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MEI Online: Commodities: Metallic Ores: Copper: Latest News: March 10th 2014


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:: P1136 - In Situ Fracture Stimulation and Leaching Project


AMIRA International has responded to the industry need to develop improved processing methods for economic recovery of low grade copper, by initiating the development of a number of projects within our Low Grade Copper portfolio.

This action was motivated by a number of factors including: the large, and growing, inventory of low grade copper resources that fall below the cut-off grade for conventional concentrate production, and the significant economic impact successfully implemented new technology would have on low grade copper resources.

One of the projects within the Low Grade Copper portfolio is P1136 In-Situ Fracture Stimulation and Leaching project, which is currently in circulation. The project targets deposits that can only be made economically viable if both the mining and milling costs are circumvented. In-situ leaching provides a potential option to achieve this objective.

The aim of this project is to enable viable in-situ fracture stimulation and leaching technology for suitable hard rock sulfides mineral deposits. In addition to circumventing mining and milling costs, the in-situ leaching also offers the potential to overcome the capital costs of pre-stripping and significantly reduce above-ground processing plant costs.

This project will be conducted by drawing on various research disciplines from CSIRO and will apply existing fracture stimulation technology, developed for the petroleum industry, to determine the extent to which target mineral veins can be made accessible to leaching fluids by induced fracturing. The target application would be geological formations in which sulfide minerals are present as late stage veins or in strata bound ore.

Laboratory hydraulic fracturing will be conducted on large blocks (400mm in each dimension) of representative ore under stress conditions that simulate the pressures and stresses as they occur, in situ, at the selected field site. Proven modelling methods will then be used to design the field-scale hydraulic fracturing campaign. Proxy methods will be developed to quantify the extent of target mineral exposure to induced fractures without actual leaching.

These methods, used in combination, will provide the information required to evaluate the economic attractiveness of the technology, prior to undertaking actual leaching. Comprehensive groundwater modelling and reactive transport modelling will also be undertaken to manage and demonstrate solution management and containment within the fractured zone, again ahead of actual leaching.

The project is designed to overcome the main hurdles to effective deployment of in-situ fracturing and leaching, which include:

  • Solution containment and hydraulic management to prevent groundwater contamination
  • Ore permeability and the extent to which existing or induced fractures can effectively access and intercept target minerals - particularly relevant in the context of hard rock mineralisation
  • The ability to leach target minerals for economically effective metal recovery.




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