Metso Insights Blog Mining and metals blog 5 reasons to choose Bulk Ore Sorting
May 29, 2024

5 reasons to choose Bulk Ore Sorting

Bulk ore sorting includes a massive quantity of material on the conveyor belt. Physically, there is a lot to analyze, along with various properties that impact the decision on whether to process the material or not. However, mining operations remain hesitant about adopting this approach. But with the right expertise, we can optimize the costs, resources, sustainability, and profitability of your operations.

As high-grade ore deposits become scarcer, the mining industry faces the challenge of extracting lower-grade deposits. This means processing larger volumes per tonne of valuable minerals. Unfortunately, this shift comes with increased costs, energy consumption, water usage, transportation, processing and more.

So, what can we do about it?

Enter bulk ore sorting.

What benefits can bulk ore sorting bring to your operations?

  1. Waste identification and separation

Ore sorting involves measuring properties in both valuable and waste material using various sensors. While sensor-based ore sorting isn’t particularly new, its application in the minerals industry has been limited to niche areas like industrial minerals, diamonds, and gemstones. However, our bulk ore sorting approach takes it to the next level.

How does it work?

  • Multiple sensors are strategically placed along the processing line. This offers the potential of real-time analysis of material properties

  • The sensors analyze real-time data feeds from the material

  • A sensor fusion algorithm combines information from different sensors

  • Operators can customize sensor placement for optimal performance

For example, one high-speed sensor could measure color, another measures density, and the next measures something completely different like ore characteristics or the magnetic properties of the material itself. By combining these data points, you gain valuable insights. Is the material high in magnetite? Does it have a specific color? Based on this information, you can confidently decide whether it’s valuable and should be processed further. At the same time, you minimize waste - which proves to be a great advantage in the fight against depleting ore deposits.

Kevin Graney, Director of Ore Sorting, explains: “With the Metso approach, we want to leverage new computing techniques and use them to analyze multiple sensor data streams at the same time to get the most value. Whether the parameters are pre-programmed, or the system learns along the way, using these digital tools will give operators the ability to bring their sorting to the next level.”

“Having information on each component is incredibly important, as it gives customers extra insight, and thus, extra confidence, when deciding to process the material” says Jorn Rohleder, Manager of Ore Sorting Technology.

  1. Optimized processing

When it comes to ore sorting, maximizing plant metal throughput and optimizing mining operations are critical goals. Fortunately, bulk ore sorting offers a powerful solution. Pre-concentration effectively upgrades the plant feed, so less tonnes of ore are treated in the processing plant per tonne of product.

By utilizing sensor fusion algorithms and pattern detection, the data is analyzed to determine whether the material warrants processing. After that, the material continues to move towards the divergence system at the end of the conveyor belt. Controlled by the system controller, this mechanical system directs the material either towards processing or away from it.

By utilizing high-speed sensors and embracing digitalization, this enables efficient sorting based on diverse criteria, including color, grade, ore type and magnetic properties. Removing waste at the start of the process will lead to more efficient processing.

  1. Improved sustainability

Processing minerals is energy intensive as-is. With degrading orebodies that are getting physically harder, significantly more energy is needed to crush and grind. It is crucial to look at efficient technologies to maximize grade and recovery early in the processing chain.

Bulk ore sorting can revolutionize plant feed optimzation and reduce the volume of ore processed per tonne of product. Its benefits are:

  • Energy efficiency. By removing waste early in the process, bulk ore sorting reduces the energy required for crushing and screening.

  • Processing only mineable ore tons (instead of waste material) increases overall productivity.

  • Cost and Resource Efficiency. Lower operational costs due to reduced energy consumption and less haulage for waste material.

  • Decrease environmental impact by lowering energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and water losses per ton of product.


With bulk ore sorting, you crush less waste and send less waste to the process, which means fine tailings decrease drastically, as well as the energy and water consumption. The sustainability aspect of this cannot be understated, and that is the whole idea of a Planet Positive flowsheet.
Kevin Graney, Director of Ore Sorting at Metso

Furthermore, implementing in-pit crushing and conveying systems or underground sorting minimizes material transportation. The material is sorted into a waste or high-grade pile at the first point of processing in the pit, reducing the need for extensive hauling.

In a traditional flowsheet, crushing and milling stages consume a significant amount of energy, equivalent to up to 3-5% of the world’s GDP. From the milling stage to beneficiation, there are significant volumes of fine material that are processed using water and chemical reagents in addition to electricity, leading to a large volume of fine tailings produced as an undesirable by-product. Compare that to the flowsheet of pre-concentration, and you can see how this contributes to improved sustainability.

By implementing ore sorting early in the process, you can reduce the amount of waste that needs to be crushed and moved forward. This leads to minimized energy consumption, water consumption, coarse waste and the amount of fine tailings produced.
By implementing ore sorting early in the process, you can reduce the amount of waste that needs to be crushed and moved forward. This leads to minimized energy consumption, water consumption, coarse waste and the amount of fine tailings produced.
  1. Higher grade and resource utilization

Bulk ore sorting offers a transformative solution by upgrading previously uneconomic materials into profitable ore. Imagine extracting valuable components from waste dumps, low-grade stockpiles, and marginal reserves - it’s like turning overlooked treasure into gold. Here’s why it matters:

Resource utilization is maximized. Kevin Graney emphasizes this point: “When you have less waste in the process, you are processing higher quality material. This ensures that the resource utilization is maximized,” he says. By sorting the ore early on, we enhance grade control. In other words, we ensure that the material proceeding to the next processing stage is of higher grade. This avoids feeding the plant with materials that would cost more to process than the value of the contained valuable minerals. It’s all about creating more value with less negative impact.

Efficiency and lower operating costs. As previously noted, with better control comes better performance and profitability – a goal pursued by every plant.

  1. Cost savings

The idea of bulk ore sorting is gaining traction, and we can see why. Removing barren material early enough can lead to significant savings, especially in today’s low-grade mining operations. By transforming previously non-processable ore into economically viable material and enhancing resource utilization, this reduces processing plant loads. The result? Lower costs.

In conventional mining, substantial investments are made in capital equipment, and resource utilization is a critical KPI for operators. Reduced waste in the process ensures the processing of high-quality material. This way less waste is sent upward in the plant, which makes the processing more economical.

Gangue, which can be rich in silicates and harder than valuable minerals, can present a cost burden. Processing costs can be decreased by removing this material before comminution stages. Less tonnes of ore are treated in the processing, which lowers costs, energy, and water consumption per tonne of product. But waste rock does not have to go unused. It can be used in the plant for roads or fill, thereby reducing – or eliminating – the need for additional purchased aggregate. Surplus material can also be an additional revenue stream by selling it to local contractors as aggregate. By removing acid generating mineralization, bulk sorting effectively cleans the material.

In addition to big sustainability advantages, bulk ore sorting also delivers even bigger cost savings gains with the current energy prices. By saving energy, you are inevitably saving money – a win-win scenario, both environmentally and economically.

Sorting out the solution

Facing challenges like declining ore grades and rising costs, mining operations can turn to us for solutions. Bulk ore sorting technology offers numerous benefits and can increase your profitability, sustainability, cost savings, production capacity and more – all at the same time.

With regards to digitalization and new technologies, our strengths lie in understanding our customers’ business and data, and utilizing that knowledge to analyze, automate and optimize their processes and performance. That’s why, together, we are the partner for positive change.

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