Int. J. Miner. Process. 84 (2007) 228 – 239 www.elsevier.


The future of comminution modelling
M.S. Powell a,⁎, R.D. Morrison b

Mineral Processing Research Unit, University of Cape Town, PB Rondebosch, 7700, South Africa b JKMRC, the University of Queensland, Indooroopilly, Queensland, 4068, Australia Received 5 May 2006; received in revised form 17 August 2006; accepted 18 August 2006 Available online 4 October 2006

Abstract The current status of the modelling of comminution processes is assessed in light of its capabilities and weaknesses. The principles required for a major upgrade in modelling capability are proposed. The use of advanced computational techniques to provide detailed information on the mechanical environment in comminution devices, linked in with correctly designed breakage tests, underpin this development. These will lead us into more fundamentally correct models that include mineral liberation and can be applied to the design of novel comminution devices. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Comminution; Modelling; Computational methods; DEM; Breakage testing; Liberation

1. Introduction It is appropriate to consider the future of comminution modelling in this special issue, as Prof. Peter King has always been a leading thinker in this area. He has always worked towards major advances in comminution models and their potential applicability. It is well past time to move on from the slide rules and log tables that limited the comminution models to singlenumber descriptions. The comminution design, operation, and modelling world has clung to these as though they have holy significance. While these methods have the virtue of simplicity, they have many shortcomings when applied to real designs. Perhaps an instructive parallel occurs in structural engineering. Even though there are many analytical solutions for ideal beams at ideal loading and constraint
⁎ Corresponding author. Tel.: +27 21 6503861; fax: +27 21 650 5501. E-mail address: (M.S. Powell). 0301-7516/$ - see front matter © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.minpro.2006.08.003

conditions, almost every engineering company will use detailed finite element analysis to examine any design under serious consideration for construction. The underlying driver in both cases is the enormous (and continuing) reduction in the real cost of computation. This drives more complex (and hopefully better) measurement and models. In a keynote address presented at the IMPC (King, 1993) king noted that “a fundamental understanding of the basic micro-processes associated with the dynamics of particulate systems – their transport and fracture – is still lacking”. He followed this by stating “…the really significant advances in comminution technology in the forthcoming decade will only come from the exploitation of basic fundamental understanding of the fracture process to improve industrial comminution processes.” King postulated that breakage in a complex system “… can be synthesised from the universal single-particle breakage functions once the patterns of energy distribution and stress application are known”. These key

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statements demonstrate a conviction that the process must be better understood in order to be better modelled. 2. Modelling status The following is a brief overview of the status and potential for development of comminution modelling. This overview is not intended to be comprehensive or complete, and the authors apologise in advance to the many investigators whose work is not mentioned. The motivation for this outline is to set the scene for prospective areas for comminution research over the next decade, not to provide a comprehensive summary of all comminution models. 2.1. Power-based models The wonderfully elegant Bond descriptions (Bond, 1952, 1961) are used and abused with little or no consideration of their origins or intended use. Fred Bond did a great job of correlating a well-controlled laboratory test to the standard rod and ball mills of his time. He never proposed these to cover all milling applications under the sun. Bond always made very clear his key requirement/ assumption that the cumulative feed and product size distributions plot as at least approximately parallel lines on log–log or Rosin–Rammler axes. The need to modify the Bond correlations is evident in the many variations and ‘improvements’ developed over the years, to cover larger mills, wider ball size ranges, changes to mill speed, etc. Morrell (2004) has recently published on the weakness of these improvements and provided the most updated and reasonable modification to the Bond Technique to improve its predictive capability. The most notable downfall of the application of the Bond method was its inappropriate application to SAG mill design, with calamitous results with respect to mill sizing. It was also found that the techniques fall apart when applied to fine grinding devices, such as tower mills. However, AG/SAG mills, crushers and many fine grinding devices do not satisfy the Bond requirement of parallel size distributions. A number of new empirical testing and modelling techniques, generally based on correlations between a laboratory or pilot test and the full-scale application, were developed in answer to the shortfalls of the Bond technique by investigators such as MacPherson (1989) and Starkey and Dobby (1996). Alternatively, a number of standard laboratory tests, such as BBWI, BCWI, JK DWT, etc., were correlated to the performance of operating mills via empirical relationships. Designers such as Siddall of Oreway Minerals (Siddall et al., 1996)

