Outotec flotation cells improve copper recovery at Buenavista del Cobre

Two Outotec TankCell e630s – among the largest operating flotation cells in the world – are now running at Grupo Mexico’s Buenavista del Cobre concentrator in northern Mexico
Outotec flotation cells improve copper recovery at Buenavista del Cobre Outotec flotation cells improve copper recovery at Buenavista del Cobre Outotec flotation cells improve copper recovery at Buenavista del Cobre Outotec flotation cells improve copper recovery at Buenavista del Cobre Outotec flotation cells improve copper recovery at Buenavista del Cobre

Outotec TankCell e630 running at the Buenavista del Cobre Concentrator 1

Staff reporter

Start-up was completed in March 2018, and since then the site has reported an increase of more than 3% in overall recovery, Outotec said. Also, the e630s produce higher Cu grade in the concentrate (24% Cu), which can be sent directly to the Cu-Mo separation plant.

"This is the highest recovery I have seen at BVC Concentrator 1 since my first site visit back in 1988," said Jose Romero, head of sales for Outotec's office in north Mexico. "This is a huge benefit for Grupo Mexico, and they have been very happy with Outotec's technical approach."

Buenavista del Cobre is a copper-molybdenum mine located in the state of Sonora, Mexico. The mine has two concentrators: Concentrator 1 is a 90ktpd plant, which has been in operation since 1986, while Concentrator 2 is a 100ktpd brand new plant design that started-up in 2014. The flotation improvement reported in this work with the latest TankCell e630 technology was carried out at Concentrator 1.

Concentrator 1 has been in operation for more than three decades and was originally designed for 72ktpd. The ore is mined from an open pit, crushed and fed to ten ball mills. The concentrator is divided into two parallel comminution-flotation sections, so that five ball mills feed each flotation section. Both sections consist of three bulk copper and molybdenum rougher flotation lines, and the rougher concentrate is transferred to a regrinding stage.

In 2015, personnel from Buenavista del Cobre and Outotec conducted a process assessment of the rougher flotation stage. The process assessment included detailed mineralogical characterisation of an ore sample, a sampling campaign bank-by-bank and flotation pilot (TC5) tests and lab flotation tests with fresh process samples. Basis of the generated kinetic test data rougher flotation model was implemented using Outotec HSC Chemistry software. The simulation model indicated that increase of flotation volume will result in increase of Cu recovery. Various scenarios were simulated to define the best manner to implement the 630m3 flotation cells to the existing flotation sections. The recommendation was to install two TankCell e630 flotation units as the first cells of the existing bulk rougher stage for parallel Sections 1 and 2.

The existing Section 1 bulk rougher lines consist of three parallel lines of 18 cells per line with a total flotation capacity of approx. 1,529m3. Section 2 bulk rougher stage also consists of three parallel lines, two of the lines equivalent to the flotation lines in Section 1 and one line consists of 13 cells with a net volume of 38m3 resulting in a total flotation capacity for the full section of approx. 1,513m3.

In 2017, installation work for the two new flotation cells began, thus the rougher capacity was dramatically expanded from approx. 3,043m3 to 4,303m3. The start-up of the new flotation cells took place during the March quarter of 2018. The installation includes two Outotec TankCell e630s with Outotec FloatForce mixing technology, continental blowers, Outotec GIW slurry pumps, a complete automation package including samplers, FrothSense, LevelSense, Cellstation and Advisory Services.

The TankCell e630 flotation cell has a nominal volume of 630m3 and is equipped with a FloatForce mechanism with a diameter of 2,200mm.

Since the TankCell e630 units in Buenavista del Cobre are the first operational cells of their size, the installed motor power is 515kW and the motors of the cells are connected to a variable speed drive allowing the rotational speed control of the flotation mechanism.

Its large capacity makes the Outotec TankCell e630 particularly suitable for rougher and scavenger duties in copper, copper-molybdenum, gold and other base metal applications.

After successful start-up, Outotec's metallurgical team is now working closely with Grupo Mexico for the tuning and optimisation of the flotation cells.