A new kaolin mining operation in Wickepin, Western Australia, is utilising an integrated automation solution to reduce overall costs of mining plant and equipment, improve scheduling, and deliver ongoing benefits to operations. Kaolin, which is becoming increasingly valuable, is a soft white clay that has been surging in demand, with uses in applications including paper and plasterboard, ceramics, fiberglass, paints and coatings, plastics, rubber, pharmaceuticals and medicine, cosmetics, concrete construction materials and agriculture. WA Kaolin – an ASX-listed mineral exploration, extraction, and processing company – has developed a proprietary dry processing method known as K99, which turns raw material into market-suitable feedstock for global customers. Combined with the high quality of the ore reserve, the K99 process delivers high-quality ultra-bright kaolin at a lower cost than conventional chemical bleaching and magnetic separation processing.
WA Kaolin has constructed a Stage 1 commercial processing plant on a three-hectare site in Wickepin, about 200 kilometres southeast of Perth, Western Australia. There is a strategic plan in place to expand production capacity to exceed 400,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) after 36 months using steel fabrication to boost mining operations, so WA Kaolin selected engineering and planning consultancy, Willyung Electrical & Controls Engineering (WECE) to manage the process of steadily scaling up. WECE analysed the requirements, and selected Rockwell Automation’s PlantPAx® Distributed Control System (DCS) to provide a single, plant-wide control system, with the flexibility to make better and faster business decisions and a scalable solution for future expansion.
Centralised, plant-wide control
Rockwell Automation’s PlantPAx DCS will monitor and run the facility from a single point of control, providing seamless integration into control and power systems and heat induction bending services, and outputting data that is easy to analyse. The latest version of PlantPAx DCS has been designed to be an integral part of a digital transformation strategy that boosts productivity and profitability, while reducing operational risk. “Large projects like the WA Kaolin Wickepin processing plant are complex, and it’s easy to come in over-budget or off-schedule if the right automation technology isn’t implemented upfront,” said Raj Singh, channel manager, Rockwell Automation. By seamlessly integrating process, power, and information across the plant right from the outset, WA Kaolin was able to achieve better automation benefits and a faster time-to-market, and the system can readily be scaled up as production increases.
One of the major benefits of Rockwell Automation’s PlantPAx DCS for new facilities is a faster time-to-market, which means plants can begin producing quicker. “Having total plant visibility in the planning stage means that from inception to delivery, total time is reduced. After analysing WA Kaolin’s robust and ambitious scale-up plans, we determined that Rockwell Automation had the best automation solution for the project and for the future,” said Chris Bock, managing director and principal electrical engineer, WECE. “As a system integrator, being able to deliver to the end user in a reduced timeframe is a major win. Rockwell Automation’s technology has been instrumental in enabling us to achieve these gains,” added Bock.