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:: World-leading Minerals Processing Research Recognised with Innovation Award
Technological advances made by the Parker Cooperative Research Centre for Integrated Hydrometallurgy Solutions have cemented Australia’s reputation as a world leader in minerals processing and last night earned the Centre a 2007 Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Association Award for Excellence in Innovation.
The Parker Centre, which specialises in improving the chemical and physical processes that extract metals from ores, has been awarded the Award in recognition of its development and application of sophisticated techniques to enhance large-scale solid-liquid separation processes. The work has focused on gravity thickeners, which are used widely throughout the minerals industry to separate tens of millions of tonnes of fine solids from process water.
Parker Centre researcher John Farrow (CSIRO Minerals) said the key to the Centre’s success was building a fundamental understanding of the key physical and chemical processes affecting the performance of gravity thickeners. This understanding has allowed researchers to develop mathematical models to visualise the complex flow behaviour within key regions of gravity thickeners and to identify ways to enhance performance.
“Gravity thickeners are used across all key mineral sectors, including alumina, gold, base metals, iron ore and mineral sands, as well as other industries, such as water treatment and paper manufacturing," Dr Farrow said. The Centre’s innovative research is helping Australia’s minerals industry remain competitive in a global arena at a time where there is increasing competition.
“Within the next ten to 15 years, Australia will be competing head-to-head with emerging resource markets in Brazil, India, China, Vietnam and many parts of Africa," Dr Farrow said. “That means to remain competitive Australian operations need to become more efficient. That includes increasing the capacity and productivity of our current plants without investing heavily in new capital. Our advances in thickener technology realised benefits of at least $295 million (net present value) for the minerals industry from 1995 to 2003. Our research has also helped achieve considerable environmental benefits through better utilisation of scare water resources: more efficient thickener operation has reduced the demand on local water supplies. With further development of our capabilities, I’d be very surprised if over the next few years we don’t generate even greater financial and environmental benefits than those achieved to date."
The Parker Centre was established in 1992 to coordinate the hydrometallurgical research being conducted at CSIRO, Curtin University and Murdoch University. In 1999, it attracted additional funding from the CRC Programme on the back of several science breakthroughs. In 2005, the Centre became officially known as the Parker CRC for Integrated Hydrometallurgy Solutions after a third round of funding. Today, it is the world’s largest publicly funded hydrometallurgy research organisation, with 25 participants including all of Australia’s major minerals companies.
A major asset for Australia’s rapidly growing minerals industry, the Parker Centre brings together world-class, multidisciplinary researchers working on improving processes to extract alumina, gold, nickel and copper, minimising water usage and waste generation.
The Centre continues to improve the efficiency and international competitiveness of the Australian minerals industry, transferring research benefits to industry and bridging the gap between laboratory measurements and the operation of industrial processing plants.
The Centre was presented with its CRC Association Award for Excellence in Innovation by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Jim Peacock, at the conference’s Gala Dinner on Thursday 17 May.
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