Outokumpu mineral processing pilot plant and laboratories - GTK Mintec

The main purpose of the pilot plant and its laboratories is to develop innovations for mineral grinding and beneficiation processes and to provide research services for different industries.

The most important customers of the unit come from the mining, chemistry and metal industries. Ecological aspects are a central part of our research operations, and the environment is taken into account throughout our processes.

Services for the entire mineral production process

The Outokumpu pilot plant and its laboratories provide our customers with comprehensive services that allow testing the entire production process needed to utilise a mineral deposit at the scale required by the issue being researched.

The services provided are:

  • Mineralogical research
  • Bench-scale testing for beneficiation
  • Continuous minipilot- and pilot-scale test runs
  • Unit operation testing in the pilot plant
  • Full process testing in the pilot plant
  • Evaluation of the commercial potential of a mineral deposit based on test results
  • Environment and recycling studies

Mineralogical analysis used as a basis for the development of beneficiation methods

The main emphasis of the Outokumpu unit’s mineralogy research is on process mineralogy. Mineralogical analysis has become an essential tool in developing new beneficiation methods, among other things. Our modern Mineral Liberation Analyser (MLA) equipment especially has introduced new opportunities of characterising mineral products and environmental samples in ore prospecting, mining activities, beneficiation technology and smelting plants.

Laboratory research enables small-scale testing for different phases of production

Our mineral processing laboratory’s capabilities include process chemistry research as well as grinding and beneficiation testing. Process chemistry research includes, for example, determining hydrophobicity and electrode potential.

In beneficiation method research our focus is in flotation. Research on gravity and magnetic separation and thickening is also conducted as laboratory studies.

After the bench-scale testing, developed in our laboratory, the viability of the methods used in a beneficiation process can be further assessed with minipilot- or pilot-scale tests. The feeding capacity of a minipilot run is usually 10–50 kg/h with a sample size of 400–2,000 kilogrammes. The minipilot equipment can be transported to the customer’s location if needed.

Minerals that are difficult to process can be extracted from ore by hydrometallurgical leaching. We have testing facilities suitable both for normal and high-pressure leaching. Bioleaching has also been used to extract base metals, for example.

Our laboratory testing provides our customers with a preliminary overview of the process required to process their mineral deposit.

The pilot plant allows for flexible testing of an entire process or optimising a part of it

Our pilot plant services include multiple unit operations that can be easily combined into a functional full-scale process suitable for our customer’s needs. Process control and its data compilation are based on a modern process control system.

Our key unit operations

Crushing
Grinding
Classification
Gravity, heavy medium and magnetic separation
Flotation
Thickening

The sample amount required for test runs is typically 50–500 tonnes and feeding capacity is approximately 0.2–5 t/h.

Results from test runs indicate the commercial value and process efficiency of a mineral deposit

A pilot plant test run and its results provide us with an overview on how efficient a full-scale beneficiation process will be and an estimate on the commercial value of the mineral deposit. Pilot plant testing also produces intermediate and end products, such as concentrates and tailings, that can be used in further studies.

Assisting in developing key solutions for the circular economy

The applicability of mineral processing methods to environmental and recycling-related operations has been proven by several studies. The processes used to extract minerals from ore can be used in the remediation of contaminated soil and separating recyclable metals from industrial slag, for example.

Research methods