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MEI Online: Commodities: Metallic Ores: Gold: Latest News: March 30th 2005


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:: R&D Grant set to Reduce Operating Costs by 25%!

Gekko announces AUD$2.4m R&D Program Launch

The Hon. Judith Troeth, Senator for Victoria, Australia, recently congratulated local company Gekko Systems, a company recognised internationally for its innovative mineral processing equipment and systems, on the launch of its latest Research & Development project — developing a process to treat ore underground.

Ms Troeth said Gekko had received a $1.2 million Australian Government innovation grant to help develop the revolutionary technology which will change the face of underground processing globally. The Australian Government grant will be matched by Gekko. As a result, a total of AUD $2.4m will be spent over a three year period on the project.

The R&D Program involves designing, building and testing a modular underground processing plant. “The key concept of this innovation is to crush and pre-concentrate the ore underground and take only the small valuable portion of the ore to the surface, a process the company refers to as ‘key hole processing’ " said Mr Sandy Gray, Technical Director of Gekko Systems.

It is noteworthy that the principal market opportunity is in gold mining, and that the technological inclination of this project is towards this sector. However, this is not to exclude other minerals from the market scope of this project: the emphasis on gold is merely a result of the high value of the metal, the relatively low concentrations in which it is present in many ore bodies and the great depths at which some gold mines work. All of these factors support the use of underground processing techniques.

The Hon. Judith Troeth (Senator for Victoria, Australia) with Sandy Gray and Elizabeth Lewis-Gray

The new process in its entirety will require a number of important innovations to be successful. The main over-riding innovation will be to apply existing knowledge or techniques in a new way. A number of the individual components are also novel:

  • All the components must have a smaller footprint and operate more efficiently than traditional equipment
  • In regards to the combination of technologies, the comminution step is vital to achieving higher recoveries downstream - ie how can comminution maximise gravity
  • The equipment must be sufficiently robust to operate in the aggressive underground environments
  • There is less room for operating error in the event of poor processing efficiency
  • All the components must work together in unison - complex process control will be required

A small number of mining operations have operated their crushing facilities underground, however, this Project will be unique in its attempt to ship to surface only the mineral concentrates. The concentrates are expected to represent only 10% of the total feed thus providing a quantum leap in economics.

The benefits of underground processing from a successful research and development outcome include:

  • Step change reduction in ore transport costs;
  • Possible reduction in mineral tailings given reduced handling and transportation of ore;
  • Community and environmental benefits such as reduced noise and surface dust;
  • Reduced total operating costs (estimated 25% reduction);
  • Reduction in total capital costs when transport systems and processing systems are assessed as a whole.
  • Potential to increase mining rates where they are currently limited by haulage capacity

Whilst the above benefits will vary in importance from mine to mine, depending on the particular circumstances of each operation, the compelling nature of the benefits of the proposed underground processing system is readily evident.

New R&D Manager at Gekko, Tim Hughes, is delighted to be spearheading the program. “Having spent 15 years operating in the industry I can really see the application’s potential and look forward to working on a project that has sound financial backing, industry support and the Gekko proven record of innovation and implementation.




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