and Barratt (1989) successfully used this technique. The correlations are usually restricted to in-house use, as they carry the designer's intellectual property and business value. The user has to basically have faith in the outcomes—usually based on a track record of the designer. The strength, and limitation, of these empirical techniques is the credibility of their database. That is, the correlation between measured production data and the laboratory or pilot tests on the same ore type. The strength is that if the design operation is in the same regime as the database, then the predictions are generally good. The limitation is if the new design is outside of the database range, then predictions are likely to be unreliable. The weakness is that it is dangerous to use these techniques to extrapolate to very new operating conditions or ore types, let alone new types of applications. 2.2. Population balance-based models As comminution modelling progressed in the 1970s, and the investigators strove to describe a wider range of equipment, a step change in the concept of modelling was introduced. The fine work of investigators such as Austin et al. (1984), Herbst and Fuerstenau (1980), Whiten (1972), Morrell et al. (1993) (to mention but a few) moved modelling a large step forward with the introduction of the population balance model (PBM). If we consider the notional contents of any comminution device, we can reduce what is happening inside the machine to three relationships. The first is the proportion of a specified particle type which is selected for breakage per unit of residence time. This is usually called the selection function. The second is the degree to which the selected particle type undergoes breakage. This is called the appearance or breakage function. Note that it relates to an event not to a time or rate. The product of the selection function and the appearance function is commonly called the breakage rate. The third relationship describes the selection of particles which are to be removed from the process. This is called the discharge function. If it describes the proportion of a particular type to be removed per unit time, then it is a discharge rate. Many researchers use these terms interchangeably without clear indication of which sense is intended, hence, the level of confusion over the PBM. With careful definition, it is a quite general description and can be applied to whatever types of particles we can distinguish—even though the standard usage is particle size. Breakage within a ball or rod mill is reasonably self similar with size and the PBM can be used to generate quite simple models of size reduction. Where appropriate, various mixing conditions can also be applied to the


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mill contents. For a detailed comparison of PBM as developed by researchers worldwide, see chapter 2 of Napier-Munn et al. (1996). The PBM along with the measured self-similarity of breakage with progressive size reduction leads to the concept of a breakage and selection function which underlies all the current models and forms a powerful framework for a self-consistent model. A key to this is the appearance function, that is, a description of the size distribution of a particle once it is broken. This is ore-specific, and an issue with applying these models has always been obtaining the appearance function of the ore under consideration. Exhaustive laboratory test work by the above list of authors was used to establish the breakage and appearance functions and prove the validity of the theory. However, these cannot be directly obtained in industrial test work. The appearance function of coarser material was obtained through pendulum breakage tests developed in the 1980s (Narayanan, 1983, 1985) that were replaced in 1992 by the simpler drop weight breakage tests, as tested and implemented at the JKMRC (Napier-Munn et al., 1996). The appearance function at fine sizes (less than a few millimetres) can currently only be obtained through laborious batch milling tests, so in reality, it is seldom obtained. In 1962 the Australian Mineral Industries Research Association (AMIRA) P9 project was established, with the JKMRC as the primary investigators, to pursue “The optimisation of mineral processes by modelling and simulation”. The project, which is ongoing to this date, initiated an extensive research campaign that has made a major contribution to the applied modelling of comminution devices. A significant development was a new model for SAG and AG mills developed by Leung et al. (1987) and later extensively enhanced by Morrell and Morrison (1989). An updated version of the model that enhances the mechanistic nature of the model and is intrinsically dynamic was developed by Valery (Valery and Morrell, 1995; Valery, 1998). The dynamic model has been applied in industry by Valery (1998), Schroder et al. (1997), Schroder and Holtham (2004), and others. Within the AMIRA P9 project, a number of other devices were modelled, notably the crusher, the highpressure grinding roll, the tower mill, and a simplified ball mill model (Napier-Munn et al., 1996). These models built on the work of other researchers worldwide, who had developed many of the principles, such as presented in King (2001). All of these models build on the PBM and breakage and selection functions, plus they utilise a semimechanistic approach. The SAG/AG mill model utilises a combined impact and abrasion appearance function that is strongly particle size and energy dependent.

