Swinburne, OZ set new standard in tailings safety

Swinburne

mDetect's ground-breaking early warning system will help mining companies detect weaknesses in dams that secure highly toxic mining waste by-products. Image: mDetect.

A Swinburne University of Technology spin-out has used a Federal Government grant to mass-produce a technology which enhances safety in mine tailings dams.

The company, mDetect, takes advantage of particles known as muons to detect weaknesses in the dams, improving environmental standards and removing catastrophic risk.

Muons are heavier version of electrons, and the technology takes advantage of this to produce X-ray style scans through dense dam walls.

The $1.5 million grant came from the Federal Government’s Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) Commercialisation Fund and is hoped to fast track production of the system.

OZ Minerals has already deployed the system at its tailings dam in the Carrapateena Province in South Australia.

OZ Minerals general manager of Carrapateena Province Myles Johnston said the company understood the importance of dam safety and of using technologies like this to enhance them.

“OZ Minerals recognises our responsibility to meaningfully contribute to regional economic and social wellbeing as stronger communities create value for all stakeholders,” Johnston said.

“We congratulate mDetect on being awarded the AMGC grant, and the team at Carrapateena is excited to be collaborating with mDetect on the development of a fully supported, flexible 3D muon monitoring system.”

Swinburne vice-chancellor Pascale Quester said this technology strongly represented Swinburne and its dedication to improving various industries.

“Swinburne is focused on ensuring that the vital research we do has significant positive impact,” Quester said.

“The important work of mDetect, led by Swinburne’s Professor Alan Duffy, is emblematic of Swinburne’s cutting-edge research and our ability to market innovative ideas.

“This is paving the way for successful research commercialisation that provides real solutions for industries.”

The AMGC was established in 2015 by the Federal Government and works to transform the Australian manufacturing centre.

AMGC managing director Jens Goennemann said the new technology was another example of the organisation’s effectiveness.

“mDetect is proof of the power of collaboration and what can be achieved when researchers and industry come together to commercialise world leading ideas,” Goennemann said.

“Any investment in the prevention of tailings dam failures not only ensures mining operators can operate safely, but also reduces the chance of untold ecological, social and financial impacts from such adverse events.”

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