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:: CSIRO Meets Investors over Gold Processing Technology
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has begun early discussions with private investors for the development of new gold-processing technology.
The concept hopes to build on the patented technique developed by the Federal Government agency for recovering gold without the use of cyanide.
Canada’s Barrick Gold, half owner of the Super Pit, is the only gold miner in the world using this technology at its Goldstrike operation in the US.
CSIRO gold processing team leader Paul Breuer and senior project engineer Rueben Rajasingam met with executives from privately owned Prima Resources in Menzies on Tuesday.
Prima was founded by three former Alcoa mechanical engineers in 2013, including Linden Roper, who conceived the concept of combining a crusher, screen and ball mill into a single unit.
A prototype of the company’s high-pressure crushing mill has been successfully tested at an unnamed gold mine in Kazakhstan over the past three years, according to Prima Resources spokeswoman Gaye Money.
The mill reduces energy consumption by up to 50 per cent, according to Prima, which wants to partner with the CSIRO to combine its cyanide-free technology into new mobile processing platforms.
Mr Breuer said discussions were still in their conceptual stages, but the technology had the potential to transform the gold sector in the same way as carbon-in-leach processing in the 1980s.
Instead of cyanide, the CSIRO’s leaching technique uses ion-exchange resins to recover gold from a chemical solution which is non-toxic.
Mr Breuer said the development could have massive implications for smaller miners in the Goldfields. “It’s not unheard of (mobile processing plants) but it’s never been done with an alternative to cyanide,” he said. “Most of the time the regulatory burden with the approvals process and the cost to build a processing plant exceeds the value of the mine. “But if we can provide an environmentally friendly alternative which is mobile, that has the potential to open up deposits which are uneconomic.”
Ms Money, the daughter of well-known Goldfields prospector Robert Money who made a fortune in the 1960s Poseidon nickel boom and founded gold miner Money Mining, said the concept embraced the ideas boom trumpeted by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with some “bush ingenuity”.
She said discussions with iron ore miners, including Fortescue Metals Group, had already begun to adapt the technology which is in the process of being patented in Australia.
But she said the biggest potential was in gold, one of the few bright spots on commodity markets this year. “If we can prove this works in the Goldfields we can take it to the world,” she said. “A mobile plant which is environmentally friendly means we could truck it to Kalgoorlie, Ora Banda, Menzies ... we could take it anywhere. “From there you can transport higher grade concentrate to a mill. Imagine the ground that opens up.”
Last week’s visit by the CSIRO also included a tour of the Spargos Reward gold project near Kambalda which was last mined during World War II.
The agency was consulted over a proposal to clean up historic tailings which have scarred the landscape but could also have up to $6 million in recoverable gold.
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