Whiten developed the ingenious t10 concept that related the degree of breakage to the input energy, and this led to the well-known A, b, and ta breakage parameters (Narayanan, 1983; Narayanan and Whiten, 1988; Andersen and Napier-Munn, 1989; Napier-Munn et al., 1996). The crusher model uses the same technique, but without the abrasion component. This gives an excellent prediction of size reduction, and a prediction of power draw (Narayanan, 1985; Kojovic et al., 1997) based directly on the drop weight test data, until packed bed inter-particle crushing begins to dominate. The standard crushing models utilise only a breakage and classification function and assume that all materials left in the chamber after selection for discharge are subject to the same force and energy of breakage. This simplification may be an additional reason for the breakdown of the models under packed bed conditions. An essential parameter for all of the comminution models is the discharge function or the rate at which material leaves the device. The general form of the equation is Pi = disi, where i refers to a particular size range, P is the product, d the discharge function, and s the contents of the device. The product from a device can be measured, but as d and s are both unknowns, at least one has to be measured to derive the other. This is feasible (but hard work) in pilot applications, but generally not feasible in industrial applications. A good strategy to overcome this is to lump the discharge function into the breakage rate, as implemented by Whiten in the ball mill model (NapierMunn et al., 1996). The PBM is then used to derive the mill contents, s, by fitting a breakage rate for each size, ri, to form the breakage function. For SAG mill modelling, it is not feasible to hide the discharge function in the breakage function, as the breakage is explicitly worked out as a function of input energy. A simple discharge function was derived by Leung et al. (1987), to account for grate discharge. In fitting the SAG mill model, the discharge function and breakage function are interdependent and have to be resolved stepwise in an iterative manner. However, it is clear when working with these models that the breakage rate function is not unique, as it is dependent upon both s and d, which are interdependent, and it is sensitive to changes in d. It has been found that this causes major issues when scaling and modelling. The discharge efficiency is dramatically different in pilot- and full-scale SAG/AG mills, and sufficiently realistic scaling relationships do not yet exist. It can be seen that the major issues with fitting breakage rates is that they are both ore and machine dependent, are a function of interdependent variables, and may well be an artifact of the modelling technique rather than an estimate of the rates of breakage in a comminution

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device. The breakage rates are used to absorb all the unknowns, and then are used to scale between different applications. Although this works remarkably well over limited and controlled changes (as proven by the worldwide success of this technique), one must always start with an application that is closely similar in both ore type and general dimensions to ensure successful design simulations, or survey the application under consideration to reliably model it. High-pressure grinding rolls can be successfully modelled by a combination of conventional crusher in the pre-crushing zone, compressed bed breakage, and a bypass of the bed. The simulation of the compressed bed breakage is dependent upon scale-up from laboratory or pilot tests, based on the equivalent operating pressures. 2.3. Energy-based models A noticeable exception to the general PBM models are the energy-based models that can be used in impact crushers, such as the vertical or horizontal shaft impact crushers. With these the energy of each impacting particle can be explicitly calculated and it is reasonable to assume that the impacts are independent, and that each particle receives a single impact. Utilising standard drop weight test data the breakage product is well modelled in an explicit manner (Napier-Munn et al., 1996). However, the models cannot predict the product for more complex devices, such as the Barmac crusher, that utilise interparticle impacts and the range of impact energies requires more sophisticated models. These are well suited to the computational techniques presented in the next section. 2.4. Computationally intensive techniques Many problems in science and engineering can be considered as a series of small zones which are related to one another by a set of (relatively) simple rules. The user specifies a grid of points, appropriate boundary conditions and a set of starting values. A similar calculation is then carried out for each grid point in turn, the values are updated and a test for convergence or stability is applied. When the test is satisfied, the simulation is complete. These methods can be made quite general but require substantial computation. Computational fluid dynamics and finite element methods exactly fit this scheme. An interesting variation is to use a particle as a point on a “moveable grid” and subject it to motion according to its interactions with surrounding particles and boundaries. A powerful technique based on this meshless method is the discrete

