2011 – Valmin 2011, Brisbane QLD


The development of metallurgical projects involves high risks and high returns. There is a high degree of
uncertainty. Minerals need to be extracted into concentrates or metal products. Design metallurgists are
specialists in mineral processing who undertake test work and flow sheet development and use the
principles of chemistry, physics and mathematics to achieve successful operating projects. Metallurgy is not
an exact science and knowledge, experience and skill with interpreting results plays a significant role in
developing successful projects. Project statistics show that only 50 per cent of projects turn out as predicted
and there are many reasons for this. The common belief that a bankable feasibility study (BFS) guarantees
success is flawed. Even quantitative risk analysis will not eliminate inherent risks or make up for some of the
common metallurgical errors.
There are many complex sulfide gold ores, uranium, nickel, tantalum, vanadium etc which can be
problematic. Refractory gold ores and refractory uranium ores are further examples. Even beneficiating iron
ores is not as simple as it first appears. Floating fresh sulfides, while generally straight forward, the range of
liberation sizes, optimised reagent regimes and problems with weathered ore can be challenging.
Metallurgical problems result from different objectives, common mistakes and incorrect interpretation or no
interpretation of results. Experience has shown that unless these mistakes are identified and understood
they are likely to be repeated.

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