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Optimization Process at Antamina Boosts Production and Energy

Helping a large copper/zinc mine meet the economic challenge of processing harder ore

By Walter Valery and Edward Rybinski

Metso Process Technology and Innovation (PTI) has assisted Compaa Minera
Antamina to increase mill throughput by integrating and optimizing blast fragmentation,
crushing and grinding operations. So successful was this collaboration that Antamina
has increased production targets by 50% and at the same time minimized energy
consumption per ton of product when processing hard copper and zinc ores.

Figure 1: The worlds third largest zinc mine and eighth largest copper mine, Antamina, is located high in the
Peruvian Andes.

Compaa Minera Antamina is a poly-metallic mining complex that produces copper and
zinc concentrates as primary products and molybdenum and lead/bismuth/silver
concentrates as by-products. Antamina, situated in the central Peruvian Andes around
4,300 m above sea level, represents one of the main complexes of the Peruvian mining

The advent of harder ores presented a problem for the operation, but Antamina
technical and management staff worked with Metso PTI, and following the initial
optimization of operating strategies in the mine and plant, mill throughput while treating
hard ores increased from a target of 2,750 metric tons per hour (mt/h) in 2007 to 4,000
mt/h in 2009. Continued application of the Process Integration and Optimization (PIO)
philosophy and methodology delivered further improvement and ensured the
concentrator consistently exceeded the target of 4,400 mt/h while processing harder
ores in 2010 and 2011. The significant increase in throughput and optimization of the

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overall production system also considerably improved the energy efficiency of the
operation resulting in less energy consumption per ton of product.

The Challenge: Harder Ores

The Antamina mine, which commenced operation in 2001, had achieved the design
capacity of 70,000 mt/d after five months of operation when treating copper ores (types
M1/M2). However, there were several issues associated with the treatment of harder
copper/zinc ores (types M4/M4A), which limited the throughput for these ore types to
just half of the M1/M2 throughputs (i.e., 2,000-3,000 mt/h versus 3,500-4,500 mt/h).

Achieving similar throughputs for both ore types became a challenge for Antamina.
Metso PTI was engaged by Antamina to assist in increasing throughput of these difficult
ores with the implementation of a PIO project.

Process Integration and Optimization Methodology

Metsos PIO involves development of integrated operating and control strategies from
the mine to the plant that maximizes throughput, minimizes the overall cost per ton,
minimizes energy consumption and maximizes profitability. This methodology utilizes a
combination of geological, geotechnical and quantitative information on ore
petrophysical and comminution characteristics.

Different ore types are characterized and tracked through the entire process (mine to
plant). It is crucial that the ores being fed to the mill are characterized in the mine and
then tracked through the downstream processes. Metso PTI have developed an ore
tracking system named SmartTagTM that allows parcels of ore to be tracked from the
mine, through the crusher and finally into the grinding mills. The SmartTags TM are built
around robust passive radio frequency transponders. They do not have an internal
power source, so they can remain in stockpiles and ROM pads for extended periods of
time. Antennas to detect the SmartTagsTM are located at critical points in the process
ahead of the milling circuit; tags can be detected a number of times and provide
valuable information on material movements. In particular, they make it possible to link
the spatial data associated with the ore in the mine to the time-based or temporal data
of the concentrator.

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Figure 2: Antamina tracked the ores using SmartTagTM

Integrated, site-specific operating and control strategies are developed for different ore
types with the aid of field measurements, historical data, audits and surveys, calibrated
site-specific models, simulations and site validation.

This PIO methodology offers a cost-effective and rapid route to increased profitability by
increased overall production, reduced energy consumption, higher metal recovery and
better overall process operation and stabilization. The measurement techniques have
been developed over many years to suit the mining environment; they are inexpensive
and can be easily carried out by mine personnel. The newly defined integrated
operating strategies are implemented and monitored using established standards,
quality assurance and control mechanisms to ensure benefits are maintained in the long

Implementing PIO

Metso PTI and Antamina personnel conducted a comprehensive review of existing

operations at the mine and in the comminution circuits. Ore sources were characterized
into domains of rock structure and strength with similar blastability and fragmentation
properties. Blast design implementation, drill and blast QA/QC and the resulting
fragmentation were measured in blasting audits along with vibration. These audits
allowed benchmarking of existing practices in the mine and definition of main
constraints related to wall stability, control, ore dilution and environmental aspects.

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Figure 3: The process modeling parameters were linked to blast design.

Blasted material was tracked from the mine through the process using SmartTag TM ore
tracking. Two antennas were installed at Antaminaone on the primary crusher product
belt and another on the SAG mill feed beltthus allowing performance in the crushing
and milling circuit to be linked to the ore characteristics and blast fragmentation
measured during the audited blasts.

