Digging deeper leads to national recognition for mining researcher

24 Jun 2012

Changing the face of underground mass mining in Australia has led to national recognition for a Queensland engineer. 

Professor Gideon Chitombo, based at the WH Bryan Mining and Geology Research Centre (BRC), Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) at The University of Queensland, received the ATSE Clunies Ross Award tonight for his contribution to improving efficiency and effectiveness of mineral extraction. As the world searches beyond its shallow ore deposits, Professor Chitombo is working with the mining industry to develop and optimize low cost, high capacity mass mining methods to access minerals at depths of greater than 1,000m and approaching 2,000m. He is exploring the possibility of ‘super caves’ that will allow up to 100,000 tonnes of ore to be safely and economically extracted per day from a single panel. These ultra-deep pits willsafely mine depths of greater than 1,000m while at the same time achieving the large tonnages mined in today’s open pits. “I am driven by a desire to prepare the resources industry for a future in which minerals will not be as easily accessible and we need to work harder to extract them,”Professor Chitombo said. “I’m very proud this collaborative work has been recognised with this award – it acknowledges the value of the contribution of a large team over many years.” 

Established in 1991, the ATSE Clunies Ross Award promotes the development of science and technology in Australia’s interest. “Gideon’s research has been fundamental in improving the efficiency of the mining industry, both in Australia and overseas. He is worthy of this recognition of his research,” said BRC Director Professor Margie Scott. “The ATSE Clunies Ross Award is prestigious within the scientific community and I congratulate Gideon on his achievement,” added SMI Director Professor Chris Moran. In recent years, the focus of Professor Chitombo’s research has moved from a purely mining production focus to one that also considers sustainability issues such as water conservation, energy consumption, rehabilitation and social responsibility. “There is still a lot of work to do in this area but, with on-going support, we can make the minerals industry more sustainable, which will be to everyone’s benefit,” he said.