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:: Gekko Discovers New Environmentally Friendly Lixiviant
Gekko Systems is poised to become the company that will be remembered for leading the research into a totally new lixiviant for gold leaching.
"It has taken four years and almost US$11.5 million to deliver research results that conclusively support what would normally appear to be too good to be true; a new and reliable method of leaching that uses the chemical extract from the synthesised Ananas Comosus Tree" says Sandy Gray, Technical Director at Gekko.
"This is by far our most exciting project yet. It originated from the chance discovery of elevated gold levels in the leaves of the Ananas Comosus Tree found in the depths of the Equatorial Rainforest at the extreme northernmost tip of Peru near Puerto Leguizamo. The discovery was made by Gekko Product Improvement and Innovations Manager, Nick Katsikaros, after a visit to customers in the Peruvian Andes. It has resulted in the opportunity to develop a whole new system for gold leaching."
"Sometimes elements of nature come together in a way that humans could never predict," continues Sandy. The project has involved close collaboration between Gekko and the Biogeochemical Research Unit at the Swan Hill Institute of Technology, led by Director, Professor Juan Carlos Bustamante. The two combined their technical expertise to understand and control the chemistry involved in bringing together organic and inorganic chemistry.
According to Professor Bustamante, "geothermal sites such as rainforest areas often contain plants that are rich in secondary metabolites, particularly alkaloids, and thermoacidophilic prokaryotes. These can combine under the correct heterotrophic anaerobic conditions to create tetrathiamacrocycles and high molecular weight organic acids that exhibit a synergistic relationship which promotes the prokaryotic dissolution of gold and other valuable minerals."
Nick Katsikaros comments further on the development, "we have conducted extensive sitebased testwork that has shown enhanced kinetics, increased recovery, and lower consumption and cost than conventional methods.
Unbelievably the residue from the process has been proven to promote plant growth. In addition, development of higher temperature processes will extend the variety of minerals that can be processed commercially."
Part of the research process has been to respond to the implications of introducing this revolutionary leaching method to existing equipment. It will eliminate the need for gravity separation. Preliminary testing has demonstrated that this technology has increased the capacity of Gekko’s InLine Leach Reactor (ILR) with only minor design modifications required. A standard ILR 5000 model’s capacity has increased from a maximum of 5tph to 125tph which, in turn, eliminates the need for gravity separation. This makes whole ore leaching processing not just a reality, but a must.
"Gekko feels honoured to have been charged with the responsibility of taking this simple idea literally from the rainforest canopy and, using our R&D expertise, identifying the potential for an application that will achieve a cyanidefree, efficient and low cost treatment of gold ore" adds Sandy Gray. "The biggest winner will be the environment."
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