Autogenous milling — Effects on flotation of Mt. Lyell copper ore / Broyage autogène — Effets sur la flottation du minerai de cuivre de Mt. Lyell

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 95, No. 1060, 2002

N.C. Clarke, K.J. Henley, T. Wu and M. le Page

In 1994, Gold Mines of Australia acquired the rights to the historic Mt. Lyell copper mine, and commenced a feasibility study into expanding production. The ore was shown in laboratory tests to be amenable to single-stage, fully autogenous grinding (FAG) of underground primary crushed ore, and this route offered the maximum cost savings. Flotation performance was expected to be enhanced. However, batch flotation tests done on pilot-scale autogenously ground ore showed an unexplainable recovery loss of between 1% and 3% Cu. A second pilot plant trial was set up, with the ground product feeding banks of continuous flotation cells. Single-stage FAG, FAG/pebble and FAG/ball circuits were tested. Results confirmed a loss of about 3% recovery with single-stage FAG milling. The FAG/ball circuit eliminated the loss. Analyses showed that autogenous milling probably produced more chalcopyrite/pyrite composites and that recovery of these composites was lower than with ball milling. In size fractions below about 53 microns, where chalcopyrite is well liberated, copper recovery was less affected by milling method and flotation selectivity. It was concluded that for the Mt. Lyell situation, a FAG/ball circuit was preferable to single-stage FAG.
Keywords: Autogenous grinding, Copper, Mineralogy, Flotation, Ore