In many base metals mines only 1-2% of mined material is valuable minerals, with long term trend being negative. Absolute energy efficiency of crushing/grinding of recovered ore fragments is not much more than 1%. Therefore, it is not surprising that major cause of declining productivity and profitability in mining industry, is caused by declining ore grade. Only new technology could reverse such trend.
There are number of deposits, which are without mineralised outcrops, or near surface enrichment zones. With ore being covered with hundred or thousands of meters of waste rock. Removal of billions of tonnes of waste rock is not just enormously expensive, but also creates huge potential long-term environmental liability. Best example of such case is gigantic Olympic Dam copper/uranium deposit. In some cases of deep deposits, grade may not high enough to justify development of large underground mine. In densely populated countries, creations of large open pits and waste dumps, may not socially acceptable, despite economic gains coming from mining. In-Situ Recovery of Minerals is likely to be the way for recovery of minerals from underground deposits, without scaring the Earth’s surface.
Confluence of recent developments in leaching technology and new methods of in-situ rock mass preconditioning, spurred imagination of SMI researchers, to come up with potentially new method for recovery of minerals, particularly primary sulphides. In the case of copper minerals, more than 70% copper is in the form of chalcopyrite. Therefore, SMI research task group, headed by Dr Nenad Djordjevic, focused their attention to in-situ leaching of primary copper sulphides, aiming for relatively fast and high recovery of copper. Latest software tools, allowed researchers to test their ideas and come up with new concepts that may allow efficient recovery of valuable minerals from otherwise, untouchable deposits.
This Project is part of SMI’s Next-Mine initiative, and involves researches from a number of SMI centres: JKMRC, BRC, CSRM and CWiMI. SMI researchers are forging collaboration with their colleagues from related disciplines within UQ, as well as international collaboration. Project team will engage with representatives of mining industry, seeking their comments and opportunity to further develop technology and validate new concepts in practice.
Project Title: In-Situ Recovery
Research Leader: Nenad Djordjevic
Collaboratives disciplines: Mining Engineering, Earth Sciences, Bioengineering, Microbiology
Project Start Date: 12th August 2013
Project Completion Date: 30th June 2013