Mineral processing plant solutions and seatbelts appear to be entirely different. In 1950, just under 40 000 people were killed in traffic accidents in a single year. This very high death toll caused an ingenious man – Robert McNamara – to find a solution. He adopted the seat belt, widely used in aeroplane transportation at the time, for the motorcar. This led to an overnight drop in the number of traffic casualties. However, many people would not use the new technology. The resistance to wearing a seat belt was so high that even 15 years later, seat belt users represented a meagre 11% of all drivers. Why was this? Many people thought that wearing a seat belt was a sign that the passenger did not trust the driver’s skills to operate the car. The bottom line is that human behaviour is hard to change. Although the number of people using seat belts has steadily climbed over the years to around 80% today, the positive change took so long to implement that many unnecessary lives were lost. McNamara was a revolutionary, a visionary and more importantly, he appropriated well-known technology to a novel industry. He identified the variable that needed improvement and made it his personal mission to do so.
One of the biggest variables requiring improvement in the modular mineral processing plant engineer and supply and mining industry is time. All of us know that time translates directly into money and hence is of the utmost importance. Some miners seem happy to settle for either age-old, but well understood, techniques which are generally inefficient and/or time wasting from a tonnage throughput point of view. Other miners are happy to spend vast sums of money on more sophisticated machinery that then have manufacturing lead times of up to a year and an installation or commissioning time of around 3 months. APT took a long, hard look at the conventional processes and implemented many improvements and process alterations. This led to attaining mineral processing plant manufacturing and delivery lead times that competitors could only dream of. Most full mineral processing plant solutions (1.5, 3, 6, 20, 80 tonnes per hour) have manufacturing lead times of between 8 and 16 weeks. The installation and commissioning times are blindingly fast as well – in the region of 2 to 7 days. Hence, we have coined the phrase: “From bush to production in days!”
Another area for improvement is the processing of hard rock material. This time the variable which concerns most hard rock miners is that of energy requirements. Ball mills and jaw crushers are widely known to use the most energy in a given mineral processing circuit. Hence, the comminution portion of the process becomes not only a large capital investment, but also a large running cost concern. One of the latest APT developments to address these issues are the new modular processing plants for hard rock crushing & concentration. The ICRD dual impact crusher minerals processing plant are coupled with either Knelson or GoldKacha concentrators. They are currently offering better recoveries on traditional stamp and ball mill site trials. The impact mechanism splits the rocks, releasing more gold particles for much less input energy. The costs hence also decrease proportionately. This newly developed plant can hence make many old sites economically feasible again.
Washing plants in the form of trommels and sluice-boxes have also been around for a very long time. Although well understood, these modular processing plants usually have an Achilles’ heel when it comes to fine gold. The APT washing plants have become very popular since they are better suited for fine gold recovery and are far more robust. An APT alluvial plant generally comprises an RG scrubber (which is more efficient than a trommel due to its patented design), a Knelson concentrator and the ICRD crushing module, if precious material exists in the oversize. There is currently an RG800 (80tph plant) available in the APT warehouse for rapid deployment (under 6 weeks) and three RG200 plants are being shipped to Central Africa, Southern Africa and Asia imminently.
In conclusion, there will always be the tried and tested “adequate” method of doing anything. Adequate for Robert McNamara was simply not good enough and his distaste of the high traffic death-toll led him to seek out a novel, simple but life-saving solution in the form of the car seat belt. Similarly, we all have witnessed many miners “die” along the way – whether financially or due to tough environmental legislation surrounding dated techniques. APT have hence also sought novel and simple solutions in order to keep the dreams of small and medium scale miners alive. This ultimately empowers all miners with a roadmap to eventually enter the territories of the massive-scale mining conglomerates. Our hope is that it doesn’t take over 50 years for 80% of the industry to join the mineral processing plant revolution. Instead of resisting the change, be a part of it.