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Sensor technology is emerging as a current trend in minerals sorting worldwide. Comminution and sorting specialist IMS Engineering’s MD Paul Bracher, speaks to Reggie Sikhakhane on how the company is working toward achieving maximum mineral sorting results with its latest developments.

IMS Engineering, part of the Hazemag group of companies based in Germany, has revealed that as a result of inaccuracies leading to loss of valuable materials in the minerals sorting industry, the company has been observing global trends in its efforts to provide mines with value-add solutions.

“We have been working on engineered solutions that will improve problems currently experienced in minerals sorting, with our core focus being comminution and separation. IMS Engineering has spent the past few years working extensively towards developing technology that is a ‘first in Africa’, which will give mining houses more value from their operations,” says Bracher.

Sorting solutions

The company, which recently signed a joint venture agreement with Cologne-based STEINERT Elektromagnetbau GmbH, has developed technology that will allow the separation of minerals using X-ray transmission (XRT) and XRF (X-ray fluorescence) sorting or XSS, optical colour sorting; 3D laser sorting (shape recognition), induction sorting (recognition of particle electromagnetic properties) and near infrared (NIR) sorting, which analyses the reflected NIR spectrum.

The XSS-T (transmission) ‘sees’ through the materials,  recognising different material densities and components containing halogens and organic components. Composite materials and internal adhesions are also detected. This allows ore-bearing rock to be sorted from the non-ore-bearing rock.

XSS-F (X-ray fluorescence) is used to differentiate alloys, metals and ores based on their surface characteristics. In essence, the technology works on X-ray absorption – the larger the atomic mass and the thicker the material, the greater the absorption.

“We are very excited with developments regarding this technology. The XRT and XRF are able to measure the atomic property of material using X-ray and infrared,” explains Bracher.

A common feature of all STEINERT sorting systems is that every single particle in the material flow is recognised and classified. The long, fast-running belt ensures that the particles are ‘singulated’ and homogeneously distributed. As they pass the X-ray source and camera, they are recognised and classified in a fraction of a second according to preset criteria programmed in the flexible system software. If classification matches the previously defined criteria, the particle is ejected by a powerful blast of compressed air out of fast-action compressed-air valves.

Bracher says that the accuracy of the XRT and XRF technology will significantly lessen the loss of minerals and ore experienced during normal crushing and separation, saving mining houses time and improving their profits.

He adds that the technology can be applied to various minerals, including gold, platinum and coal.

STEINERT’s global product manager for mining, Johan van Zyl, says he is confident that IMS will make a success of the venture. “IMS Engineering is a thoroughly professional organisation with vast experience in the comminution industry in this region.”

He adds that the technology will also help junior miners. “This makes our technology ideal in tougher economic periods for more marginal mines where it has been shown to make the difference between closing down and being able to continue profitably. It is perfect for Southern African conditions,” Van Zyl says.

Allmineral

IMS Engineering has also confirmed the integration of Germany-based Allmineral, a leading manufacturer of advanced sorting technology, into the organisation.

Hazemag’s parent company, Schmidt, Kranz& Co. GmbH acquired the controlling share in Allmineral in 2011 and, after a year of strategic planning and preparation, the integration has now been executed.

Allmineral already has an existing customer base in South Africa, and IMS sales manager Shannon McKewan says that the synergies between IMS and Allmineral run deep. “The addition of Allmineral to the stable, which already includes STEINERT, gives us the opportunity to create a focused and powerful separations business unit.”

IMS says the integration of Allmineral, which is recognised as a world expert inthe beneficiation of gravel and sand,will enable the company to offer a comprehensive set of separation technologies and solutions to the regional market, drawing on the power of these two companies.

McEwan says that where STEINERT specialises in magnetic separation and sensor sorting, including X-ray and 3D sorting, Allmineral provides low-intensity magnetic separation (LIMS), medium-intensity magnetic separation (MIMS) and wet high-intensity magnetic separation (WHIMS).

“What makes this arrangement so advantageous to all involved – especially to our customers – is that there is no conflict between the two companies. In fact, their portfolios dovetail perfectly, complementing each other to fill any gaps in IMS’s offering.

“The tripartite relationship between IMS, Allmineral and STEINERT makes us one of the powerhouses in separation technology in Africa,” boasts McEwan.

The four flagship products of Allmineral are the Alljig (wet jigging machines for density separation), Allflux (for the separation of slurried fines), Allair (air jigging machines for separation without water), and Gaustec (wet high-intensity magnetic separation, or WHIMS).

IMS has already invested in installing Allmineral technology in its test centre in Spartan, Johannesburg. At the industry-leading centre, IMS engineers conduct informative tests with clients’ materials, to ensure that they are able to pick the right sorting solutions for their specific materials.

“Sensor sorting is, in general, much more cost-effective than traditional sorting methods,” says Van Zyl. “Apart from saving on water, less energy and labour is required and, perhaps most importantly, because one can sort at the point of extraction, only the ore containing the mineral needs be transported thus saving significantly on transportation costs.

On the partnerships, Bracher adds that the Allmineral/IMS/ STEINERT union creates a significant advantage. “XSS T works best with particles of 40 mm or bigger and Allmineral’s dry jig works best with particles of less than 40 mm enabling us to provide an unbeatable overall solution,” he says.

Research and development

IMS says its recent research and development exercise, in collaboration with Kawasaki, has resulted in the next generation CYBAS cone crusher, the CYBAS-I.

The company says this new design allows for a higher percentage of material passing the setting in the first pass, resulting in lower recirculating loads, which reduces operating costs and energy consumption.

Changes to the CYBAS crusher include a redesigned (steeper, longer) crushing chamber, resulting in higher capacity, redesigned crushing plates for improved utilisation, heavy-duty mantle core for increased crushing forces and redesigned drive system for increased power transmission

In addition, the company says the curved crushing chamber of the CYBAS-I enables inter-particle crushing resulting in a cubically shaped product and a high set under, while the grooved inlet ensures that it can crush large lumps of material smoothly and simultaneously and with less slippage. The hydroset design uses a heavy-duty hydraulic cylinder to support the main shaft. This feature, combined with the significant flexibility of the automatic control system, allows easy and automatic crusher setting, tramp relief and crusher utilisation, optimisation and monitoring during operation.

However, while the crusher is able to accommodate a substantially larger motor size, the overall weight has been reduced slightly. It has the same footprint and external interfaces as the original enabling retrofitting into existing structures.

A test plant with merit

At IMS’s test centre, its engineers conduct informative tests with clients’ materials, to ensure that they are able to pick the right sorting solutions for their specific materials.

Bracher says that the new IMS test centre will provide initial material testing for XSS sorting. “We take a bucket full of waste and a bucket full of product and check that the sensor can ‘see’ the difference. If it can, we know that more extensive testing, which may entail the installing of a machine on-site, can be undertaken,” he concludes.

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