AXT, a Sydney, Australia-based supplier of mineral sample preparation and analysis equipment, reported recently on the installation of a Tescan TIMA automated mineralogy system at Northparkes Mines. The copper and gold operation is located near the town of Parkes in New South Wales, and is a joint venture between China Molybdenum Co. Ltd. (CMOC) (80%) and the Sumitomo Groups (20%).

The Tescan TIMA automated system uses a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) with integrated Energy Dispersive X-ray Analysis (EDX).
The Tescan TIMA automated system uses a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) with integrated Energy Dispersive X-ray Analysis (EDX).

This installation is particularly significant, said AXT, as it is the first mine site installation of an automated SEM-based minerals analysis system in Australia. Its contribution to Northparkes’ analytical capabilities adds high-resolution automated mineralogy capabilities for advanced characterization of process plant and geological samples to the mine’s on-site assay and metallurgical laboratory resources.

Automated data from the TIMA will be utilized in both a process plant and ore characterization sense. In terms of production control and optimization, information from the TIMA will be integrated with plant control variables to allow troubleshooting and optimization of concentrator performance, resulting in improved production efficiency. TIMA data will be used to support metallurgical optimization projects, to identify opportunities for improvement and to justify plant changes. The instrument will also be used to support mining operations, including resource model validation and optimization.

Tescan TIMA Business Development Manager Paul Gottlieb said, “This installation is a major advance as it takes the technology from the laboratory to the mine site. The TIMA data can be analyzed much more rapidly resulting in faster fine-tuning of plant performance and increased productivity.”

Roslyn Dalton, manager–ore processing department at Northparkes Mines, said, “Our principal goal is to increase our processing production efficiency and we have a clear vision of how the TIMA will help us achieve that. The benefits expected from the TIMA will apply to all areas of our business including exploration, underground development and production; ore process control and marketing—all linking together to achieve our goal of greater efficiency.

“In particular, the TIMA will be a good fit for our existing metallurgical applications. The TIMA offering is developing and expanding and we are excited to be a part of that, including having user input into future software development.”

AXT said Automated Process Mineralogy was developed in Australia and TIMA is a completely new generation of the technology. It uses a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) with highly integrated Energy Dispersive X-ray Analysis (EDX) system to perform full spectrum analyses at very fast speeds. This enables fully automated data collection, resulting in fast, accurate and reliable results. TIMA is able to characterize mineral abundance, size by size liberation, mineral association and grain size automatically on multiple samples.

This is the third Tescan TIMA installation in Australia since last November. The other TIMA systems are at CSIRO Minerals in Perth and at Curtin University in Perth. AXT provides service and support for all these installations as well as other Tescan installations around the country.