Chile, Casa Matriz (unpublished report). Carrasco, P and Tello, A, 1996. Norma Cnam 007: Condiciones de estaciones de muestreo de flujos de materiales y transferencia de productos, Codelco Chile, Casa Matriz (unpublished report). Carrasco, P, Wilke, A, Jara, E and Suarez, E, 2007. Some applications of statistics and geostatistics to the sampling of a big cooper tail stream, in Proceedings Third World Conference on Sampling and Blending, pp 352-366. Chiles, J P and Delfiner, P 1999. Geostatistics: Modelling Spatial Uncertainty, 695 p (John Wiley and Sons, Inc). Corporate Committee of Chemical Analysis, 1994. Normas para analisis quimico, segunda edición, Codelco Chile, Casa Matriz (unpublished report). Gy, P, 1998. Sampling for Analytical Purposes , pp 117-118 (John Wiley and Sons, Inc). Matheron, G, 1962. Traité de géostatistique appliquée. Tome 1, 334 p; Tome 2, 172 p (Editions Technip: Paris) Solis, O, Wilke, A, Carvajal, P and Tapia, J, 2004. Norma Cnam 014:

Sistemas de pesaje en correas transportadoras, Codelco Chile, Casa Matriz (unpublished report).

Wilke,

Codelco,

División El Teniente (unpublished report). Wilke, A, Solis, O and Anés, J, 2004. Norma Cnam 016: Antecedentes metrológicos para proyectos, Codelco Chile, Casa Matriz (unpublished report).

A,

2007.

Mejoramientos

al

balance

metalúrgico,

Sampling Conference

Perth, WA, 27 - 29 May 2008

7