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:: AMIRA’s Geometallurgy Project
Knowing how rock will react in a complex mineral extraction process, such as leaching in acid or cyanide, before any ore is mined, is the resource world’s equivalent of unlocking the DNA of an orebody - with payoff potential that goes far beyond designing a better process. Uneconomic and low-grade orebodies could become attractive, the amount of valuable minerals sent to waste dumps reduced, mine life extended and potential environmental issues addressed before they become problems.
With so much to gain it is easy to understand why some of the world’s biggest mining companies have signed up as co-sponsors of the second phase of AMIRA International’s successful ‘geometallurgical mapping and mine modelling’ project - or GeMIII for short.
The theme of the work, which involves a wide range of scientific disciplines and research organisations, is to develop lowcost, practical methods and tools to help predict mine and process performance. For a mining company, knowing how a particular ore will react to blasting, crushing, grinding, flotation or leaching during processing is critical in making commercial decisions, and the sooner it has that knowledge the better.
In effect, the aim of GeMIII is to optimise orebodies prior to the process design stage of development by providing management with additional information relating to the processing behaviour that can be incorporated into the mine plan. GeMIII, also known as AMIRA International’s P843A project, is an interdisciplinary research and collaboration effort aimed at supporting the emerging industry trend of geometallurgy - effectively the merging of the worlds of geology and metallurgy.
Research providers cover the full range of the mining process, from exploration to mining and process controls. Key researchers are from the ARC Centre for Excellence in Ore Deposits from the University of Tasmania, and three research organisations at the University of Queensland - the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre, W.H. Bryan Mining Geology Research Centre and the Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation.
CSIRO’s Minerals Down Under Flagship researchers, working through the Parker CRC for Integrated Hydrometallurgy Solutions, have been brought into the second phase of the project. CSIRO researcher Dr Laura Kuhar says the GeMIII project is focusing on major long-term industry challenges by addressing problems common to many copper, gold and nickel deposits. “It aims to provide opportunities for new options in the processing of average to low-grade metallurgically complex ores,”Dr Kuhar says. “Conventionally, a mining company might look at grade and tonnage in an ore deposit, and from there work out how best to process the ore and which areas of the orebody are the most valuable. “But there might be other critical factors, such as hardness or impurities in the ore, which might cause a future environmental problem. The aim of GeMIII is to consider the critical geological properties of an ore deposit and apply that to metallurgy."
Simplified, GeMIII is the mineral world’s equivalent of a DNA test. It is similar to looking at a person’s genes, at birth and predicting what’s going to happen to them in later life. It is the promise of significantly enhanced knowledge of how an orebody will behave that has led to substantial financial support from major mining companies, with 12 sponsor sites already nominated for future work.
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