Finn Mineral Processing: Business Almost as Usual

E&MJ’s European editor, Kyran Casteel, reports that Finnish mineral processing technology specialists are still winning new orders and plaudits, but the future may be a touch frosty.

Metso Mills for Talnakh

Metso will supply grinding equipment to MMC Norilsk Nickel for its subsidiary Talnakh concentrator in Northern Russia. Located on the Taimyr Peninsula in Siberia, the Talnakh concentrator processes high grade ores mined at the Talnakh and Oktyabrsky deposits to recover nickel, copper and pyrrhotite concentrates.

The Metso delivery, which will be completed by the end of 2010, is for the renovation of the minerals processing plant at the concentrator. This project is set to increase capacity from the present capacity of 10.5 million mt/y ore processed to an estimated 17 million mt/y. The order, valued at approximately €40 million, comprises a semi-autogenous (SAG) grinding mill with a diameter of 34 ft and two ball mills each with a diameter of 22 ft. It also includes ancillary equipment, as well as installation and commissioning services.

Norilsk Nickel is Russia’s largest mining company and the world’s biggest producer of nickel, palladium and platinum.

During August 2008 Metso began a study to assess value-enhancing opportunities, including structural options (see E&MJ, October 2008, p.86). However, the study on structural options has been discontinued because of the financial market problems. On the positive side, Metso and the European Investment Bank have signed a €160 million research loan agreement. This will fund Metso’s development of environment products and services and R&D programs until 2012. Metso aims to support the cost efficiency and sustainability of business operations with R&D and to improve the competitiveness of the group’s products. The R&D focuses on energy efficiency, using renewable resources and advanced process control technology.

On December 11, 2008, the Finnish State transferred its holdings of Metso and also Outokumpu Oyj shares to the entirely state-owned holding company Solidium Oy. Consequently Solidium has 11.07% of the paid-up share capital and votes in Metso and 31.10% of Outokumpu’s share capital and voting rights. And on December 18 Metso issued a trading update for the corporation as a whole to explain the impact of weaker markets on its activities. For the first 11 months of 2008 orders received were about 4% less than in the equivalent period of 2007 while about 20% of the order backlog is the subject of discussion as to extending delivery times or putting the projects on hold. Actions to adjust productive capacity to lower demand levels started in early October and are continuing into 2009. However, the recent weak order intake is not estimated to have material impact on 2008 performance: operating profit margin is estimated at about 10% and net sales (at comparable exchange rates) are expected to grow by about 5% on 2007.

Outotec to Deliver Yara Phosphate Concentrator Expansion

Outotec has agreed a turnkey delivery with Yara International, the world’s largest supplier of mineral fertilizers, for expansion of the phosphate concentrator located at the Siilinjärvi apatite mine in eastern Finland. The contract value is approximately €28 million. Overall, Yara is investing €60 million in the expansion which should increase annual phosphate concentrate production at Siilinjärvi from 850,000 mt to 1,000,000 mt. Yara acquired the operation when it bought Kemira GrowHow in 2007.

"The project strengthens the scale and competitiveness of our rock mining operations in Finland and increases sourcing flexibility for our NPK production, especially for the Norwegian plants. It is a good illustration of the value that the Kemira GrowHow acquisition has added to the Yara system," said Hallgeir Storvik, head of strategy, supply and trade in Yara. The increase in capacity will be achieved mainly through de-bottlenecking of existing production equipment and infrastructure. The project will also upgrade infrastructure for transport and storage of rock for export out of Uusikaupunki. The project, which is expected to be completed during fourth quarter 2009, is profitable under more challenging market conditions than Yara has seen recently, the company said.

The scope of Outotec's delivery includes the buildings, process engineering, supply of Floatex density separators, TankCell flotation units, conditioners, two thickeners and the related instrumentation, electrification and piping, as well as commissioning and training services. The expanded concentrator is estimated to be operational by mid-October 2009.

"This turnkey plant delivery for the Siilinjärvi phosphate mine expansion demonstrates Outotec's business growth in Finland and also in the fertilizer industry globally. It is also an example of utilizing our technologies, originally developed for the metals industry, in other process industries," said Tapani Järvinen, CEO of Outotec. The order followed other new ones worth €78 million received during October and November, including additional orders from Southern Peru Copper Corp. for the Tia Maria project.

