TOMRA technology delivers grade improvement at Saloro’s tungsten mine

TOMRA has installed a first X-Ray Transmission (XRT) sorter at…

TOMRA has installed a first X-Ray Transmission (XRT) sorter at Saloro’s tungsten mine in Barruecopardo, Spain. The sorter, implemented in the beneficiation stage, is consistently delivering a much higher head grade to the processing plant, significantly reducing costs.

TOMRA technology delivers grade improvement at Saloro’s tungsten mine

Tungsten is an essential industrial metal with unique properties used in the production of hard metals, specialist steels, and super alloys, as well as aerospace, electronics, and military applications. Its production is concentrated in China, where 80% of the world’s tungsten is mined. For this reason, it is considered a strategic commodity and is categorised as a “critical raw material” by the EU. The Saloro mine in Barruecopardo is one of the most important in Europe, and one of the few outside China that produces concentrate with high tungsten grade with limited impurities, making it a high-value product in the industry.

Saloro approached TOMRA Mining to explore ways to further improve the head grade to the processing plant: “We were looking for equipment capable of sorting ore with scheelite content in order to remove the non-mineralised product from the feed line,” explained Pedro Jiménez, Plant Manager at the Barruecopardo mine.

TOMRA proposed its XRT ore sorter, which has the capability to identify fine high atomic dense tungsten inclusions with a detection technology developed in-house. “Our ‘Inclusions Technology’ is a perfect combination of a high-resolution XRT sensor with tailored sorting algorithms,” explained Carolina Vargas, Area Sales Manager Europe, India, and Rest of the World at TOMRA Mining. “At the Barruecopardo mine, this technology enables the detection of 1 mm or even smaller tungsten inclusions – this is unique in the market.”

TOMRA conducted test work with its XRT technology on 10 – 30 mm and 30 – 60 mm particle sizes at its Test Centre in Wedel, Germany in 2019, which yielded positive results. “We chose TOMRA because of the reliability of the equipment in the tests and the time required to supply it,” added Pedro Jiménez.

In July 2023, TOMRA installed a COM Tertiary XRT ore sorter in the beneficiation stage. It is fed with raw material in the 8 – 25 mm size range at a rate of around 30 tph. The sorter achieves +90% recovery of scheelite and removes 85 – 90% of host rock prior to downstream processing through gravity concentration, magnetic separation and flotation. By only processing the material with scheelite content, the plant achieves significant cost savings.

The sorter has demonstrated the value of this technology for the Barruecopardo mine. “The tests and the results achieved so far are very positive and favourable. We are convinced that this sorting technology will help Saloro to significantly improve efficiency and production at the plant,” added Pedro Jiménez. Saloro has decided to purchase additional TOMRA XRT sorters for the mine: “By purchasing more sorters, we aim to further increase the feed grade to the plant and remove material that does not contain scheelite.”

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