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:: Gold Industry Leaders Unite in Research Investments
The worlds' leading gold companies are making significant investments in collaborative research and development aimed at tackling some of the key economic and sustainability issues that are pressuring current and future business returns.
Many of these issues are global and cover almost every activity from resource identification through mining and processing to metal production. For instance, there is mounting pressure in many parts of the world to cut back or abandon the use of cyanide, which is a fundamental change in a long-standing industry technique.
And any re-introduction of gravity-based processes must suit contemporary mining operations, throughput volumes and various environmental standards - including the use of the increasingly valuable resource - water.
In this scenario - of many companies sharing a common interest in fundamental changes in processing technology - the collaborative research investment model has a valuable and highly effective role.
AMIRA International is the mineral industry's research association and its core business is the broking and facilitation of collaborative research projects that respond very directly to the members' needs.
Research Coordinator with AMIRA, Tony Bagshaw explains the industry's current position with collaborative investments in gold research. "Just a year ago, the gold industry has highlighted its international interest in changing gold processing technologies through the renewal of its AMIRA Gold Processing Technology Project, P420B," he said. "The twenty sponsors of P420B are a virtual 'Who's Who' of the gold industry - AngloGold, Barrick Gold, Gold Fields, Newmont, AurionGold, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Placer Dome and Sons of Gwalia are just some of the miners, supported by a number of the key suppliers of chemicals such as BOC Gases, Degussa, Orica Watercare and Australian Gold Reagents."
AMIRA is responsible to Project sponsors for the delivery of various outputs from the Project and manages the combined cash investment by sponsors of more than AUD$2.5m over three years. Overall Project funding is several times the $2.5m cash contribution from sponsors since there is a very significant 'in kind' contribution from them and the research providers alike.
According to Tony Bagshaw, AMIRA's key task is project facilitation - "we to listen to industry's needs and work with the researchers to develop, document and present research programs that will meet these needs in a cost effective way." "We are the brokers, the facilitators and the managers of the Projects that span companies, national borders and research boundaries. "As an industry owned association, we are trusted by all parties to be technically sound, commercially aware and impartial."
Collaborative Research team
P420B builds on the research outcomes of the predecessor programs P420 and P420A which spanned more than 6 years of continuous investment. The key research provider is the A J Parker Cooperative Research Centre for Hydrometallurgy, based at Murdoch University in Western Australia. In the spirit of collaboration, the 'Parker Centre' is a joint venture of Curtin and Murdoch Universities, CSIRO Minerals and the University of Queensland (Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre).
The research team at the Parker Centre has a long history of involvement in successful AMIRA collaborative projects related to the gold industry. These include P420A and P420, P173 and P173A Carbon-in-Pulp Gold Technology, P277 Fate of Cyanide in the Environment near Mine Tailings, P314 Gold Technology for Complex & Refractory Ores and P497 & P497A Cyanide Waste Management. For P420B, the core research team has been expanded to include specific expertise from McGill University in Canada, Monash University and the University of Western Sydney.
The research team has been very fortunate in just recently gaining a new member with a very pertinent background in the gold industry. Greg Wardell-Johnson spent three years in Queensland with the engineering group Minproc, mostly in field commissioning roles and specialising in leach-adsorption, elution and goldroom circuits. In 12 years of continuous service at Western Australia's Boddington Gold Mine, he managed differing roles from Client Representative on the design of the copper-gold supergene plant to Project Metallurgist on the Wandoo expansion project.
Greg was Mill Superintendent for the past 2 years and in this role he planned and managed the closure of the plant and the establishment of care and maintenance procedures. He can thus claim to be conversant with all phases of a processing plant from conceptual design, construction and commissioning through to closure and care and maintenance.
This field experience brings a practical operating perspective to the research activities at the Parker Centre and facilitates improved technology transfer.
The research program, which has been developed with extensive industry input, is in four discrete but inter-related areas: -
Reporting progress of the P420B work to the broad sponsor base is an essential component of the project.
Detailed reports are delivered six-monthly to sponsors. Sponsors' review meetings are held soon after these reports have been received, for formal presentations by the research team and detailed discussions of the findings.
The anniversary meeting is combined with a Parker Centre Conference/ Seminar/ Workshop on one or more subjects of relevance to the sponsors; this assists with technology transfer and training of site personnel.
The P420B project offers substantial benefits to companies by optimising current operations in the short term as well as identifying, assessing and developing new technologies for the long-term future of the industry.
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