element method (DEM), as proposed by Cundall and Strack (1979). This was applied for the first time to comminution devices by Mishra (1991) and Mishra and Rajamani (1994) in their pioneering work of modelling charge motion in mills. Mishra (2003a) provides a useful review of the techniques underlying the application of DEM to milling. A more recent variation is to consider a fluid as an assemblage of pseudo-particles and this is called smoothed particles hydrodynamics (SPH). SPH has proved to be very useful for simulation of fluids which change physical properties as a variable such as temperature changes (Cleary, 1998a). The interaction rules can also depend on the relationship between the fluid particles. Hence, non-Newtonian fluids can also be modelled with the interactions related to shear at any point in a slurry. This provides a link between fluid transport and fine particles in a slurry, using the slurry viscosity model developed by (Shi and Napier-Munn, 1996, 2002). Clearly the practical limit for these approaches is the “cost of computation”. With computer power doubling about every 18 months (“Moore's Law”) for at least the last 20 years, these approaches have become much more feasible although computational limits are still important. It became feasible to undertake simple two-dimensional (2D) DEM and CFD simulations in the late 1980s. Because of Moore's Law these applications rapidly gained in speed and size of feasible problem, with application to 3D starting in the mid-1990s. Both CFD and DEM can produce complex images as output. Particles or cells can be coloured according to velocity (or any other simulated variable) and even output as animated images with suitable simulated lighting. Because humans are well adapted to receiving high band with visual information, there is a tendency – even among researchers – to accept these images as “reality”. Objective verification and testing of the predictions of numerically intensive computer codes is absolutely essential, an area in which Powell et al. have applied considerable effort (Powell and Nurick, 1996a,b,c; Govender et al., 2002, 2004). Cleary et al. (2001) reported a detailed comparison between measured mill charge position and particle velocity in a scaled 600-mm-diameter AG mill. These simulations used 250,000–300,000 particles for a complete size-based description of the scaled charge over a wide range of operating conditions. The results demonstrated that 2D simulation with circles could only predict over a very narrow range. 2D simulation with “shaped” particles was an improvement but 3D simulation with spheres predicted similar charge shapes and particle velocities over a wide range of conditions. This


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was a surprising result as the experimental charge consisted of crushed rock and was strongly nonspherical. While this success in prediction is reassuring, it does not imply that the collision models are in any way “exact.” Further work is continuing to test simple collisions in detail (Chandramohan and Powell, 2005). An analysis of normal and shear (tangential) energy distribution for spheres with the same size distribution (from top size of 180 mm down to 20 mm) as an industrial SAG mill was carried out by Cleary et al. (2001) The results did produce a reasonable estimate of net power at two different operating conditions. However, they did not correlate in any obvious way with the JKMRC SAG model estimates of impact and abrasion energy. More interestingly, the predicted impact energy spectra contained almost no impacts of sufficient energy to break even a 20-mm particle in a single event according to particle strength as measured by a JK Drop Weight test. To examine this issue in more detail, a simulation of a “Hardinge” style 6 ft by 2 ft (1.8 m by 0.6 m) pilot AG/ SAG was run for 350,000 particles to match a measured size distribution from 150 mm to 5 mm. Within the charge, collision histories were tracked for a selection of particles within each size fraction. As for the large mill, collisions which might produce even moderate breakage in a single impact were still rare. In applying the DEM outputs to predicting the breakage product from mills, Datta and Rajamani (2002) applied the impact energy spectra derived from 2D DEM simulations to batch ball mill modelling. The authors simplified the breakage environment by assuming that the main form of energy transfer in a batch ball mill was similar to the energy transfer achieved by dropping balls onto a bed of four layers of particles. They reported that the progeny of a small batch mill could be predicted from the product of the bed breakage tests and the impact energy distribution as predicted by the DEM simulation. The authors suggested that shear could be added if a suitable bed shear test could be used to characterise the ore breakage. Mishra (2003b) reviews the application of DEM to milling, which picks up no more advanced practical applications to product size prediction than that of Datta and Rajamani (2002). Most recently, Herbst (2004) has published on the methodology of utilising the outputs of the discrete element method (DEM) to enhance the modelling of SAG mills. These are still essentially the same PBM methods, with an energy distribution function and scaling relationship derived from the DEM used to derive the breakage. Djordjevic et al. (2003) have demonstrated that DEM techniques are well suited to extend the explicit models for impact crushers. DEM techniques have also been

applied to the modelling of stirred mills (Cleary et al., 2006b; Sinnott et al., 2006) by assuming that all breakage is due to shear and utilising the shear energies calculated form the DEM. 2.5. Wear issues DEM provides detailed estimates of the forces between particles and the equipment surfaces. Hence, wear rates based on various frictional interactions can be used to estimate relative wear and evolution of key components such as SAG mill lifters (Herbst and Nordell, 2001; Cleary 1998b; Kalaya et al., 2005). Wear should also be calibrated in terms of wear material and ore, such as the procedure being developed by Radziszewski (2001). 2.6. Mineral liberation It has long been the holy grail of comminution modelling to incorporate liberation, for after all, that is the objective of comminuting the particles in mineral processing. A number of investigators have contributed to this goal, but the models have been limited by assumptions of random breakage, and are generally applicable to a specific ore and process. Until the 1990s a major limitation to developing liberation models was the limited capability of collecting data, and this seriously hamstrung this goal. With scanning electron microscope (SEM) techniques becoming more accessible, this allowed the acceleration of research in this area. Peter King has been dedicated to this objective throughout his long career. From pioneering work at the University of the Witwatersrand, King (1979) wrote his landmark paper on linking liberation and comminution (King and Schneider, 1998). This paper tackles nonrandom breakage through a generic approach within the PBM framework. Six non-random breakage processes are defined: selective phase breakage; differential breakage; preferential breakage; liberation by detachment; and boundary-region fracture. These are well defined in the paper and are considered to be the most useful and rigorous definitions of the modes of non-random fracture. In this work, it was demonstrated how to simplify the general solution to non-random breakage and introduce any of the six processes in a manageable manner. The solution is bounded by the regions of feasible liberation and particle size, as expressed in the Andrews–Mika diagram. It is shown how this solution changes dramatically with the non-random breakage. Application of the technique is tested on ores, with good correspondence of outcomes. The power of this technique is that it can be

