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:: International Research Team Heads North to Alaska
An international research team from universities in Australia and Canada has just headed to the Alaskan wilderness to investigate and enhance the practical use of froth and bubbles at a remote mine site.
The research campaign, sponsored by the worlds biggest zinc producer Teck Cominco, is serious business aimed at making money and advancing science.
Campaign team members Marco Vera and Kym Runge of the University of Queenslands Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre said a lot of effort had gone into the research program being undertaken in Alaska. The campaign is part of the international JKMRC-AMIRA P9 project the worlds longest running mineral processing research project and the more recent P541A project involving the Ian Wark Research Institute at the University of South Australia and the JKMRC.
The team will conduct their research from June to August 2002 at Teck Comincos Red Dog mine, located inside the Arctic circle in northern Alaska.
Mr Vera said the team of ten researchers from three universities, including McGill Universitys mineral processing group from Montreal, would take more than a thousand samples of lead-zinc product during the research period.
Essentially the three institutions coming together are bringing with them their own areas of specialisation dealing with one key aspect of mineral processing that being the froth flotation process. These areas of specialisation include the JKMRCs flotation circuit modelling and simulation, Ian Wark Research Institutes surface chemistry, and McGill Universitys development of sensors to measure gas dispersion in flotation cells.
Kym Runge said the Red Dog campaign follows a similar exercise at Northparkes mine in New South Wales during August 2001, which also involved participation from McGill Universitys mineral processing group. She said the Northparkes experience helped the Australian and Canadian teams get to know each others stylistic approaches to applied research.
Teck Cominco Research Senior Research Engineer Dr Barun Gorain said his company planned to use the knowledge from the joint AMIRA P9 and P541 campaign to develop a comprehensive model for its new Red Dog VIP flotation circuit.
The successful modelling of a flotation circuit is only possible when experts in flotation circuit modelling, froth chemistry and cell measurements work together in a plant environment to understand the process from different viewpoints, he said. Dr Gorain said the work would also help Red Dog develop a better flotation operating strategy based on the application of new techniques emanating from the projects.
He said the campaign would provide an opportunity for Red Dog plant personnel to observe new technologies like JKFrothCam and the McGill bubble size and gas velocity measurement devices in action. It should help operators to obtain different viewpoints and increase technical awareness leading to quicker implementation of new technologies in the plant, Dr Gorain said.
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