Finding ‘invisible’ gold

Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, these are the states where mining is booming, where the advances are made.
But they are soon to be joined by another state – Tasmania, following the announcement of a new research facility that will make ‘invisible gold’ obtainable.
The University of Tasmania (UTAS) has secured a $2.5 million grant from gold miner Newcrest to develop a world leading mineral research facility.
Late last month the two signed an agreement that will see Newcrest contribute $1 million to the development of the research facility and an additional $1.5 million in ongoing support over the next five years. This gold research facility will use micro-analytical techniques developed at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Ore Deposits (CODES) to help solve ore definition issues.
The University stated it will also tell us about the type of minerals that occur within a deposit and the trace elements such as arsenic which could affect the extraction and recovery of gold.
Speaking to the director professor of CODES, Ross Large, he explained to Australian Mining how this facility will change gold mining.
“The basic reason why Newcrest has invested this money into the facility is because we’ve developed new technology for laser ablation in mineral testing and analysis,” Large said.
“We’ve been working with Newcrest for a number of years as they understand technology.
“This technology will allow us to look at the full range of gold deportment in sulphide minerals, unlocking previously hidden or unobtainable gold.”
Large explained that a problem with many gold deposits is that they are ‘invisible gold’, and either trapped in other minerals or deposits or so small that they can not be uncovered.
“With Newcrest’s backing we will be able to put into the lab technology that will be able to get right down to a nanoparticle level, and see the gold that may be hidden in silver or copper.
“The result may be more economic mineral discoveries in a shorter time frame with lower upfront costs.”
University of Tasmania deputy vice chancellor (research) Paddy Nixon described the agreement with Newcrest as “further recognition of CODES’ international research leadership over two decades.
“It helps to lay the foundation for both CODES’ future and that of the Australian mining industry,” Nixon stated.
Large added that with this new technology and funding, Tasmania is likely to become the new hub for analytical testing in mining within Australia and beyond “as this lab will be the only one like it in the world, the only one that has this level of technology for gold deportment”.
 Currently, CODES has three laser ablation piece of equipment and has spent a number of years working towards developing its wider ores focus.
“Where we differ is that we have focused on ore minerals and actually solving problems in mining, rather than taking a more academic approach to it.”
Large believes that it will take about six months for the fit out of the laboratory, the hiring of staff, and to get the program fully up and running.
“Over the next two years we are also looking to attract another six to eight companies which will provide funding,” Large told Australian Mining.
At the time of the interview Large was on his way to South Africa to hold a workshop at Anglo Gold Ashanti’s South African operations for gold analysis.

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