X-ray sorting tech debuts at Spanish tungsten mine

Siobhan Doyle

The introduction of X-ray transmission sorting at Saloro’s tungsten mine sets a bold precedent.

In the heart of Spain’s Barruecopardo, the Saloro tungsten mine stands as a beacon of significance, contributing to the vital supply chain of tungsten: an indispensable industrial metal with diverse applications in aerospace, electronics, and military technologies.

Tungsten’s importance is emphasised by its status as a ‘critical raw material’ within the European Union – China currently dominate around 80% of global production. Positioned as one of the few tungsten mines in Europe, Saloro plays a crucial role, producing concentrate with high tungsten grade and limited impurities, rendering it a high-value commodity.

The mining landscape, however, is ever evolving, pushing entities such as Saloro to constantly seek innovation. Recognising the potential to enhance the head grade delivered to the processing plant, Saloro partnered with resource recovery solutions provider Tomra Mining. The objective: to improve the ore sorting process by segregating scheelite content from non-mineralised material in the feed line.

Pedro Jiménez, plant manager at the Barruecopardo mine, elaborates on the challenge: “We were looking for equipment capable of sorting ore with scheelite content to remove the non-mineralised product from the feed line.” The solution? Tomra’s X-ray transmission (XRT) ore sorter, which is designed to optimise the entire ore processing value chain.


Central to the success of Tomra’s XRT ore sorter is its ‘Inclusions Technology’, a fusion of a high-resolution XRT sensor and tailored sorting algorithms. “At the Barruecopardo mine, this technology enables the detection of 1mm or even smaller tungsten inclusions – this is unique in the market,” says Carolina Vargas at Tomra Mining.

Before implementation at Saloro, Tomra conducted comprehensive test work with its XRT technology in 2019, analysing particle sizes ranging from 10-30mm to 30-60mm at its test centre in Germany. The results showed the reliability and efficiency of Tomra’s equipment.

In July 2023, Tomra installed the COM Tertiary XRT ore sorter at the mine’s beneficiation stage. Designed to process raw material in the 8-25mm size range at a rate of approximately 45t/h, the sorter demonstrated remarkable efficiency, according to the operators of the mining site.

Achieving over 90% recovery of scheelite, it successfully removed 85 to 90% of host rock before downstream processing via gravity concentration, magnetic separation, and flotation.

The impact of the XRT technology at the Barruecopardo mine has also become a catalyst for significant cost savings. By selectively processing material with scheelite content, the plant has optimised resource utilisation, resulting in tangible economic benefits. The sorter’s ability to deliver high-grade material while reducing waste has positioned it as a key driver of operational efficiency.

“We are convinced that this sorting technology from Tomra will help Saloro to significantly improve efficiency and production at the plant,” says Jiménez.

Saloro is not only acknowledging the value of the XRT sorter but also expanding its commitment to the technology. The decision to purchase additional XRT sorters aims to further increase the feed grade to the plant and remove material devoid of scheelite.

Tomra’s XRT technology at the mine exemplifies the intersection of innovation, efficiency, and sustainability in the mining sector, according to the operators at the site.

By seamlessly integrating ‘Inclusions Technology’ with proven sorting algorithms, Tomra has not only met but exceeded the expectations of Saloro, unlocking new possibilities for tungsten mining and reinforcing the role of advanced sorting solutions in shaping the future of resource extraction.


For more information visit www.tomra.com

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