Frank Traczyk, director of flotation at FLSmidth, believes the mining industry’s need to address declining grades, along with pressure to reduce capital and operational costs, puts a similar burden on original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to leverage technology to provide effective solutions that meet customers’ demands. A recent outcome of this effort at FLSmidth culminated in the development of the company’s new 600 Series SuperCell flotation machine. With an active volume of 660 m3, the massive cell is considered to be the world’s largest operating flotation cell and makes it possible for users to take advantage of economies of scale.

Pictured here is the first 600 Series Supercell to be installed, at KGHM’s Robinson mine in Nevada, USA. The 660-m3-capacity is the largest flotation cell on the market.Pictured here is the first 600 Series Supercell to be installed, at KGHM’s Robinson mine in Nevada, USA. The 660-m3-capacity is the largest flotation cell on the market.

The first installed 600 Series cell is located at KGHM’s Robinson copper-molybdenum mine in Ely, Nevada, USA. Water trials were conducted initially after installation, and when operators were confident with the results, slurry was introduced. The cell was successfully commissioned in April, with a smooth startup allowing plant operators to assume full operation after 10 days, noting that the 600 Series cell “runs like it’s on autopilot.”

According to the company, one of the primary advantages of the 600 Series SuperCell technology is a reduced flotation circuit area footprint. The bigger cell—which offers a significantly higher flotation capacity than a 300-m3 machine—actually takes up 20%–30% less area than the smaller cell and can reduce capex by up to 25% and opex by 15%, Traczyk said.

Harley Schreiber, flotation product manager at FLSmidth, said process control in a flotation plant can be challenging, and maintaining correct slurry level and froth in a row of flotation cells is inherently difficult. “The slurry level in any cell affects the driving head in adjacent cells and this can easily create unstable control conditions. This situation is exacerbated as larger concentrators with increased flotation cells are forced to use more cells per row.”

However, the high capacity of the 600 Series SuperCell enables customers to use half the number of smaller flotation cells, offering improvements in process control that can usually result in improved metallurgical performance, according to Dariusz Lelinski, flotation development manager at FLSmidth. In addition to improved process control, maintenance time and costs are reduced. “The maintenance crew can be mobilized to focus on only the single larger cell in some cases and economies of scale can also be applied to parts inventories, again resulting in decreasing operational costs for the plant,” he explained.

With the growing need to optimize plants, the bigger unit allows additional rougher or cleaning capacity to be added to an existing circuit with just one large cell, enabling users to easily increase capacity or retention time for that row. According to the company, it also allows greater flexibility in terms of providing flotation solutions and permits consideration of options to increase throughput or increase retention times. In cases where a plant is able to reduce two streams into one, additional savings can be achieved over the entire installation with fewer blowers, samplers and pumps required.

“These savings would be both from a capital expenditure and operational cost perspective,” Lelinski said. The 600 Series SuperCell installed at the KGHM operation has been integrated as a rougher-scavenger in the copper flotation circuit without need to add another line of flotation cells. The machine, measuring roughly 8.5 m high and 11 m in diameter, also provides significantly reduced specific power consumption.

The new, bigger cell uses established technology and operators who are familiar with other flotation equipment don’t need to change their operational approach, Lelinski said. “This means there is no learning curve and it is possible to realize the inherent advantages of the massive machine almost immediately following installation and commissioning.”