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:: Characterising Bauxite’s Future
Work being done by the Parker CRC for Integrated Hydrometallurgy Solutions - through CSIRO Minerals - into the characterisation of bauxite is helping a ‘new breed’ of mineral exploration companies, such as Queensland-based Cape Alumina, establish themselves in a marketplace which up to now has been dominated by multinationals.
Cape Alumina CEO Dr Paul Messenger says China’s emergence as a dominant player in the market is changing the traditional alumina/aluminium industry and creating opportunities for Cape Alumina to become recognised as a supplier of metallurgical-grade bauxite.
One component of securing the company’s reputation has been its use of the Parker Centre for independent characterisation work.
“Through its work we have been able to gain a good understanding of the mineralogy and metallurgical characteristics of the resources we have," Dr Messenger says.
Dr Messenger says this helps identify key markets and in turn provide investors and potential customers with a higher level of comfort in the company. “Once we’ve characterised a sample, we then determine the ‘processability’ under planned refinery conditions."
One of the key results of the work the company did with the Parker Centre was confirming the low boehmite content of Cape Alumina’s ores at Wenlock, on Cape York, north Queensland. Dr Messenger says the results showed the ores were predominantly gibbsitic (at 65 per cent) with low boehmite (less than four per cent), meaning the bauxite could be washed and shipped directly to China.
CSIRO Minerals’ Dr Peter Smith, who worked with Cape Alumina on the project, says a range of characterisation techniques help uncover what mineral phases are in a sample and in what quantities. Grades are then confirmed through chemical extractions.
“Once we’ve characterised a sample, we then determine the ‘processability’ under planned refinery conditions. This can help companies better understand the economics of their deposit," Dr Smith says.
The full story can be found in the June issue of Process, which will be released on Monday 25 June 2007. A pdf of the magazine is available now at: www.csiro.au/files/Publications/CSIRO_Process_0706.pdf
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