Advance Queensland Industrial Research Fellowship – Overcoming pyrite challenges in Queensland’s ore reserves and mine tailings

Liza Forbes, Unzile Yenial Arslan and Mayra Jefferson Montoya are working in collaboration with Glencore’s Mount Isa Mines, Magotteaux Australia and Solway Technologies, on ways to extract copper from reserves considered too difficult to process because of high levels of pyrite.

The project brings together world class expertise to meet this challenge at Queensland's largest source of copper production. Ore bodies around the world are becoming more difficult to process as high grade material becomes depleted, but we need to continue to mine increasingly complex ore bodies to meet metal demand.

The Mount Isa Mines copper business alone processes about 6.5 million tonnes of ore every year, providing employment for about 2,700 people across its North Queensland copper production operations, including Ernest Henry Mining, its Mount Isa Copper Smelter and Glencore’s Copper Refineries Ltd in Townsville.

This project brings together some of the world’s best researchers to develop new processing solutions for better separation of pyrite from copper bearing minerals to recover more of the base metal for processing, and reduce the amount lost to tailings.

In the past, copper recovery technologies were not as efficient as they are today. This means that many historical mine tailings contain more valuable material than new ore bodies currently being mined.

If we can extract metals such as copper and cobalt from mine tailings, we can change the way we view tailings dams – instead of being a waste dump they can become a valuable resource.


This project is undertaken by the Sustainable Minerals Institute’s Julius Kruttschnitt Minerals Research Centre (JKMRC) Flotation Chemistry Group.