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QSE-listed mining and development company Marula Mining has completed the commissioning of a Rados SRF100-8 X-ray fluorescence (XRF) ore sorter at its Blesberg lithium and tantalum mine, in the Northern Cape.

The Rados ore sorter is one of the key parts of the company’s plan to expand its ore processing capacity at Blesberg to increase production of a high-grade lithium spodumene saleable product this quarter.

In addition, Marula says it has successfully completed the first bulk testing and first production of product.

The commissioning work was carried out by representatives from Rados International Technologies, in Malta, and overseen by Marula’s on-site management team, along with local metallurgical and mineral processing group Erudite Strategies.

In addition, the handover of the Rados ore sorter to Marula’s management and the new plant operating team has now taken place.

The company adds that major advancements have been made with the Rados ore sorter’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, and that the ore sorting algorithm has seen spodumene recoveries increase to 89% during commissioning and bulk testing.

“The successful commissioning and bulk testing and production, not only signifies a major leap in our operational capabilities, but also positions Marula at the forefront of the industry as we use AI sorting algorithms in our processing technologies,” Marula CEO Jason Brewer comments.

Marula’s spodumene recoveries on a range of different feed materials have also been outperforming previous laboratory and test results achieved by Rados as part of the plant design work done last year.

The AI capabilities of the Rados ore sorter have allowed it to continuously improve and enhance the recovery, product mass split, sorting aspects and optimisation of the processing technique.

As part of this optimisation work, the Rados ore sorter is able to identify and sort about 20 different colours of spodumene, both ultraviolet (UV) fluorescent and non-UV fluorescent, based on each spodumene’s unique XRF characteristic, which has positive implications for grade control and product grade improvement.

The Rados team has advised Marula that Blesberg is the first operation in the world to successfully mechanically dry process lithium ore on a large scale with spodumene recoveries in excess of 80% and a more than threefold upgrade ratio.

“With this method of processing and recovery of the spodumene, with its low cost and zero use of chemical reagents and dry processing, we are demonstrating our commitment to our [environmental, social and governance] policies and sustainable mining practices,” Brewer says.

Marula notes that the optimisation of the Rados ore sorter will continue and production is forecast to increase further as a new McCloskey jaw crusher, a new Bell B25E articulated dump truck, a Kobelco SK520XLDLC-10 excavator, a JCB467ZX wheel loader and a sensor-based Tomra COM XRT 1200 ore sorter, are expected to be delivered and commissioned soon.