Thickener Optimization Spotlight

Discover your Thickener’s Minimum Settling Rate with our Hematite ’21 release. 

Hematite is the very latest release of our suite of decision intelligence applications built specifically for the mining industry.  The applications all use artificial intelligence (AI) and data science models to target individual mining processes and increase their efficiency, sustainability and safety.

This fourth spotlight in our series focuses on our Thickener Optimization app and the real-time insight  it offers operators through the deployment of virtual sensors.

Kevin O'Kane

The Thickener Optimization Challenge

Thickener circuits are solid-liquid separation processes, concentrating solids in the underflow whilst recovering water (or the aqueous phase) in the overflow. The throughput of the thickening process depends heavily on how quickly and completely the solids in the slurry can settle in the thickener.

How quickly solids should settle to achieve sufficient separation, depends both on the throughput (or feed) rate and the required product quality (mainly underflow density and/or overflow clarity). This required settling rate constantly shifts, as changing feed rates change the rise rate (upflow of slurry) in the thickener.

Additionally, the required underflow density and/or overflow clarity might also change. This means that the settling rate required to achieve the Thickener performance objectives also changes.

Operators and Metallurgists are left completely unaware of how the settling rate of their thickener(s), and therefore their flocculant doses, need to change in real-time. This leads to reduced thickener performance because operators are unable to achieve the target underflow density, overflow clarity or are not able to recover as much water as the circuit should; at the desired throughput.


The Solution

Our Thickener Optimization app’s solution to this challenge is the Minimum Settling Rate Virtual Sensor, with its accompanying Alert.

The optimization apps deploy a woven network of digital models which support each other to create a suite of ‘virtual sensors’ that provide much-needed insight into circuit performance. They are processed in the cloud, and so benefit from constant retraining and re-calibration

The Thickener Application determines the minimum settling rate in real-time, based on the thickener geometry, the feed well design and the quantity and properties of the feed material. This Virtual Sensor serves as the minimum constraint for the actual settling rate (PV) of a thickener.

Additionally, it can guide the real-time selection of the flocculant dose setpoint from flocculant test work either periodically by human consultants/operators, or in real-time by the Thickener Application (more on this soon!).


The Value Delivered

This visibility on the Minimum Settling Rate allows Operators to:

  • Quickly detect when their actual settling rate is not sufficient for the required separation.
  • Keep their thickener circuit running at its required throughput, and overflow and underflow specification.

This results in a thickener circuit that is more consistently achieving its performance KPIs, contributing to delivering on-spec concentrate and/or tailings streams.


Thickener Performance screenshot

A Thickener Dashboard providing real-time insights into the operation and performance

Want to know more? We would be delighted to provide a live demo tailored to your requirements.

Mine to Market: Value Chain Optimization

The Stockpile & Inventory Optimization Application is one of a suite of real-time decision-making applications that uses AI to optimize each process; from mine to market.

Our Material Handling model connects these applications to drive even greater efficiency.

Our process optimization apps can be deployed on a specific process bottleneck or expanded across the entire value chain. They are powered by our Industrial AI Decision Intelligence Platform,

Stockpile and Inventory Optimization

Stockpile & Inventory Optimization

Grinding Optimization App

Grinding Optimization

Thickener Circuit Optimization

Thickener Optimization

Flotation Circuit

Flotation Optimization

Solvent Extraction Optimization App

Solvent Extraction (SX) Optimization

Leaching Optimization App

Leaching Optimization