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applied to any comminution model that is structured within the PBM framework. It is considered that this route represents the way forward of incorporating liberation into comminution modelling in a universally applicable manner. King and Schneider do warn that “The mode of stress application in the grinding mill can influence the liberation characteristics of an ore”. That is, the mode of nonrandom breakage is a function of breakage mode, such as compression versus impact. So the next challenge lies in linking the liberation modelling to breakage testing. With the routine use of mineral liberation techniques such as the JK-FEI-MLA (Cameron et al., 1998; Guerney and Gu, 1999) and QemScan (Gottlieb et al., 2000) becoming more common, the full evolution of non-random breakage models is a realistic objective. Although the liberation modelling shows promise it is barely used. The PBM is structured to deal with size, and the liberation outputs are tacked on top of the comminution model outputs. The technique provides a limited predictive capability so long as the breakage mode does not vary, but essentially has to be recalibrated for each new application. 2.7. Breakage testing In a general sense, the current breakage testing techniques are a simplified imitation of the major perceived modes of breakage that occur in the comminution equipment. Although useful, we must accept that they are crude. Regardless of the actual modes in the equipment, a correlation is developed with the equipment and integrated into the models. These correlations can be quite successful, provided that they are used in the window over which the correlation was developed. However, as the window is widened, more and more factors are added and the original vision of a simple correlation is lost. This is an explicit indication that the test does not correlate with the conditions in the equipment. The Bond Work Index and Starkey Power Index are examples of this. The JKMRC drop-weight test simulates impact breakage and the associated abrasion test simulates low stress abrasion. DEM simulation indicates that most likely almost no breakage in an AG/SAG mill is due to single impact breakage (Cleary and Morrison, 2004). It is also clear that there is a wide range of abrasion that occurs at a considerably higher stress than in the laboratory test. Thus, even this well-used breakage test that is based on the agreed major modes of breakage requires improvement. The current testing techniques are seen as a major limitation to the modelling progress, as they do not correctly reproduce the modes of breakage found in

comminution equipment and do not have the flexibility to do so. As a result of the outputs of DEM simulations, a detailed investigation of incremental breakage is in progress at the JKMRC (Whyte, 2005) and at the University of Cape Town (Bbosa et al., 2006). Shi and Kojovic (private communication, P9N AMIRA report 5) have developed a new breakage testing technique that can rapidly test a large sample of particles at accurate energies over a wide range and incorporate measurements of incremental breakage. This links in well with the work on probability of breakage that Vogel and Peukert (2003) developed and is currently being modified to be incorporated into existing model structures by Shi and Kojovic (in press). 2.8. Model limitations A major pitfall of the comminution model development has been that each type of equipment has different models, with different structures and limited overlap of the key principles. Each new piece of equipment seems to attract a new researcher with an all new model. This means that advances in modelling techniques filter only slowly across the board, and many research groups and investigators are involved in incrementally updating the plethora of models. The current form of the models can take model outputs to a point but no further. The models are essentially a description of the output of the equipment, not of the process. The PBM is not actually a model, it is a framework that maintains mass integrity. It has turned out to be a major and essential step in the advance of comminution modelling, but does not describe the breakage process; it merely keeps track of the product. The authors are of the opinion that the modelled breakage rate has no physical significance; rather, it is merely a construct of the model structure and the assumptions made regarding selection and discharge functions. Those who have worked with these models would have noted that strange breakage rates are derived, especially at the extremes of size. For example, the classic wave format of the SAG/AG mill breakage rate curve gives an extremely high breakage rate for the coarsest rocks, yet they are known to be reduced slowly by abrasion. It is also apparent that the fitted rates are strongly dependent upon the fitted discharge function for a device. The breakage rates are used to absorb all unknowns and inaccuracies of the models and hold both equipment and ore information. Power or energy input is not directly used in the models. Although some models do predict a power draw,


