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Jan 27, 2023

Trends in Minerals, leading the change with our innovations 3/4

Olivier Guyot
Olivier Guyot
VP, Minerals Technology
The mining and minerals industry is placing increasing emphasis on sustainability. A major transformation towards the use of renewable energy sources and other low-carbon technologies is taking place. This increases worldwide demand for clean energy minerals such as copper, nickel, lithium and cobalt significantly. Satisfying the growing demand for these minerals while managing deteriorating ore grades, and stricter sustainability requirements at the same time is not an easy equation for miners.
In-pit crushing and conveying

Sustainable mining practices

As a key provider of the technology or solutions for processing the minerals needed for the energy transition and given how energy intensive the mining industry is, Metso Outotec’s approach to innovation can have a substantial impact. We have an essential role to play in supporting our customers in their sustainability efforts by developing minerals and metals processing practices that have a lower impact on the environment. This includes the development of energy-efficient equipment, fostering the use of renewable energy sources, recycling and reusing materials as well as reducing waste and emissions. In addition, the industry must focus on responsible water management, minimizing water waste and reducing the intake of fresh water. Not forgetting the utmost license to operate: safety, which is the highest priority for our customers.

Sustainable minerals and hydrometallurgical processes rely on R&D and innovations. Metso Outotec targets that 100% of the R&D project spend is with projects that have sustainability targets and we are already very close to our 100% objective in our R&D pipeline.

Advanced technology and digitalization

Digital solutions play an important part in our customers’ sustainable productivity strategies. The minerals industry is already using advanced technologies that include artificial intelligence, machine learning and autonomous equipment to improve energy, carbon and water efficiency, reduce costs and increase safety. Large mining customers already use real-time sensors, big data analytics and digital twins to improve equipment efficiency, accelerate decision-making, monitor and optimize processes, improve maintenance practice and reduce risks.

Digital solutions can help with many things such as extracting the full value from low grade ore bodies or waste stockpiles, designing and operating an asset with full life cycle in mind, converting tailings into valuable products and services, as well as building more efficient and sustainable water treatment solutions. To make this happen, miners actively collaborate with industry partners, such as OEMs, to develop the next generation of sensors to maximize data collection and help minimizing environmental footprint. Metso Outotec has a long history of providing automation solutions, including analyzers for particle size and elemental measurement in slurry and on belts, as well as intelligent instruments. Our sensors and analyzers gather data that is used in our higher-level automation systems and advanced process control systems to optimize the operation of unit equipment, circuits, and entire processes. Geminex™, our metallurgical digital twin, and Metrics, our connected analytics platform, are a key part of our digital offering. These solutions are designed to address the growing demand for digital process optimization and artificial intelligence-driven performance and reliability improvement in modern mines.

Planet Positive approach

Planet Positive is Metso Outotec’s sustainable technology label of over 100 products. Planet Positive considers the most essential sustainability challenges our customers are facing, as well as current legislation requirements mainly in the fields of CO2 reductions and energy and water efficiency relative to a market benchmark level of performance: for example, for carbon emissions, a typical mining company is aiming to reduce their footprint by 30% by 2030 –This means that a Planet Positive product must be at least 10% more efficient than the baseline technology in order to make a meaningful contribution to our customers’ sustainability goals, taking into account that they will also implement other actions, such as shifting to using more renewable power, to reach the 30%. 

We recently launched the Concorde Cell™ for recovering fine and ultra-fine particles in minerals separation, and introduced in-pit crushing and conveying (IPCC) solutions to reduce truck haulage with the use of in pit conveyors. Additionally, we introduced the HRCTMe, an evolution of our high-pressure grinding roll unit that offers significant energy efficiency in combination with our stirred mills portfolio when compared to traditional comminution circuits. We also recently launched our tailings management solutions and large Larox® FFP3716 filter for tailings dewatering applications, as well as our largest MDM900 Mill Discharge slurry pump for heavy-duty use in concentrator plants. Finally, a special mention to our soda pressure leaching technology which enables exceptional material and energy efficiency for lithium hydroxide production.

A look into the future

To support our customers in their sustainability ambitions we have strategic technology plans for the coming years around key focus areas: preconcentration, comminution, separation, tailings and water, battery materials, as well as smart equipment and process optimization. We plan to launch Planet Positive products out of the innovation and R&D pipeline in each of these focus areas, all of them having sustainability targets, in the next coming years.

Preconcentration involves the rejection of waste material synergistic with our crushing and bulk material handling solutions. Comminution will see an evolution of our horizontal mills and stirred mills range to even more energy-efficient technology. In separation, we aim to develop new technologies in fine and coarse particle flotation. In tailings and water management, a focus will be on high-capacity tailings filtration and process water recycling. We will continue to innovate in battery chemicals production and recycling processes. In smart equipment & processes, we will continue embedding intelligence in our equipment and developing further digital twins and optimizers.

Metso Outotec is striving to be at the forefront of innovation in the minerals industry. From advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and autonomous equipment to circular economy processes, we aim to drive change and support our customers in their quest for decarbonization. With a strong focus on sustainability as well as continuous improvement and R&D efforts, Metso Outotec is well-positioned to meet the evolving needs of the minerals industry and support the global energy transition towards a more sustainable future.

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