Modelling and simulation of solid-liquid separation processes: from process design to optimization

Modelling and simulation of solid-liquid separation processes: from process design to optimization

Jan 26, 2024 | Process simulation

Modeling and simulation of solid-liquid separation and water treatement processes play a pivotal role in the fields of mining, mineral processing, and metallurgy regarding the growing concerns on water. From process design to optimization, engineers rely on these tools to ensure efficient resource utilization, environmental sustainability, and product quality. This article explores different unit operation models and scenarii related to solid-liquid separation and water treatment. A paper presented during the Procemin Geomet congress 2023 in Chile.

Understanding the challenge of water management in mining

Historically, only two types of dewatering operations were key in mining industry: thickening and filtration. Each of those operations can include different types of equipment, like high rate or paste thickeners for the former, and filter presses or belt filters for the latter.

Nowadays, with the increasing pressure to preserve the continental water resources and the water scarcity due to drought in some areas, the use of desalinated water and the recycling of process water are gaining importance in the mining industry.

These scenarios need a different set of technologies, focused on removing the deleterious compounds present in the water stream, to improve the water quality in order to prevent a negative impact on metal recovery or on the concentrate grade.

Advanced mathematical models for solid-liquid separation and for recycled water treatment

Increase the process water recovery and re-use negatively affects water quality and process performance. Engineers need to manage the full water life cycle.

To this end, modelling and simulation are indispensable tools for understanding the interactions between ore and water and the variations on process performance. They are crucial for selecting the most appropriate scenario to enhance optimal water quality and, in the same time, to ensure a positive impact on metal recovery and concentrate grade.

This paper goes over different separation models:

  • for solid-liquid separation: thickening, filtration,
  • for water treatment: dissolved air flotation (DAF), reverse osmosis, membrane filtration or ion exchange resins.

The main equations behind each model are presented, their intended use and how they can be applied to design or optimize different solid-liquid separation processes are discussed.

Simulation of a dry-tailings plant and a water treatment circuit before to be recycled in the process

Water treatment plant flowsheet using USIM PAC process modelling and simulation software

Water treatment circuit flowsheet with USIM PAC software

Two different case studies are shown in this paper:

  • the first one is devoted to the design of a water recovery circuit for safer tailings disposal,
  • the second one is focused on the improvement of a water quality of a treatment circuit before reusing it in a flotation circuit.

The studies rely on USIM PAC process simulation software.

Advanced modelling and simulation of solid-liquid separation processes with USIM PAC software


Developed by CASPEO, USIM PAC has a large library of such solid-liquid separation models: thickening, filtration, DAF, reverse osmosis, membrane filtration, ion exchange resins…

USIM PAC helps in selecting the most efficient approach tailored to the unique challenges of each operation. Indeed, its advanced models can consider multiple contaminants and their interactions between water and ore.

USIM PAC process modelling and simulation software - Grade recovery simulation screenshot


Want to know more about simulation of solid-liquid separation and water treatment processes?

CASPEO is a worldwide expert in process design and optimization of mineral processing plants. We will be happy to share with you our modelling approach of solid-liquid separation and water treatment processes based on USIM PAC process simulation software.

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