Sustainable mining: meeting the challenge

Paul Boughton

The mining industry across the globe is facing a challenging time and in an environment like this it is no surprise that mine efficiency and sustainable mining and two of the most often discussed subjects.

Whether it is reading a mining publication, observing or participating in online conversations or talking to your peers at exhibitions and conferences, efficiency and sustainability are most definitely the dominant issues of the time.

In considering how we improve the efficiency and sustainability our mining operations what should we be doing? Dermot Murphy is Strategic Projects Manager at CDE Mining , a division of CDE Global, has some very clear views on what approach mining companies should take.

“The approach we take with our customers is first to conduct a holistic review of the entire ore processing system to establish where specific inefficiencies exist that we can help to address” explains Mr Murphy. “This involves conducting a detailed process audit with customers to gain a specific understanding of where the current pain points are within the system. We are then able to design a process improvement package that tackles all of the pain points and results in the efficiency of the operation being greatly improved.”

According to Mr Murphy this process audit is focused in a number of areas. The first of these is ‘Maximising Yield’. This process involves a detailed look at the feed material to the processing plant and an analysis of the current final products.

“The work we have done with our existing mining clients has demonstrated that this process allows us to establish whether the cut-off grade can be reduced which has the effect of increasing the volumes of material available for processing” explains Mr Murphy.

A reduction in the cut-off grade is made possible by the introduction of processing systems which help to reduce contaminant levels in the ore being processed. In relation to iron ore this applies to silica and alumina contamination as well as ensuring the efficient removal of fine silts and clays from the feed material.

This first process contributes to the second area of focus – waste reduction.

“By facilitating the production of lower grade ores we are not only able to reduce the volume of material sent to waste stockpiles but the knock-on effect of this is to reduce waste handling costs and the space required for the storage of waste material,” says Mr Murphy.

While this approach requires investment in new processing technology the return on investment makes this an attractive proposition for existing operations seeking to reduce costs and improve the sustainability of their mining operation.

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