IMS – Full Steam Ahead with Sensor Sorting

The trend in minerals sorting worldwide is toward the use of sensor technology, and IMS Engineering, is at the cutting-edge of this trend through its partnership with STEINERT Elektromagnetbau GmbH, a global leader in separation technology for the recycling, metals and mining industries.

A formal joint venture agreement between the two companies was recently signed and IMS MD, Paul Bracher, says that it’s now full steam ahead. “This is a technology whose day has come and we look forward to significant penetration in the southern African market, which is ideally suited to it,” he said.

The partnership pools the expertise and vast real-world experience of the two companies.

Cologne-based STEINERT, which started in the scrap and waste recycling business, has a wide range of sensor-based separation and sorting solutions including: X-Ray Transmission (XRT) and XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence) sorting or XSS® (STEINERTS brand name for x-ray sorting) ; Optical Colour Sorting; 3-D Laser Sorting (shape recognition), Induction Sorting (recognition of particle electromagnetic properties) and Near Infrared (NIR) sorting, which analyses the reflected NIR spectrum.

Johan van Zyl, Steinert global product manager for mining, says that he is confident that IMS will make a success of the venture. “They are a thoroughly professional organisation with vast experience in the comminution industry in this region,” van Zyl says.

He adds that IMS’s acquisition - through Hazemag, IMS’s largest shareholder - of Allmineral, which is recognized worldwide as an expert in the beneficiation of gravel, sand, coal and ore, combined with IMS’s range of Steinert sorters, enables IMS to provide a more cost-efficient, comprehensive waterless alternative to the traditional wet processing methods.

“Sensor sorting is, in general, much more cost-effective than traditional sorting methods,” says van Zyl. “Apart from saving on water, less energy and labour is required and, perhaps most importantly, because one can sort at the point of extraction, only the ore containing the mineral needs be transported thus saving significantly on transportation costs.

“This makes our technology ideal in tougher economic periods and for more marginal mines where it has been shown to make the difference between closing down and being able to continue profitably. It is perfect for southern African conditions,” van Zyl says.

Bracher says that IMS will initially focus on the coal mining sector – with XSS® T (XRT) – where there is the biggest opportunity for the technology right now. “There are many smaller, newly-incubated coal mines for which the benefit would be enormous,” he says. “In general, though, we will offer solutions for both ROM sorting as well as dumps, which can become profitable with the use of our technology.”

Bracher adds that the Allmineral/IMS/ STEINERT union creates a significant advantage in the coal sector. “XSS® T works best with particles of 40mm or bigger and Allmineral’s Dry Jig works best with particles of less than 40mm enabling us to provide an unbeatable overall solution,” he says.

Bracher says the XSS® machines are not for coal alone. They increase significantly the range of possibilities for sorting any ‘mixed’ materials.

The XSS® T (transmission) ‘sees’ through the materials, recognizing different material densities, components containing halogens and organic components. Composite materials and internal adhesions are also detected. This allows, inter alia, ore-bearing rock to be sorted from the non-ore-bearing rock.

XSS® F (X-Ray Fluorescence) is used to differentiate alloys, metals and ores based on their surface characteristics. In essence the technology works on x-ray absorption - the larger the atomic mass and the thicker the material, the greater the absorption.

A common feature of all STEINERT sorting systems is that every single particle in the material flow is recognised and classified. The long, fast-running belt ensures that the particles are singulated and homogeneously distributed. As they pass the x-ray source and camera, they are recognised and classified in a fraction of a second according to pre-set criteria programmed in the flexible system software. If classification matches the previously defined criteria, the particle is ejected by a powerful blast of compressed air out of fast-action compressed-air valves.

Van Zyl says that STEINERT has had several successes worldwide with its XSS® sorting technology. “The most recent is for a Wolfranite mine in Australia where they sort +15 -30mm material. Prior to our machine, the material had to be milled before conventional sorting. With the installation of our XSS® sorter, 85% of the milling requirement has been eradicated,” he says.

Bracher says that the new IMS Test Centre will provide initial material testing for XSS® sorting. “We take a bucket full of waste and a bucket full of product and check that the sensor can ‘see’ the difference. If it can, we know that more extensive testing, which may entail the installing of a machine on site, can be undertaken,” he concludes.