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MEI Online: Sizing, Classification & Sorting: Latest News: June 5th 2013


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:: Copper NuWaveTM


The trial of a new mineral-sorting technology, under way at Kennecott Utah Copper in the US, is expected to set a new standard for copper ore processing.

The technology, called Copper NuWave™, maximises mineral recovery while reducing waste and cutting water and energy consumption. It is part of the wider field of work Rio Tinto is doing in the mineral-sorting arena to streamline processes and boost efficiency.

The process uses microwaves to “excite” the copper species (or types) within individual rocks, allowing a computer to determine the rocks’ copper content. The copper-rich rocks progress through the process while those rocks containing low or no copper are discarded, thereby saving considerable amounts of water and energy involved in the crushing and processing of barren rock. Rapid advances in computing power provide the platform for a very large number of rocks to be processed every second.

Rio Tinto’s head of Innovation, John McGagh, said: “Copper NuWave™ is a good example of efficient and responsible mining, and will provide Rio Tinto with significant benefits as copper grades decline worldwide. “We know the science of this process works because we have tested it in Australia under laboratory conditions using the world’s largest commercially available microwave," he said. “The mine trial at Kennecott is the next stage in the development, during which we are monitoring how it works on site in a copper mine. Once the trial is complete, we plan to work with our partners to scale up Copper NuWave™ to make it commercially viable. “As minerals become harder to mine, from deeper mines in more remote areas, it is innovation from modern science and technology that is the key to meeting this challenge in a safe and environmentally-friendly way," he said.

The partners that John refers to are British company e2V, which contributes the microwave generator technology, Norwegian company Tomra, which is developing the capability for scaling up, and the University of Queensland in Australia and Nottingham University in the UK, which are research partners.




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