Figure 4: SmartTagTM Antenna installed at Antamina

Metso PTI and Antamina staff also analyzed historical data, reviewed the current
operating practices of the primary crusher, the SAG and ball mill grinding circuits, and
conducted a number of audits and surveys. These data were then used to develop
mathematical models of the drill and blasting, crushing and milling operations. These
resulting site-specific models were linked and simulations were conducted to identify
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optimum operating strategies for the overall process. The proposed strategies were
discussed and analyzed in detail with site technical staff. The optimal and most cost-
effective integrated operating strategy for the entire process (mine and plant) was then
implemented in combination with other initiatives led by Antamina personnel.

Figure 5: Audit with complete process sampling at Antamina

Figure 6: Mill charge measurement and data collection for optimization

Using Integrated Models and Simulations

The site-specific models for the blasting, crushing and grinding operations at Antamina
were developed based on data collected on-site and samples taken from the mine and
the plant before and during industrial trials. These models were linked to simulate the
overall process. Inputs to these models include rock properties (strength and structure),
blast design parameters (such as burden, spacing, stemming column and explosive
type, quantity, etc.), primary crusher setting, SAG mill operating conditions and ball mill
circuit conditions.

The simulations at Antamina assisted site personnel to evaluate and establish optimum
operating strategies and quantify the possible increases in throughput. Conditions such
as different blast designs, primary crusher setting, SAG mill grate design, SAG mill ball
charge level, ball mill operating conditions, changes in classification with hydrocyclones,

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use and operation of recycle/pebble crushers were all considered and evaluated in the

The most cost-effective of these derived strategies were analyzed by a joint Antamina
and Metso team and implemented on site. Following implementation, the SAG mill
throughput, when treating the harder copper/zinc ores, increased from a target of 2,750
mt/h in 2007 to 4,000 mt/h in 2009 and 4,400 mt/h in 2010 and 2011. The optimization
of the overall process also improved energy efficiency resulting in considerably less
energy consumption per ton of product.

Continuous Improvement Delivers Further Benefits

After the initial success of the PIO project, Antamina and Metso PTI entered into a
technical services support contract to refine and further improve the operation.
Additional blast fragmentation improvement and its impact on blast damage and wall
control was investigated as part of this contract.

Following the PIO methodology described above, three trial blasts using higher energy
intensity were conducted for the harder M4/M4A ore and campaigned through the plant
to assess the comminution circuit performance.

These higher energy intensity blasts produced even finer Run-of-Mine (ROM)
fragmentation and subsequently finer feed to the SAG mill. The SAG feed F80 (size that
80% of the feed material is smaller than) was reduced to around 5060 mm compared
with 100120 mm previously, and the percentage of fines (-10 mm material) was
increased from 25% to 45%. Primary crusher power peaks were reduced significantly
during these campaigns. To achieve best performance of downstream processes with
the finer ROM, a number of changes and adjustments were made to the crusher, SAG
and ball mill circuits. The resulting mill throughput averaged 4,100 mt/h for the three trial
blasts and plant throughput above 4,500 mt/h was achieved for several hours during
these trials. The optimization of the blast designs and subsequent downstream
processes for each of the ore types ensured efficient utilization of the plant installed
power. The additional blasting energy was more than compensated for by the large
energy savings in the crushing and grinding processes, thus minimizing the specific
energy consumption of the entire operation.

At the beginning of the project, the operation achieved a throughput of 2,600 mt/h with a
specific energy consumption of 14 kWh/mt. At the end of the project, sustained
throughput of 4,400 mt/h was achieved with specific energy of 10.7 kWh/mt. This
represents a significant increase in resource efficiency by reducing the total
environmental impact of metal concentrate production with an energy savings of 23%
for Antamina.

Continued implementation of the PIO philosophy at Antamina resulted in consistent and

sustainable improvements in throughput and energy efficiency. Antamina continues to
apply the philosophies of integrated optimization.

The principal Antamina and Metso PTI team members were awarded the Coalition for
Eco-Efficient Comminution (CEEC) Medal for their paper, presented at the SAG

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Conference 2011 in Vancouver, Canada, which described in detail this projects
background, methods and results.

This article is based on a paper originally presented at the SAG 2011 conference in
Vancouver, Canada. Metso would like to thank Compaa Minera Antamina for
permission to prepare and present the paper and produce this article. Contributors and
authors of the 2012 CEEC Medal award winning paper include Edward Rybinski, Jorge
Ghersi, Frank Davila, Javier Linares (all Compaa Minera Antamina SA), Walter
Valery, Alex Jankovic, Roberto Valle, Serkan Dikmen (all Metso Process Technology
and Innovation). Edward Rybinski is Manager of Process Studies at Compaa Minera
Antamina SA. Dr. Walter Valery is Senior Vice President - global, Metso Process
Technology and Innovation.

Continuous Improvement at Antamina

6000 Before PIO Initial PIO Study Support Contract Antamina
Continued implementation continues to apply
of PIO Integrated
5000 Optimization

Throughput (tph)




2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011

Figure 7: Application of the PIO process philosophy has provided continuous improvement.

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