UniSA and ARC Centre of Excellence link up for green mining

The University of South Australia (UniSA) will partner with the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence to develop technologies and improved techniques for extracting and processing minerals that use less water, less energy and minimise waste.

UniSA researchers and partners in the $48 million ARC Centre of Excellence for eco-efficient beneficiation of minerals will be working to develop technologies and improved techniques for extracting and processing minerals that use less water, much less energy and minimise waste.

In a landscape of decreasing ore grades, scarce water supply and energy, UniSA aims to ensure future minerals mining is greener and more sustainable.

UniSA professor William Skinner said support for the Centre of Excellence acknowledged a step-change in the way minerals production was managed.

“The mining and minerals processing industry has always looked for efficiencies, but more than ever, the industry is embracing long-term environmental sustainability and looking at how new technologies and the opportunities presented by industry 4.0, can advance metals mining to achieve the best outcomes for business and the environment,” Skinner said.

“Our work will focus on improving the speed of minerals separation and making the process more efficient and robust and to do that we will be focussing on better understanding hydrodynamic systems, unique chemistries and the limits of minerals separation.”

David Beattie and Marta Krasowska will join Skinner on the UniSA research team.

“Together, we bring a platform of expertise in flotation, using bubbles, emulsions and foams and we are hoping to broaden our knowledge of how these processes can be applied more powerfully and selectively to support much faster separations,” Skinner said.

Skinner said the long-term goal of the seven-year research collaboration was to develop a highly productive but zero-emissions mine.

“We certainly have a target to double energy and water efficiency by 2030,” Skinner said.

“Our second goal is to really reduce the loss of high-value metals during minerals processing. Our target is to cut that loss by 90 per cent because the demand for key metals is escalating and we need to find ways to meet that demand while respecting the planet.”

The Centre of Excellence is led by the University of Newcastle and involves researchers from Deakin, Monash, Queensland, Melbourne, Curtin and University of New South Wales, a host of international universities from the United States, the United Kingdom and Chile, the CSIRO and industry partners FLSmidth, AMIRA, Jord and Outotec.

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