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this is quite independent from the calculation of the breakage product, which is driven by breakage and selection functions. Even SAG mill models that use an energy type driver do not correlate this to the mill power draw. No models truly incorporate liberation. Some useful advances have been made in correlating liberation to the degree of breakage, but these are always a tack-on, the models do not intrinsically predict the liberation properties of the product particles. For models to have a predictive capability – as opposed to a back-fitted correlation – the mineralogical liberation information needs to be a direct output of the breakage events in the comminution device. Other than the application to the batch grinding equation, King and Schneider (1998), no current models can accommodate this. 3. So where to from here? The authors see the future of comminution modelling taking a step change from empirical, single-number models to • • • • • • mechanistically based models, driven by energy input, and the mechanism/particle interface, with distributed breakage functions, utilising available computational power, with mineralogical liberation integral to the models.

The population balance (PB) will still be a critical structure underlying all modelling, tracking the products and ensuring the integrity of the outcomes, but will not be a model. The PB will be used as a framework in which the mechanistic models of the processes will be housed. An excellent example of this exists in the chemical engineering field of crystallisation, which has both formation and breakage of particles, feed, and product streams in a reactor (Hounslow et al., 2005). Powell (2006) has proposed the development of a Unified Comminution Model to achieve this goal. 4.1. Internal equipment mechanics In moving to models that are based on the mechanics of the equipment, it is clearly necessary to develop a good understanding of the mechanical environment inside each comminution device. To achieve this, it is necessary to measure, model, and simulate the mechanics of particle motion in the devices. Computational techniques are used to produce the simulated outputs, and it is essential that these outputs are validated before they are applied to comminution modelling. The particle interactions can be used to derive the rate at which each particle is hit, with what force, and by what. This is what determines the damage and breakage of particles. The simulation outcomes can be bundled into distributions representing a history of the mechanical environment for each class of particle. The classes are size, ore type, density, mineralogy, degree of liberation, etc. This can then yield a manageable volume of data that is used to predict the rate of breakage of each class of particle in the comminution device. One of the more difficult areas in applying DEM to real grinding processes is to predict the interaction between fine ore particles and the grinding media (in PBM terms this is the selection function). The authors are of the opinion that this issue has not yet been satisfactorily addressed. In wet mills this is linked with the transport and slurry suspension of the particles. The simplified contact models (e.g., spring and dashpot) are sufficiently efficient numerically to enable simulations with large numbers of particles to be carried out on currently available high end desktop computers. However, these models provide at best a gross approximation of what might happen in a collision where breakage occurs. It may be necessary to implement independent breakage detection and adjust the collision model accordingly. Some of the inferences made that are based on DEM outputs may be more a consequence of simplified collision models than the actual process. It is the opinion of the authors that this whole area of contact and energy

The models will model breakage as a result of simulated interactions within the equipment, rather than as equipment outputs. It will then be possible to apply the models to any piece of equipment. The models will truly separate ore and machine properties. They will not be driven by breakage functions; they will instead be particle based. Each particle will be subjected to a local collision environment, that will determine what will happen to it. The product of the equipment is the sum of the products from all the individual breakage interactions. 4. How may this be achieved? It is necessary to dissect the process. Measuring the outcome of the pieces of equipment will never give the full picture, as there are too many interacting processes. It is necessary to understand and model the processes independently and then assemble them into a comprehensive model. The outcomes can then be tested against the equipment. This is a fundamental change in the philosophy of modelling, where the equipment is not used to develop the models—which is the intuitively obvious route to follow.

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transfer and breakage is a key research aspect in the meaningful application of computational techniques to prediction of the progeny of comminution devices. 4.2. Transport An adequate description of the transport of the particles through and out of the device is an essential part of a model. This determines the residence time of particles, and where they will reside and for how long in the various regions in a device. This discharge rate determines the limit to the feed rate of a device, so is the key feed rate controller. It is suggested that initially for slurry and air swept devices the flow can be measured under realistic conditions in laboratory tests, and these outputs fed into mechanistic models of the flow environment for each device. The more generic the laboratory tests, the wider the applicability of the data. Appropriate mechanistic models can then be used to customise the flow to particular pieces of equipment. Thus, it is proposed that the development of these flow relationships should not be by equipment type, e.g., grate discharge SAG mill, but by flow mode. Thus, for an SAG mill, the modes would be flow through the cascading mill charge, flow through the grate holes, flow along pulp lifters, flow out the discharge aperture, flow back through grate holes into the mill. The flow characteristics of each mode are independently studied and then combined through the use of a mechanistic model. The same test results can then be applied to a different piece of equipment, provided that the flow modes are the same, by utilising a new mechanistic model that describes the physical environment of that device. In the longer term, the flow needs to be studied and modelled in a fundamental manner so as to have a truly predictive capability, such that it can be applied to new types of devices. For this coupled particle–fluid computational techniques are required, such as smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH), computational fluid dynamics (CFD), or Lattice Boltzmann techniques linked with DEM techniques. These techniques exist and are already applied in some areas of research and industry (Potapov et al., 2001), but require further development and testing, and do have an extremely high computing power overhead, that is, simulations currently take in the order of weeks. Cleary et al. (2006a) have demonstrated its application to milling. For dry large particle applications, such as crushers, the DEM techniques are adequate to simulate the flow and discharge of the device. For positive displacement devices, such as rolls and HPGR crushers, no special transport function is required.

