The integration of TOMRA’s ore sorting technology at the mine is a story of close collaboration between two companies that share the same philosophy: make the most of natural resources towards a circular economy. Its success is testament to TOMRA’s capacity to listen to the customer and develop tailored solutions for mining companies of all sizes – from large international concerns to small local operations with limited budgets.
Mina Esperanza de Caravelí, owned by MTP and operated by Minera Croacia, is a polymetallic gold copper vein deposit with a mining rate of 150 metric tons per day. It is located in the district of Atico, in the Nazca – Ocoña geological gold belt in the southern part of Perú, and contains narrow veins with a rosary formation, of which over 30 have been discovered so far. The mineralization is located in vein fill fractures of hydrothermal origin and mesothermal in appearance. In 2019, Minera Croacia contacted TOMRA to explore a solution to extract value from low grade ore that was being discarded for not being economically viable, and address the environmental issue of metals left in the dumps.
TOMRA and Minera Croacia share an approach to mining that recognizes the key role of mining in the transition to a circular economy. “Mining operations need to find ways to optimize the use of natural resources while reducing waste and their impact on the environment as much as possible. With TOMRA’s ore sorting technologies this is possible,” says Marco Fernandez Concha, Senior Geologist to Minera Croacia.
A close collaboration for a precisely tailored solution
Minera Croacia is a small mining company for which a sensor-based ore sorter is a significant investment: “When we purchase important equipment, we need to analyze the solution in great detail because we can’t afford to make mistakes,” explains Emilio Uribe, Senior Metallurgical Advisor at Minera Croacia. “We need it to work and deliver the results we want from the start. TOMRA has adapted to our needs as a small business with limited resources. They have been an important advisor, giving us all the support we needed with highly qualified and knowledgeable staff. They have really committed to the project and found the solution that meets our operational needs and is financially viable for us.”
The teams from TOMRA and Minera Croacia worked closely to precisely analyze the requirements and identify the best solution. TOMRA’s Test Center in Wedel, Germany conducted three series of tests on samples from the mine to narrow down the requirements. A technical team from Minera Croacia attended the final session, which gave them a better understanding of what TOMRA’s XRT technology could do for their operation. “This project stands out for presenting different types of ores from different locations,” explains Christian Korsten, who at the time was the Test Center’s Manager. “Usually we test one or two different ores for a customer, but with Minera Croacia we had different metallogenic veins. They were all a little bit different in mineralogy, sensor response, and in the customer’s objectives for each.”
Excellent communication between the two companies’ teams was crucial to the successful outcome – especially since Covid-19 travel restrictions limited the opportunities for face-to-face meetings. Mathilde Robben, TOMRA Key Account Manager, ensured Minera Croacia received the support and advice they needed throughout the process: “We did it all through online meetings. The management team and staff at Minera Croacia were always to the point and friendly, and together we completed this fast-track project”. Christian Korsten agrees: “Minera Croacia had very clear objectives. All our questions were answered in a perfect, fast and professional manner, and the same applies to the discussion of the test results. This project was one of my favorites in almost 10 years in the Test Center.”
TOMRA COM Tertiary XRT sorter extracts maximum value from low-grade ore
Following the detailed analysis of the test results and Minera Croacia’s requirements, Mathilde Robben proposed the TOMRA COM Tertiary XRT sorter as the solution: a machine perfect for the particle size range of the dump material (-25mm / + 10mm and -40mm / + 25 mm) and an investment that fits Minera Croacia’s budget
The test results made a clear business case for the sorter. They showed that for 1300 tons of Run of Mine material containing gold and copper, 21% are fines (-10mm) and screened out. This results into a concentration of gold and copper in the fines and therefore, this material does not need to be sorted. Of the rest of the material, 34% is enriched, going from a grade of 2.7 g/t Au Eq. to 5.12g/t Au Eq. – almost double.
This leaves 45% of the material discarded as waste with very low metal content, 0.41g/t Au Eq., which addresses the environmental issue, as it contains virtually no contaminants. This also shows that maximum value has been extracted from the material, as there is virtually no gold left.
“The test has shown that TOMRA’s sorter can create value from material that would have gone to the waste dump, from 33% of the ROM that is too low-grade for processing to be financially viable,” says Emilio Uribe, very satisfied with the results.
The TOMRA COM Tertiary XRT sorter is now installed and operating since December 2021 re-processing the mine’s 800,000 tons of historic dumps. It is delivering on all counts for Minera Croacia: it is now able to increase the grade of the dump material that was not considered economic, it has reduced freight costs of the operation as it is now transporting less low grade material to its processing plant, and it has successfully addressed the environmental impact of its waste materials.
“All the calculations we made when we evaluated this investment are being fulfilled. The sorter’s performance is perfectly consistent with the test results, and we expect it to pay for itself as planned within two years – including the other components and infrastructure of the circuit,” concludes Emilio Uribe.
The company’s management is so impressed with the results achieved, that it is considering investing in further sorters for low grade ROM ore with the aim of extracting value from mineral that is currently considered marginal.