Australian research agency CSIRO and CRC ORE have established a Future Research Program that will advance research into technologies that will improve sustainability and broaden the applications of pre-concentration systems in Australia.
First launched in September, the companies said the program will help the Australian industry by reducing the consumption of energy and water, tailings and residue generation, reduce an operation’s physical footprint and optimise mineral extraction.
“The program will expand upon CRC ORE’s foundation research into the development of ore pre-concentration technologies that can be deployed within the mine and ahead of the mineral processing plant,” the groups said. “The new research scope will investigate ways to apply these principles further down the mining value chain, targeting smaller particle sizes and a wider range of ore types.”
The focus areas of the program will include incorporating the principles of selective breakage into the design and operation of comminution circuits; optimising ore feed to coarse and fine particle separators to enhance their performance; step change reductions in energy and water intensity; and developing new options for sustainable management of waste material.
CRC ORE’s former general manager of research and innovation Paul Revell will oversee the program.
“Our aim is to extend the resource base that pre-concentration can be applied to,” Revell said. “The pre-concentration technology developed through CRC ORE is currently best suited to structurally controlled, vein-hosted ores, however these only represent about one-third of the resource base on average.”
He noted that a central goal of the program is, therefore, to begin researching technologies that can pre-concentrate disseminated ores.
“This group of ore types can be difficult to pre-concentrate with contemporary mineral processing technology; however, they host a significant proportion of valuable base and precious metals.”
According to CSIRO data, 3% of global direct energy consumption in the mining industry involves just crushing rock. He pointed out that, if pre-concentration technology could be applied more broadly, the worldwide impact would also be wider.
“The opportunity is to develop more energy efficient crushing and grinding processes that are integrated with a pre-concentration capability, to remove as much barren material from the ore as possible prior to subjecting the remaining ore to energy and water intensive fine grinding and concentration processes,” he said. “We’re focusing on the largest energy consuming portion of the mining value chain.”