4.3. Breakage testing The route to correct breakage testing techniques is to test the breakage modes found in the equipment, and under the correct range of forces and rates of interaction. A fine illustration of this is the HPGR, where excellent scale-up is achieved from pilot to full scale, as they can be operated at the same pressure. This is not achievable for the cascading action in tumbling mills, as laboratory mills have forces that are orders of magnitude less than the full-scale mills. For some equipment, a small-scale laboratory or pilot test that mimics the full-scale equipment may be the best breakage testing technique, provided that the realistic forces and rates of interaction are achieved. But for most equipment, this is not achievable, and the tests are locked into being equipment specific. The analysis of the mechanical environment in the comminution equipment will inform the design of breakage testing techniques. The testing techniques must cover the modes of breakage and the interaction forces that are found in the equipment. It is proposed that the tests should measure the distribution of breakage products, rather than reducing them to an over-smoothed average. Hitting 20 apparently identical particles each with the same force will produce 20 size distributions. Currently, these are combined into one. However, breaking a single particle does not produce an adequately defined progeny distribution. Two different ore types may yield the same average product size distribution, but if one ore is a lot more variable in structure, it will give a far wider range of distributions and, thus, in reality give a considerably wider product size distribution than the more homogenous ore. This has implications for classification, sliming, oversize carry-over, and undoubtedly for liberation and recovery. Liberation should be measured as an integral part of the breakage tests. This will reveal the liberation as a function of the breakage mode and the energy/force environment. The outcomes are only likely to be usefully accurate for properly designed breakage tests. That is, liberation is usually a function of how you got there, not just the final product size distribution, as discussed by King and Schneider (1998). To successfully incorporate liberation information into the breakage testing outputs, fast and relatively cheap analysis techniques are required—not a strong point of traditional liberation analysis, although it is undoubtedly moving in that direction with systems like the JK-FEI MLA and QemScan. It is suggested that techniques such as X-ray micro-tomography, that can deal with particles down to about 100 μm in size, will play a central role. These combined with MLA


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and assaying can be used to reveal the liberation at finer sizes. With the development of more sophisticated breakage tests, sight must not be lost of the need for simple and cheap indicator tests that can be used to check for ore variability and indicate where more detailed tests are required in an ore body. The involvement of geologists and mineralogists (especially the new breed of process mineralogists) to quantitatively correlate mineralogical variation in the ore body to its breakage and liberation properties is an essential long-term goal. The emergence of the geometallurgist, who will make extensive use of process mineralogy, should fulfil the position of the ‘deposit to product’ integrator. The fundamental modelling of breakage is a whole new approach that will hopefully enter in the modelling techniques that follow this next major step on improving comminution modelling. While these fundamental models are being developed, they can be expected to provide improved understanding to the breakage process and this knowledge will supplement and bolster the testing and modelling techniques. 4.4. Non-mechanical breakage This applies to techniques such as pulsed microwave heating, which hold great promise as comminution enhancing devices. It is proposed that the new higher quality breakage tests can be applied to the ores pre- and post-such treatment. The breakage tests would then provide an accurate measure of the resultant effect of the treatment, and this can be related to the modes of breakage. The resultant predictions can then be integrated into the mechanical environment, using the new comminution models. The modelling of these non-mechanical modes of breakage can start with empirical relationships, but the true modelling is a whole new arena of materials fracture modelling. 4.5. Mine-to-mill Comminution starts at the rock face; thus, comminution modelling should be linked to the mining technique. Part of the requirement to achieve this is to develop a common language and purpose between the two currently segregated fields of application and research. Although some progress has been made in this arena, with excellent industrial success, this is undoubtedly an area that requires considerable input to achieve a properly integrated approach.

