The UltraPS is a new in stream analyser suitable for a wide range of industrial applications. It operates on high solids content slurries, with a submersible probe inserted into the stream to measure particles over the range 0.1 to 1000 microns.
It has been field tested successfully, with several commercial prototypes now operating in Australia and South Africa. Getting the particle size right in a minerals processing plant is critical.
The particles need to be ground fine enough that gold, platinum and other precious metals can be separated from the waste rock, without being unnecessarily fine. Milling ore can constitute over 60 per cent of the energy usage in mineral processing plants, so if you over-grind it, then that is a huge waste of energy and money, says Mike Millen, CSIRO Minerals' In-stream Particle Size Project Leader.
If the particle size is work, then precious metal can be lost to the waste stream, or waste rock dilutes the purity of the desired concentrate steam. Companies want to be able to measure the particle size in real time, so they can work out if they need to grind the ore a bit more or less, and save money, says Mr Millen.
An on-line analyser will get the same result as a laboratory analyser but in a period of one to two minutes instead of hours. Work on developing the UltraPS began in the early 1990s.
Other on-line particle size systems have not proved reliable in handling the tough conditions in mining operations, but CSIRO Minerals' analyser has proved to the robust. CSIRO Minerals is now working on a multi-plexed system so that the analyser can handle multiple streams. .