Sensitivity analysis of a grinding-flotation plant with the USIM PAC process simulator

Sep 30, 2020 | Process simulation

Simulation is now widely used in many process industries. This paper presents the interest of process simulation for studying the sensitivity of mineral processing plants. 

USIM PAC process simulator has been developed since 1986 for the mineral processing industry. USIM PAC handles the design and optimization of entire processing plants with a comprehensive set of mathematical models for unit operations that span from crushing to refining. A variety of objective functions and tools, such as the simulation supervisor, facilitate the global multi-criterion optimization.

The supervisor of simulation uses the automation concepts of sensors and actuators. At any place of the flowsheet, the user implements a “soft actuator” by choosing the process parameter such as equipment size or settings, stream flowrate, percent solids or d80, which can vary. Then, he can evaluate the effect of the variation of this value at any other place of the flowsheet by inserting a “soft sensor”. Thus, by example, it becomes possible to look at the evolution of the recoveries and/or the circulating loads when scanning an interval of the possible feed flowrates.

A classical grinding flotation circuit processing a gold ore

The example presented here is built from several sets of plant data coming from different plants and compiled to obtain realistic demonstration data.

The flowsheet of the plant is presented in Figure 1. It is a classical grinding flotation circuit processing a gold ore for producing a gold concentrate. At the initial stage the flotation is fed by the hydrocyclones overflow without regulation of the pulp density. The possibility to regulate the flotation feed density has been added as an option.

Screen shot USIM PAC process simulator - Flowsheet of a gold grinding flotation plant

Figure 1. Flowsheet of the plant

The principle is to modify some of the operating parameters and the number of cells in the flotation circuit and to check the impact on the grade/recovery curve.

Main equipment sizes are given in Table 1. The circuit feed size distribution is given in Figure 2.

Main equipment sizes
Screenshot USIM PAC process simulator - Feed size distribution

Figure 1. Flowsheet of the plant

In the initial configuration, with the operating parameters given in Table 2, the concentrate has a grade of 121 g/t Au with a recovery of 80.4 %. Detailed performances are given in table 3.

Initial operating parameters
Initial performances

Variation of the %-solids of the hydrocyclones feed

The supervisor is run to study the variation of the percent solids of the hydrocyclones feed. A modification of the feed density will impact the pressure drop in cyclones thus the overflow size distribution, as well as the overflow percent solids. In a first run, this percent solids is set back to 20% for feeding the flotation using a density regulator. Like this, the performances of the flotation circuit will only be impacted by its feed size distribution.
As highlighted in Figure 3, the user selects the model parameters of unit 3, percent solids regulator, and indicates the range of variation, 30 to 45, around the initial value 35. The precision (step of the scanning procedure) is set to 1, meaning that 16 simulations will be run. Several parameters could be selected at the same time. However, for being able to understand the real role of each of them, it is better, at least in a first stage, to test them one by one.

Screenshot USIM PAC process simulator - Selection of the soft actuator

Figure 3. Selection of the soft actuator

In the dialog box of Figure 4, the user selects all the performances that must be followed.

Screenshot USIM PAC process simulator - Selection of the soft sensors

Figure 4. Selection of the soft sensors

Screenshot USIM PAC process simulator - Impact of the hydrocyclones operation on the overflow d80 and circuit gold recovery

Figure 5. Impact of the hydrocyclones operation on the overflow d80 and circuit gold recovery

The increase of pulp density for feeding hydrocyclones reduces the pressure drop thus increases the d80 of the flotation feed (see Figure 5). However the overall gold recovery is not significantly impacted, showing that this range of size is around the optimal liberation size.

Another supervisor cycle is run without regulating the flotation feed density. It appears that the recovery is increasing when the feed pulp density increases (see Figure 6). This is due to a lower dilution thus a higher residence time of the pulp in the flotation cells. The residence time is then the limiting factor of the circuit.

Screenshot USIM PAC process simulator- Impact of the hydrocyclones operation on the overflow d80 and circuit gold recovery (no regulation)

Figure 6. Impact of the hydrocyclones operation on the overflow d80 and circuit gold recovery (no regulation)

Variation of the number of cells

The supervisor is run again for testing the modification of the number of flotation cells. For this test the %-solids of the hydrocyclone feed is set to 40 % which corresponds to a flotation feed with 25.3 % solids and a d80 of 85µm.


Screenshot USIM PAC process simulator - Evolution of the grade-recovery curves versus the number of cells

Figure 7. Evolution of the grade-recovery curves versus the number of cells

In Figure 7, each curve corresponds to a given number of cleaning cells (from 3 to 10). The different points of a curve correspond to different numbers of rougher cells (from 10 to 20). It appears, as anticipated, that the recovery largely depends on the number of roughing cells, while the evolution of grades is more dependent on the number of cleaning cells. The economic impact has then to be estimated considering the investment and operating costs of additional cells and the revenue generated by higher recoveries and grades.

Process simulator: a tool of interest for exploring the sensitivity of a circuit

This paper shows the interest of simulation for exploring the sensitivity of a circuit. If the final decision has to be taken considering economic factors, the technical elements provided by such a tool largely assists the engineers in the selection of the best options.

Article written in 2015 by Marie-Véronique Durance, Managing Director CASPEO and Evgeny CHERNYKH, Managing Director COMPUTING System.

Explore new process configuration with USIM PAC process simulator

USIM PAC process simulator helps you to analyze, design and optimize mineral processing that involves multiphase systems. USIM PAC is the only process simulation software on the market able to model in one platform nearly all the mine-to-mill processing operations from crushing to refining passing through grinding, gravity and magnetic separation, flotation, leaching and concentration.

Recent posts 

Subscribe to our newsletter

Ready to talk about your project?

Question about your process, our process simulation software or services? Write us here to be in touch.

CASPEO process simulation software and services

CASPEO provides trusted process design and optimization services and simulation software to engineers dealing with solids and all types of raw materials. With CASPEO, go beyond process simulation.

Empower your decisions


Engineering software

Get a quote

Develop your skills



Get a live demo

Need assistance?

On-line support

Contact us

Contact a partner

2020 © CASPEO – All rights reserved

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This