This Is How Ultra Fines Recovery Systems Will Make You More Profitable

Alan Bennetts
By: Alan Bennetts December 17, 2019
Adding an Ultra Fines Recovery System can benefit your application in many ways. Here is how.

Increasing profitability takes a lot of effort, but it is fairly easy to do.

The fastest way to increase profit is to charge more for the product, but unfortunately, that is usually not an option. The other, most obvious path is to lower cost per ton of product. It means finding ways of:

  • producing more product at the same cost
  • producing the same amount at reduced cost
  • or a combination of both

Lowering the cost per ton of product

Going down this route requires looking at the process, reviewing procedures and a willingness to change things.

Looking at the process takes time and resources that may not be available. Even after improvement opportunities are found, getting them in place and sustaining them can be difficult. 

Change is not always easy. There can be resistance to doing something different, and there is always the financial consideration.  

The fact of the matter is process equipment does not recover all potential sand, deposits change, upset conditions exist and markets evolve. Each one of those areas can have an impact on profitability. 

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Implementing an Ultra Fines Recovery System

The best process design will always create some misplaced product. When this material goes to the waste stream, it can be profit out the door. 

In this case, an Ultra Fines Recovery System (UFR) can capture the good material before it is thrown out with the bad material. The captured material can be sent to a scalping circuit to increase the overall product amount. This becomes an option when the increase in the yield of product outweighs any increase in operating cost. 

A change in the deposit can be devastating, especially when it creates more waste. New feed throughput has to increase just to make the same amount of product. This means, the system is no longer operating at name plate, and equipment may not be performing efficiently. 

More waste means filling up the tailings area faster than planned. Digging out a settling pond is never fun, and unless something is done, it is the gift that keeps on giving. It is usually time-consuming and expensive since specialized equipment may be required.  

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More waste does not just mean more sand in a pond. With a depleted tailings area, water quality can suffer and additional land permits maybe be required. As the saying goes, “Waste never makes you money, but it sure can cost you a lot.”  

A UFR will pull a majority of the solids out of the waste stream, keeping them from the downstream water management system and thereby saving a pond from filling up, decreasing a load on a Thickener or lowering operating time on a Filter Press.  

Stability is the best friend of any process, so upset conditions must be the biggest enemy. Whether it be an overload condition or an underload condition, the process system is not working in the sweet spot. This situation will send material in the wrong direction. 

Unfortunately, those kind of events happen all too often. Good product ends up in a waste stream, and it is usually too late to get it back. With a UFR in place to act as a safeguard, it is possible to blend that material back in or batch it through the process to prevent the loss.

Making money with waste material

When can waste make money? When it is turned into a product. 

Since the market does change, you never know when waste can become product. The waste pile of yesterday can today be a deposit.

Like any deposit, the cost of processing the material determines if it is worth going after. If it is too difficult to process, then it is not cost-effective to go after and that deposit is lost.

A UFR can stockpile the material in an easy-to-access location. It creates a drip-free material that can be conveyed or easily hauled to a storage area. When (not if) the material comes in to demand, a new profit stream is ready to go.

In each one of the above scenarios, a UFR is a solution. When those issues show their ugly head and balloon operating costs or throw product away, you need to be ready to take action to maximize profit.  

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Other ways to increase profitability with a UFR

Are there other ways? Simply sending material back into the process can create a different type of headache. Recirculating loads tend to lower overall throughput because they are displacing the new feed. Processing the same material through the same process is going to produce the same results, and it can overload the process. Overloaded equipment produces inefficiencies, creates complex systems and housekeeping issues, damages the equipment and, in the long run, makes the situation worse.

Simply put, “Process control becomes process out of control.” Doing nothing or doing the wrong thing can be even more expensive in the long run.

Taking a different look at the material with an add-on process allows the solution to be selected specifically for the task at hand. This where a UFR can be a benefit, as it can address a number of problems. UFRs can:

  • capture misplaced material
  • save fine material before it goes into a pond
  • stockpile material that might be (or may become) an alternative product

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Even if the fine material is not a product and you end up just giving it away, the other ways in which a UFR benefit your bottom line include: 

  • stockpiling the material,
  • reducing the amount of material reporting to the ponds
  • decreasing the load on Thickeners
  • lowering operating time on Filter Presses
  • Freeing up needed space 

Adding equipment may seem like it is counter-intuitive, but unforeseen operational costs come in all shapes and eat up profitability quickly. Handling the issue up front puts you in control, while reacting to the issue can drive up costs and strain resources when it becomes urgent. 

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With a UFR being an add-on process, it can fit into most operations fairly quickly and with minimal disruption. A UFR does not demand a lot of monitoring and can be set up with remote instruments.  

An Ultra Fines Recovery system is not the answer for every problem, but when it comes to fines, it is a good place to start. When it is the right solution, a UFR will pay for itself in a short time. McLanahan has been working with these type of issues for a long time and knows how a UFR can make the difference.

Tags: Aggregates, Fines Recovery
Alan Bennetts

Alan is the Global Product Manager for Washing and Classifying at McLanahan Corporation. He provides leadership, direction and oversight to the evaluation, design, development, engineering, training and support needed for McLanahan’s extensive washing and classifying equipment line. Alan has nearly 25 years of experience in the mineral and aggregate industry, having served in a wide array of roles with equipment manufacturers and mining companies throughout the United States. Alan is a 1996 graduate of the University of Montana, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in metallurgical engineering.