Ausdrill maps the way to hidden gold with CSIRO tech

Ausdrill rigs at night. Image: Ausdrill.

Mining services company Ausdrill has launched operation of an x-ray technology that the CSIRO hopes will revolutionise a 500-year-old method for detecting and analysing unseen gold.

Developed by the Australian national science agency, and brought to market by Chrysos Corp, CSIRO describes the photon analyses technology as a faster, safer and more environmentally-friendly alternative to the conventional fire assay technique for gold analysis.

The first photon assay system is operational at Ausdrill’s MinAnalytical facility in Perth, with two more systems to be established in Western Australia’s Goldfields in the coming months. Ausdrill has long-term plans to take the innovation to Africa.

Fully automated, the technology dramatically reduces the turnaround time on assays from days to minutes, providing data to miners on gold grades in near real-time to support operational decisions, according to CSIRO.

Nick Cutmore, CSIRO research program director, said the agency partnered with investors to create Chrysos in late 2016 to bring the tech to market.

“We developed photon assay recognising the market need for innovative data solutions to drive better and faster decision making across the minerals value chain,” Dr Cutmore said.

“The result is a technology export opportunity for Australia worth $1 billion in gold mining alone, and a competitive edge for Australia’s mining industry on the global stage.”

CSIRO expects Australia, as the world’s second largest gold producer, to benefit from the opportunity to capture more value from mined resources, as well as increased operational efficiencies, revenue and productivity.

Chrysos chief executive Dirk Treasure said the company had a rapid growth plan and was well placed to disrupt the global gold analysis services market, offering near-real time, accurate analysis for the first time.

“With the first system now up and running at Ausdrill, we have successfully progressed the photon assay technology from concept through to a deployed product in just 16 months,” Treasure said.

“Our lease model has been well received by the industry, with photon assay technology benefits being delivered without any increase in operating or capital costs.”

The photon assay system will analyse at least 50,000 gold samples a month, at a similar cost to conventional methods. It can be applied to a range of other minerals, including silver and copper.

Ausdrill invested in Chrysos during the 2017 financial year, with plans to work with the company to commercialise the CSIRO-developed technology.

In an interview with Australian Mining last year, Ausdrill chief operating officer Andrew Broad said the investment was a way for the mining services company to be innovative using technology.

“It’s a lot quicker, a lot more efficient and arguably a lot more accurate,” Broad told Australian Mining.

He added that Ausdrill planned to use the technology to benefit its clients once the testing phase had been completed.

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