Outotec comments that so far it has received a negligible number of order cancellations, although the timing of some project executions and deliveries was under negotiation as of mid-December 2008. At the end of November the company’s order backlog included 25 projects with an aggregate value over €10 million that accounted for 62% of the backlog. Mining and metallurgical companies developing their first processing plants account for roughly 3% of the backlog.

Outotec also announced on December 4 that the company has been awarded the "Prêmio Samarco de Excelência 2008" by the Brazilian iron ore producer Samarco Mineração. The award is in recognition of Outotec's performance during the implementation of Samarco's third pelletizing plant project and in particular for Outotec's high standard of services and supplies, ability to meet deadlines, social responsibility and safety at work. Outotec designed Samarco Mineração's new pelletizing furnace with an annual capacity of 7.25 million mt/y of iron ore, making it the world's largest iron ore pelletizing plant. Lump-sum turnkey delivery began in 2005 and included test work, design, engineering, equipment supplies, construction, commissioning and technical assistance with the core plant, which includes a traveling grate indurating furnace, process fans, gas cleaning equipment and auxiliary installations. The pelletizing furnace was commissioned in April 2008.

In determining its best suppliers, Samarco utilizes a quality index for contracted services and supplies and makes quarterly evaluations of its suppliers in terms of their adherence to international environmental as well as health and safety standards.

Thomas Schwalm, project manager for Outotec, said: "The project team put in a record performance with regard to health and safety measures as well as environmental compliancy, executing almost four million man hours without lost time due to injuries, zero lost work days and zero environmental incidents. In addition to the successful implementation of some novel technical processes, which have allowed the plant to become a model of energy-efficient pelletizing, the project goals were accomplished within a very tight delivery time of thirty months," he said. 

More Tons for Morila

Gekko Systems Pty Ltd, based at Ballarat, Australia, reports that the old ILR1000CA InLine Leach Reactor at Randgold’s Morila Gold Mine in Mali is being updated to become the new ILR2000BA. The modifications will improve operability, and enable the ILR to treat up to 12mt/day of concentrate, according to Gekko.

The new ILR, designed jointly by Gekko and Morila, will minimize downtime and costs but still maximize the process benefits to the site. Most of the equipment will be recycled from the existing reactor but Gekko will provide important new components for the conversion to the ILR2000BA model. 

Red Dog Buys Two Big IsaMills

Teck’s Red Dog zinc mine in Alaska has purchased two M3000, 1.5-MW IsaMills from Xstrata Technology scheduled for installation by the end of the first quarter of 2010.

Red Dog, commissioned in late 1989, produces over 1 million mt/y of zinc concentrate and 0.23 million mt/y lead concentrate. Its mill uses up to 10 vertical tower mills for regrinding intermediate flotation streams. Mine Chief Metallurgist Brigitte Lacouture said the mine needed additional regrinding capacity to treat harder ore.

According to Lacouture, installation of the new IsaMills will allow seven of the existing tower mills to be shut down, while improving grinding capacity and zinc recovery. The mills will regrind intermediate flotation streams, one to a product size of 13 microns, the other to 25 microns. The decision was made after extensive on-site comparative testwork by Teck technical and research teams. “While we expect some flotation benefits from inert media, energy efficiency was the prime consideration.” said Lacouture. “Our remote Arctic location means that all of our power is diesel generated, and the diesel can only be shipped in during the brief Arctic summer.”

IsaMill Technology Manager Greg Anderson said that IsaMills achieve high energy efficiency because they use fine ceramic grinding media. This is particularly important for grind sizes below about 70 microns, where grinding energy needs increase rapidly. “In practice, operating ball mills and tower mills are limited to about 12-mm ball size, whereas the IsaMills are designed to efficiently use 2-mm or 3.5-mm media” he said.

As explained in Xstrata Technology’s product literature, the IsaMill operates by stirring its media at a rate of more than 20 m/s tip speed. The fine media and high speed, along with other design features of the mill, increase the probability of media and particle collisions, as well as the energy of these collisions. The IsaMill breaks particles using both attrition and abrasion breakage modes. Particles are chipped repeatedly to produce a finely sized product at relatively low power consumption.

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