Processing contaminated ore

TOMRA Mining technology to be installed in the world’s largest Lithium sorting plant

TOMRA Mining’s experience in the design and installation of large-scale ore sorting plants and its collaborative approach was the key to the successful design of the world’s largest lithium sorting plant. The installation has already started and is expected to reach completion in late 2023.

  TOMRA Mining technology for the world’s largest Lithium ore sorting plant

TOMRA Mining technology for the world’s largest Lithium ore sorting plant

Pilbara Minerals owns the the world’s largest, independent hard-rock lithium mine. It is located in Western Australia and produces a spodumene and tantalite concentrate. By pursuing a growth strategy to become a sustainable, low-cost lithium producer, the company has become a major player in the rapidly growing lithium supply chain. This investment will ensure the expansion of its large-scale operation in order to meet the increasing demand for lithium driven by sustainable energy technologies such as electric vehicles and energy storage.


“This new facility to be constructed at our Pilgangoora Project will be the world’s largest lithium mineral ore sorting plant. TOMRA’s experience in large global sorting installations, innovative technology, and ability to provide local support were significant factors in our decision to work with them. From the start, the TOMRA team has been working side by side with us and our engineering partner DRA Global to deliver this important project,” says Dale Henderson, Managing Director and CEO, Pilbara Minerals.


As part of this expansion project, Pilbara Minerals turned to TOMRA Mining for assistance to address the key industry challenge in the processing of spodumene feed ore contaminated with barren host rock. TOMRA has 50 years’ experience in sensor-based sorting technologies and has designed and built 90 % of the world’s large-scale mining sorting plants with a capacity above 300 t/h. These include plants such as the Ma’aden Umm Wu’al project, which is operating at 1850 t/h, or the Lucara diamond operation which runs 15 sorters. Specifically for the Pilbara Minerals project, TOMRA Mining offers effective ore sorting solutions with high sensor resolution and ejection accuracy that ensure high lithium recovery and waste removal with a stable and consistent performance at high capacity.


Valuable expertise and collaborative approach

The TOMRA Mining team conducted a geological assessment of sample ores supplied by Pilbara Minerals. It revealed that the pegmatite deposit did have non-lithium bearing host rock intrusions. Some of these minerals have a high density like that of spodumene, which means that it is also concentrated when using Heavy Media Separation (HMS). This reduces the efficiency of the downstream floatation and contaminates the final product. Sensor-based sorting technologies, on the other hand, can measure the colour, density, and mineralogical variations in individual particles, enabling the accurate detection and removal of this barren material.


Working closely with the Pilbara Minerals metallurgical team, TOMRA conducted extensive testwork at the TOMRA Test Center in Sydney to check all the options and answer any questions arising during the tests. The samples were run at capacity on production sorters and included repeatability and variation testing. The test work benchmarked the expected performance of the sorters and was used to establish the sort quality on each of the ore types that will be fed through the plant.


Primero Group, which was awarded the contract for construction of the project, has now started bulk earthworks for the sorting plant. The TOMRA team was involved not only in the testing and supply of equipment, but also provided assistance with the plant layout and understanding of the implications of sorting on the upstream mining and downstream process of the ore. This involvement throughout the development process will add to efficient operational ramp-up and technical optimization. TOMRA’s capability to support the project with a dedicated Australian-based team and a global support structure has been a significant factor and is an important part of de-risking the installation of this new technology. The team is working closely with Pilbara Minerals through the installation process, commissioning and start-up, and will continue to provide on-site support once the sorting plant is up and running.


Related articles:

How sensor-based sorting can help unlock untapped potential and meet the rising demand

The global demand for lithium is soaring, driven by the growing adoption of electric vehicles and grid-scale lithium-ion batteries for energy storage. Some forecasts project the demand to reach as...

Issue 12/2019 Exceptionell quality

TOMRA’s ore sorting technology delivers improvement at Stornoway Diamonds Renard mine

S?tornoway Diamonds is one of the leading Canadian diamond exploration and producing companies. It owns and operates the Renard Mine, in commercial production operation since 2017. It is the first...

Issue 01-02/2013

CommodasUltrasort at Electra Mining as TOMRA Sorting Solutions

CommodasUltrasort, the mining division of internationally renowned Norwegian-listed, TOMRA Systems ASA, exhibited at Electra Mining (10.-14.09.2012 in Johannesburg/South Africa) under its new name...

Issue 12/2022 Added value and sustainability

TOMRA Mining’s XRT ore sorting technology in operation at Mt Carbine Tungsten mine

TOMRA X-Ray Transmission (XRT) sorters provide a game-changing solution for the Mt Carbine mine in Queensland/Australia. On the one hand, they deliver cost savings while achieving high-purity Tungsten...


TOMRA Mining holds second successful seminar on sensor-based sorting in Toronto

Experienced industry leaders joined TOMRA Mining’s experts as guest speakers in a seminar designed to provide a solid, pragmatic grounding on sensor-based sorting. The event highlighted the important...