A run-of-mine ore milling circuit is primarily used to grind incoming ore containing precious metals to a particle size smaller than a specification size. A traditional run-of-mine (ROM) ore single-stage closed milling circuit comprises of the operational units: mill, sump and cyclone. These circuits are difficult to control because of significant nonlinearities, large time delays, large unmeasured disturbances, process variables that are difficult to measure and modelling uncertainties. A nonlinear model predictive controller with state estimation could yield good control of the ROM ore milling circuit despite these difficulties. Additionally, the ROM ore milling circuit is an energy intensive unit and a controller or power optimizer could bring significant cost savings.
A nonlinear model predictive controller requires good state estimates and therefore a neural network for state estimation as an alternative to the particle filter has been addressed. The neural network approach requires fewer process variables that need to be measured compared to the particle filter. A neural network is trained with three disturbance parameters and used to estimate the internal states of the mill, and the results are compared with those of the particle filter implementation. The neural network approach performed better than the particle filter approach when estimating the volume of steel balls and rocks within the mill. A novel combined neural network and particle filter state estimator is presented to improve the estimation of the neural network approach for the estimation of volume of fines, solids and water within the mill. The estimation performance of the combined approach is promising when the disturbance magnitude used is smaller than that used to train the neural network.
After state estimation was addressed, this work targets the implementation of a nonlinear controller combined with full state estimation for a grinding mill circuit. The nonlinear controller consists of a suboptimal nonlinear model predictive controller coupled with a dynamic inversion controller. This allows for fast control that is asymptotically stable. The nonlinear controller aims to reconcile the opposing objectives of high throughput and high product quality. The state estimator comprises of a particle filter for five mill states as well as an additional estimator for three sump states. Simulation results show that control objectives can be achieved despite the presence of noise and significant disturbances.
The cost of energy has increased significantly in recent years. This increase in price greatly affects the mineral processing industry because of the large energy demands. A run-of-mine ore milling circuit provides a suitable case study where the power consumed by a mill is in the order of 2 MW. An attempt has been made to reduce the energy consumed by the mill in the two ways: firstly, within the nonlinear model predictive control in a single-stage circuit configuration and secondly, running multiple mills in parallel and attempting to save energy while still maintaining an overall high quality and good quantity. A formulation for power optimization of multiple ROM ore milling circuits has been developed. A first base case consisted not taking power into account in a single ROM ore milling circuit and a second base case split the load and throughput equally between two parallel milling circuits. In both cases, energy can be saved using the NMPC compared to the base cases presented without significant sacrifice in product quality or quantity.
The work presented covers three topics that has yet to be addressed within the literature: a neural network for mill state estimation, a nonlinear controller with state estimation integrated for a ROM ore milling circuit and power optimization of a single and multiple ROM ore milling circuit configuration.
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2015.