5. Where will the new generation of models take us? A step change in capability will be the fully predictive structure of the models; this means that novel devices can be designed and trialled through thorough and meaningful simulation prior to any laboratory work. The concept of the Virtual Comminution Device (VCM) has been proposed by Morrison to facilitate the rapid prototype development of new equipment and concepts in comminution design. The VCM should also allow the optimisation of existing designs in terms of the desired modes of breakage, as determined by improved understanding of breakage and liberation, instead of merely aiming to minimise wear, correct what are clearly poor operation practices, or identify circuit constraints. This technology will be linked into predictive wear modelling of liners, which will present a tremendous opportunity to save on the cost of wear components. But well beyond this, a prediction of the evolution of wear profiles will enable the design to be based on maximising the operating efficiency over the complete wear cycle of liners. With such sensitivity to breakage modes and with liberation integrated into the models, they will be ideally positioned to link to up- and downstream integrated optimisation. Modelling of liberation is seen as one of the most important aspects of the step change in modelling capability—noting that it will be integral to the predictive capabilities of the models, not a post-modelling add-on. Additionally, the capability of predicting other properties, such as micro-cracking and surface state, that can be linked to downstream recovery processes can readily be incorporated into the model structure, provided the required information is modelled or fitted as a sub-process. As the models will be capable of dealing with individual particle classes, they will intrinsically cope with widely varying ore blends, and the consequences of blending. Integrated circuit design can become a reality. With liberation linked to the recovery process the modelling objective can be to design the optimal circuit for recovery—rather than size reduction. Integral power prediction in the models will ensure that the specific power consumptions are a consistent and meaningful output. The intrinsic dynamic nature of the models will assist in the design of the most operable and stable circuit configurations, with the capability of avoiding bottle necks; simulating realistic variations in feed type, size, and blend; and simulating the effect of downtime on various sections of the circuit.

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Faster commissioning can be obtained through more accurate design and a better understanding of the operating window and variation of the circuit. This can ensure that the circuit is ramped up to full capacity far more rapidly, leading to lower capital and operating costs. 6. Conclusions The proposed direction for the future of comminution modelling may appear rather ambitious, but it has both short-term benefits in potential to improve existing models and long-term benefits. Rather than the short-term view of models with limited use and life span, the research can build in a coherent and consistent direction that brings continuous improvement and the long-term objective of a step-change in modelling capability. The massive increase in computing power over the past decade, and extending into the future, and the enormous improvement in measurement techniques, such as microtomography and quantitative mineral liberation analysis, are the tools that can enable such an approach. In order to make a major contribution to mineral processing, new comminution models must model the process and not the outcome of specific equipment. The breakage testing techniques must be able to characterise the breakage modes found in comminution equipment and incorporate liberation in the analysis of the products, with both breakage and liberation related to the mode of breakage. Utilising computational techniques to simulate the mechanical breakage environment, the models will incorporate the breakage test outputs to predict product size distribution and liberation. Mechanistic transport models will complete the simulations. The models will be able to predict the performance of novel devices by simulating the mechanical environment with computational techniques and then simulating the breakage and transport outputs. They will enable the exploration of the most energy efficient ore reduction route integrated with the optimal liberation route. To obtain full benefit from this technique the classification modelling must come up to speed along the same lines, and the models of the recovery processes need to be able to link into the liberation data. Right now, over 80% of this is achievable with current modelling and analytical techniques and the authors feel that computational techniques are advancing rapidly and will soon be able to produce adequate data resolution, further enhanced by constant improvements in computing power. Currently, it is the basics not the advanced modelling that is lagging in development. Inadequate ore breakage testing techniques are seen as the major limitation to

major progress in comminution modelling. It is imperative that in this endeavour, we researchers take full advantage of new measurement techniques, such as fast and routine MLA analysis, and tomographic analysis of mineral structure, fracture, and liberation in coarser particles. As researchers we are also obliged to use the enormously improved computational power that is ever becoming available, to better understand the process— and to not delude ourselves with pretty pictures that may only reinforce our existing preconceptions. King (1993) rounds off his visionary paper with the conclusion that “… it will be the application of very fundamental physical principles that is likely to bring the major advances in comminution modelling”. The progress may not have been as significant as he hoped in the decade since then, but it is undoubtedly in that direction. It is proposed that a concerted effort by comminution researchers in a common direction should ensure that the dream of the new comminution models is brought to fruition in the next decade. References
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