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Sonic Drilling coupled with Automated Mineralogy and chemistry On-Line-On-Mine-Real-Time

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SOLSA (Sonic Drilling coupled with Automated Mineralogy and chemistry On-Line-On-Mine-Real-Time)

Reporting period: 2017-08-01 to 2019-01-31

SOLSA is a Research & Development project lead by ERAMET who obtained the financing by the Horizon 2020 program of the European Union. Nine partners are involved and have created a consortium in order to realize the project by four years. Industrially driven, the consortium is composed of LE, SMEs and academic experts covering exploration, database management, instrumentation and software development, drilling rigs, analytical prototypes and marketing strategies. SOLSA is expected to increase exploration efficiency while reducing the exploration cost and time, and the environmental footprint. The goal of this project is to develop an innovative expert system for:
(1) Getting fastly and cheaply reliable drill holes samples characterized by a better quality than those obtained by the current techniques. The sonic technique, already tested or in use on ERAMET’s lateritic mines (Weda Bay Nickel, COMILOG SA), has been chosen for its development potential toward the reduction of drill hole costs and the improvement of the quality of the cores;
(2) Getting mineralogical data, systematically and directly on mines, meaning also chemical data as a help for the determination of the mineral associations and adding information on the core samples mechanics.
The project brings together industrial and academic skills and knowledges issued from 3 activity areas – mining exploration, analytical instrumentation & database – with the participation of 9 partners and 3 third parties, from 4 European countries:
(1) Exploration and mining industry represented by ERAMET (F) including SLN Le Nickel ( NC), Eijkelkamp SonicSampDrill (NL) and BRGM (F);
(2) Analytical instrumentation by INEL-TFS (F), development and test in lab by the academies CNRS-CRISMAT (F), Trento-TN and Verona-VR (I), as well as BRGM (F) and ERAMET Research (F);
(3) Database creation and data processing by the Academies IBT-Vilnius (L), Trento-TN and Verona-VR (I), CNRS-CRISMAT (F) and ERAMET Research (F); TU Delft (NL) being in charge of the economic balance sheet of the solution.
The innovation of the « expert system » SOLSA consists in the combination of the following techniques:
(1) Sonic drilling, with detailed design of the CRS-S rig;
(2) Automatic combined analyses on line and in real time of core samples to get the mineralogy and chemistry information;
(3) Development of specific software for the treatment of the spectra and other analytical data, based on scientific algorithms and an open database automatically updated.
The goal of SOLSA is to provide all the needed information toward an optimal valorization of the ore body, with a significant reduction of costs and return time. The adding value takes place at the exploration or grade control stage and the early characterization of ore will improve the ore scheduling at the mining and processing stages, toward improving the recovery and efficiency of the process.
Regarding the exploitation plan, the design and purchase of instruments for building the prototypes SOLSA DRILL, SOLSA ID1 and SOLSA ID2A have mainly been achieved. The van has for ID mobility been chosen but not yet ordered.
The assembly of the parts has been done for SOLSA DRILL and SOLSA ID1. It is currently acted that the certification stage for ID2A will be longer than expected due to the change of regulation about the use of X-Rays. Both later modules are in a testing and calibration stage.
The design of the SOLSA ID2B is finalized and its delivery will be done once the Raman that has been ordered at the end of December 2018 is received and installed on ID2B.
Lab analyses using the techniques XRD, XRF, Raman, hyperspectral spectroscopy and hyperspectral imagery are still going-on to complete the database library.
• On one hand, tests studying the effects related to surface, roughness, water content, grain orientation… have been performed on different techniques.
• On the other hand, tests have been performed on analytical instruments to define the best configuration and parameters to select.
• Software development and database creation and filling are on-going
Regarding the expert system, three types of field tests have been performed or are planned:
• May 2018: Drilling tests at Giesbeck on 3 blocks (1 m3 size each) of fresh rocks.
• Sept. 2018: Field tests on SODICAPEI bauxite mine. 2 weeks of drilling have been done to test the quality of cores and the performance of SOLSA expert system. During that stage, SOLSA ID2A and 2B have been used for the first time in field conditions for determination of the mineral association of the cores.
• April 2019, a new field test will be performed at Villeveyrac again, where only SOLSA DRILL will be involved. The test on a long hole will specify the performance of the drilling system in such conditions for comparison with that of other techniques used in nickel ore mines.
• October 2019: Field tests are planned on SLN’s mine in industrial conditions and with SOLSA ID2A and 2B.
Regarding dissemination plan, as described in WP9, we decided to start dissemination earlier than planned in the Gantt. See WP9 for more details.
• The SOLSA Consortium has four major communication actions: (1) publications, (2) active participation in national and international conferences with invited, oral and/or poster presentation, session convenors, (3) booths and (4) knowledge transfer and education. At present, 12 articles are published in peer-reviewed journals and 26 papers were presented at international conferences, 5 workshops were led, 3 dissemination events (booths...) and SOLSA clustered at 3 events with other H2020 and EIT-KIC projects.
Comparison with conventional techniques has highlighted the following progress, with a first coarse evaluation of gains:
1-DRILLING: 40% win on drilling campain price
-Regarding exploration stage, the Sonic drilling technique is been evaluated for a 60-80m per day. It is expected to be faster, cheaper and with core quality similar to that from diamond drill holes of HQ diameter.
-Sonic drilling is a technique which uses no or little water, having a positive environmental impact but also a better recovery of the samples;
2-MINERALOGY: 100x win
The mineral composition is currently not systematically determined. When necessary, some samples are chosen for detailed mineralogical analyses but the selection of such samples is based on chemical data only, and question about the representativeness, the suitability regarding of schedule and delay. SOLSA will characterize the whole core.
3-CHEMISTRY: 8 times faster and divide the number of lab analyses by 2 to 4.
-There is no question of suppressing conventional chemical analyses carried out according to mining codes but samples can be composited in order to reduce the number of such analyses.
4-OPEN DATABASE: 3x win - related to specific spectral, raman and hyperspectral databases
All data (spectra and other signals) are filling in an open database that will enrich the current libraries used by the scientific community.
5-IMPROVEMENT OF ORE PROCESSING: not yet quantified.
The impact on systematic and early determination of mineral associations in the ores has not been evaluated. However, such information will be integrated in the block model used for resource and reserve estimates. That information will lead to the definition and regionalization of the different types of ores (and waste rock), which can contribute to optimal process plant feeding.
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