Sierra Rutile upgrades Mineral Separation Plant to meet mine’s expansion plans


September 8, 2015 Sierra Rutile’s Mineral Separation Plant (MSP) has a long and productive history with the company and its soon-to-be completed multi-million dollar upgrade guarantees will continue to meet the mine’s future needs, including the $77 million Gangama dry mining expansion project which is now underway.

The MSP processes heavy mineral concentrate from Sierra Rutile’s Dredge and Lanti Dry Mining Plant to produce rutile and ilmenite products and a zircon-rich concentrate, and is capable of producing up to 225,000 tonnes of rutile per annum. It works by using magnetic, electrostatic and gravity separation to divide the mineral concentrate into product streams.

The plant’s upgrade increases processing flexibility so that final rutile product can meet specific sulphur specifications when requested by customers. It also includes a new Tailings Retreatment Circuit which can treat 100 metric tons per hour (MTPH) of tailings to recover 2-3 MTPH of rutile and 2.5 MTPH of ilmenite. The upgrade ensures that additional feed from future production expansion projects can be easily accommodated and was an important component of Sierra Rutile’s strategy of expansion.

The two-year engineering project was worked on by a team of 80 technical experts.  Top of the range parts, such as the Orekinetics separators, were flown or shipped in from all over the world – South Africa, USA, Australia, United Kingdom, Spain and Ghana. It included the installation of a Ball Mill (grinding device) and new flotation tank cells, new spirals, Orekinetics High Tension Roll Separators and the new Tailings Retreatment Circuit.  Also important was the installation of a SCADA/PLC computer based control system which enables a complete view of the process flow as well as vital information about each piece of equipment, all of which can now be stopped and started from the computer.

Sierra Rutile is committed to building a skilled national workforce and a tailored training course was organised for the company’s MSP Electrical and Instrumentation Superintendent in South Africa in SCADA/PLC use and maintenance. The company’s SCADA/PLC operators were trained in the Lanti Dry Mining Plant where a SCADA/PLC system is already in use.

Commissioning of the Ball Mill will be completed shortly and Sierra Rutile’s upgraded MSP will confidently deliver improved plant recoveries and grade. Osman Lawalli, MSP Manager, says:  “This has been an exciting and challenging project. The upgrade to our Mineral Separation Plant will deliver outstanding results that will adapt to the meet the mine’s processing needs now and in the future.”