Syensqo, a recent spinoff from Solvay, has launched the Transfoamer™ product line, described by the company as “the first groundbreaking frother innovation in more than 65 years.”

The new products are well suited for coarse particle recovery, according to the Brussels, Belgium-based specialty chemicals supplier. Transfoamer frothers are based on a novel technology that changes froth strength in response to pH, leading to more efficient copper recovery from even challenging ores.

“As ore grades decline, many mining companies are grinding coarser particles to push tonnage or save energy,” said Ricardo Capanema, global marketing and business development director, Mining Solutions at Syensqo. “Mines often use a blend of strong and weak frothers, which results in a steady froth but prevents the frother from performing at peak potential. Our new single-frother solution addresses this limitation and overfrothing issues common in the cleaner stage.”

Transfoamer frothers start as strong and robust frothers in the rougher circuit. Then, in response to pH, they transform to weaker frothers in the cleaner circuit, where less froth is needed. This unique property is particularly attractive for use in bulk copper and molybdenum flotation, according to Syensqo.

For more challenging ore types, Transfoamer frothers can be further tailored with the Syensqo Cube connected dosing unit to optimize efficiency and recovery. Additionally, said the company, Transfoamer frothers do not build up or recirculate, which improves circuit stability.

Syensqo said Transfoamer technology is already in use commercially in Latin America, where its ability to promote fast kinetics and mobility of value minerals has resulted in improvements to throughput, recovery and energy consumption. Transfoamer products are also available in North America as well as in parts of the Asia-Pacific region, and will be introduced in other areas as demand warrants.

Transfoamer products and their characteristics are shown in the accompanying table above.

Plant Operators are Taking a Hard Look at Soft Sensors

According to a recent report from the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute, international interest in soft sensor technology from its Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC) is growing as operators seek options for improving process insight and control without the technological risk.

The university said JKMRC’s soft sensor offerings – which cover site processes from stockpiling to flotation – launched officially in 2019 with the MillFit tool but have experienced increased demand in the last year as operators run into issues implementing new ‘hard sensor’ technology into their operations.

Whereas hard sensors are physical devices installed on equipment, soft sensors are mathematical models that use a variety of measurements to emulate the role, and infer the results, of a sensor.

JKMRC Director Professor Mohsen Yahyaei said industry’s interest in automation and digitization of processes is growing, but data reliability was frustrating progress.

“Industry has moved quickly towards automation and real-time prediction of processes, but a reliance on hard sensors for the data that underpins those processes has proved problematic,” Yahyaei said.

“That is why we started to leverage our mathematical models and our fundamental process understanding to create soft sensors that are underpinned by data sites are familiar with, from sources they already use, to infer critical information.

“For instance, our MillFit tool, which was the first soft sensor we released, estimates the wear condition of the mill, the ball and rock filling, and particle trajectory, using only data from sensors that are already installed on most SAG mills. The same approach is being applied to a range of other soft sensors which, combined, will provide insights across the whole circuit – for pumps, cyclones, stockpiles, and more.”

The university said JKMRC soft sensors can now be found at 22 sites across eight countries, with six new proposals under way, including a MillFit tool that has been running continuously at Indonesia’s Batu Hijau mine since 2019.

Professor Yahyaei said he believes trust and ease of implementation have been the largest drivers behind the success of the soft sensors.

3 Why Soft Sensors Chart-min

“If you are driving your car and relying on a faulty fuel gauge – a hard sensor – you won’t notice something is wrong until your car stops working, and then chances are you won’t trust fuel gauges for the rest of your life,” Professor Yahyaei said.

“In that context, a soft sensor would measure the weight of your fuel tank to calculate how much fuel you have and then compare it against your gauge, so as soon they mismatch it’s clear something is wrong and it can be addressed before there is a problem.

“Site teams face similar issues with sensors failing intermittently or drifting from calibration and only picked up when a problem happens. Our soft sensors are a backup in the case of a fault, and increase confidence in the sensor outputs when operating.

“It also helps that implementing soft sensors is minimally disruptive and doesn’t introduce any new equipment.

“Essentially, we just need to identify which equipment they will be used on, request a list of data that will be needed, calibrate the soft sensors on off-line data and deliver a prototype. After a period of testing, the soft sensor can then be run live.”