Resource Mining Corporation (RMC) has seen increased efficiency in its organic acid leach technology.
The company’s recent tests has reportedly optimised the leach process, and has achieved nickel extraction of up to 98% from saprolite material after less than 30 minutes.
Test work on limonite material confirmed RMC’s previous work with leach extractions of up to 80% after 90 minutes.
According to RMC the key parameters in the latest tests related to residence time and temperature.
"The relatively short leaching time has the potential to require a smaller processing plant and provide higher throughput compared to traditional inorganic acid plants, and this is likely to improve the cost dynamics for tropical nickel laterite deposits and miners," RMC managing director Warwick Davies said.
RMC received a grant from Commercialisation Australia late last year, which was used to fund work including commercial laboratory testing to refine the process to proof of concept, as well as the hydrometallurgical process of acid regeneration.
It’s research is aiming to develop the proof of concept for an organic leaching process that company has been applying to tropical clay laterite structure that exist at its Wowo Gap nickel and cobalt deposits in Papua New Guinea, and for treating other siliceous nickel laterite orebodies.
According to Davies "the organic leaching process provides a more cost effective alternative to a standard high pressure acid leach process, and the grant is especially important because it has the potential to change the project economics from a development perspective and better for the environment.
"Commercialisation includes the recovery of the organic acid from the leachate after metal ions have been removed," he added.
The nickel industry is expected to grow in the coming years with output expected and actually exceed pre-global financial crisis levels, reaching 197 000 tonnes in 2011-12, IBISWorld believes.
Part of this is due to its close ties to the steel industry, which will grow as the demand for infrastructure support increases up until 2016, on the back of the booming LNG industry.
Much higher prices will drive revenues by nearly 22 per cent to $3.58 billion, a massive turn around after nearly halving in 2008-09.
This projected growth has seen non-mining companies, such as Samsung, get into the nickel market.
The Samsung Group is in talks with emerging miner Metals X to invest in a $2.2 billion nickel project near the meeting of the WA, NT, and SA borders.
"We have held discussions with many international entities including the Samsung C&T Corporation," it said.
RMC is continuing with downstream processing testwork programs to recover the nickel cobalt from leached slurries.
Results are expected in April.