Picture this: your circuit is optimized at a certain level and everything is going smoothly. Under your current conditions, you have maximized operations and are producing at optimal levels until circumstances change. Production requirements have increased due to greater market demands or different ore properties are discovered in sections of your mine. Ultimately, when it comes time to ramp up production or efficiently adjust your circuit, do you know your options?
When you're in the above situation, there are many things to think of:
- Can my current system handle the increased load?
- Have the ore properties increased the workload on my comminution equipment?
- Do I have the right equipment in place?
- Can I change operating parameters quickly?
- How will this affect my final output and quality?
With commodity prices fluctuating, it is important to look for solutions that help you and your circuit remain flexible. Here are some critical points to consider when reviewing your three core options: Optimize, Upgrade and Replace.
There are a couple of steps to optimizing a crushing circuit- firstly to optimize machine performance, and secondly to optimize the overall performance of your circuit.
Optimizing a machine involves verifying all aspects of your equipment to maximize process and mechanical performance. The crusher's chamber is a good place to start. Over the life of a mine, the production goals of a single crushing stage can change significantly. Ore properties can also show a high degree of variability. If the crusher wear parts are not customized to these changing conditions, it can produce less and require more costly maintenance. Once the chamber is optimized, many benefits are passed on to the entire mineral processing plant. This can include increased liner life, better end product gradation and reduced energy consumption.
Beyond the chamber, optimizing the entire crushing circuit is a great holistic approach for increasing production. To understand how the whole circuit operates as a single process, a couple of points need to be identified: the system's bottlenecks and where there is available capacity. Once bottlenecks and areas of extra capacity are identified, it is a matter of making recommendations to alleviate the bottleneck(s) and use the extra capacity.
For example, if the secondary crushers are identified as the bottleneck and the tertiary crushers have spare capacity, the screen aperture on the secondary screens can be opened. This will allow coarser material to pass more quickly to the next stage.
Overall, this solution redistributes the work to a machine that has more capacity to perform the job. However, each adjustment in the process can have implications for other parts of the process. Consider speaking to a specialist who can take a broader view to ensure all steps work together in an optimal way. Options for achieving more through your crushing circuit can include changes to blasting technique and pre-concentration strategies. These techniques can be measured, controlled and tracked using specialized instrumentation such as SmartTagTM and VisioRock systems, among others.
Process optimization can only get you so far as you are working with the limitations of your existing assets. If your crusher is an older model and is restricted by design, you might consider upgrading your machine. Upgrades are a great way to get new life out of your equipment while only using a small portion of your budget. With many options to choose from, upgrades can be staged across multiple years, adding annual benefits while matching periodic CAPEX limits. Upgrades can help you increase your annual production through the reduction of downtime. Older models may not have efficient tramp clearing functionality which can lead to excessive downtime and high maintenance costs. Upgrading to a hydraulic tramp release and clearing system can ensure that you will be back up and running quickly. Other upgrades available allow for easier and faster setting adjustments that help maintain consistent production and reduce recirculating load. Updating your crusher with the up-to-date features and technology will result in additional throughput. Overall, your operations can become more flexible with a myriad of beneficial outcomes such as easier maintenance and safety improvements.
It is important to note that an upgrade can address many problems but if the upgrade does not address the system constraints, the problem(s) will not be solved. New problems could potentially arise.
At the end of the day, technology continues to advance and crushers are no exception. Newest generation crushers can provide significant improvements to crushing capacity, end product gradation, reduction ratios and offer better control of the feed opening when adjusting crusher settings. With a new machine in place, you can expect a major jump in plant capacity and improved operational costs of the crushing stage itself. Additionally, downstream elements such as screens, conveyors, and mills may also benefit. Overall, when considering new equipment, it comes down to evaluating if the CAPEX needed will be offset by the added value from the new technology.
Comparing your budget and production requirements
Sometimes your current machines do not meet the new requirements and demand extra capacity. At this point, you'll want to consider integrating additional equipment. It is always beneficial to consult with a team of experts. Metso's PRO and Crusher Applications teams can work together to identify the best opportunity for extra capacity and the machine you needed to meet current and future production requirements.
In the end, it's about balancing your budget with desired results. The correct answer depends on your circumstances. To approach the solution with a holistic outlook, an overall plant review is the best place to start. Whatever option is chosen will have an effect on your overall operation and requires a cost benefit analysis. Our teams can help! Click to learn more about PRO and Chamber Optimization, Crusher upgrades and replacements.