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MEI Online: Analytical Techniques & Applied Mineralogy: Latest News: January 27th 2009


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:: State-of-the-art Courier® Analyser and Sampling System for Olympic Dam

One of the world’s most advanced automated mineral processing sampling and analysing systems is to be commissioned this year at Australia’s largest underground mine, BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam.

Outotec is scheduled to complete commissioning by March 2009 of a package incorporating the latest Courier® 6 SL on-line X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) slurry analyser and sampling system.

The Courier® on-stream analyser - specified by BHP Billiton and managed by the Project Delivery Team (headed by BHP Billiton and Worley Parsons) - is engineered to save process time and enhance mineral recoveries at the South Australian mine, which is the world's fourth largest copper deposit, fifth largest gold deposit and the largest uranium deposit.

Linked to a series of 16 samplers in the process system, the analyser uses high power WDXRF (Wavelength Dispersive) spectrometer technology to simultaneously measure concentrations of iron, copper and uranium and pulp density from 12 sample streams.

The Courier® X-Ray probe is also securely housed and is only active when energised. The Courier® does not contain any radioactive source, unlike other slurry analyser systems. Therefore, safety, costly maintenance, environmental and disposal liabilities associated with gamma radiation are negated.

“This is one of the world’s biggest and most advanced of more than 400 Courier® installations, with major efficiency and mineral recovery benefits from real-time and immediate analysis," said Outotec Sales and After Sales Projects Manager in Australia, Mr Wayne Pearce.

“This can mean that, instead of waiting several hours for traditional lab assay results, increased recoveries can be achieved from system adjustments. In the flotation circuit for instance, Operators can immediately alter air flows, froth depths and reagent systems to suit varying ore characteristics," said Mr Pearce.

Working closely with the Project Delivery Team, including key Olympic Dam senior metallurgy personnel, the system has been designed to handle continuous flows from 16 slurry sample streams, eliminating time-consuming and labour-intensive laboratory methods. Recoveries can be improved, as process upsets are detected early and solved rapidly. Frequent assays are necessary for real time process monitoring and control.

“A particular benefit of the Courier® analyser is the confidence in knowing that sampling and analysis is performed continuously in the same way, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week " said Mr Pearce.

Frequent manual sampling, sample preparation and laboratory assays, as required for 24/7 real-time process control, is prohibitively expensive in terms of both manpower and equipment.

Outotec’s package is part of a comprehensive project of analysis, automation and sampling technology at Olympic Dam. Outotec’s scope comprises full design and installation of the state-of-the-art system and includes sampler installation, civil construction and all peripheral works, such as piping, sample pumps and all associated structural and mechanical works. Electrical installation also forms an important part of the project scope.

“This large automation and analysis system is a great endorsement of our technology and people. Courier® has a reputation in the marketplace for superior accuracy, precision and speed and the fact that we recently installed a similar system at another site is yet another testament to this proven performance. The project is progressing smoothly and this is due to the collaborative efforts of BHP Billiton, the Project Delivery Team and Outotec," added Mr Pearce.




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