Unlocking Complex Orebodies with High Voltage Pulse Technology


A Collaborative Research Program on HVP technology has been established by the SMI-JKMRC with the aim of attaining a deeper understanding of HVP through fundamental studies and sufficiently developing the technology to enable industrial implementation. The main goals of the collaborative are:

  1. A better understanding of the characteristics of rocks that make the HVP process viable
  2. Development and testing of equipment designs that can apply the technology at full scale
  3. Experimental and economic evaluation of mining circuit flowsheet options that incorporates HVP technology

Comminution which is used to break ore fragments to achieve sufficient liberation so that minerals of interest can be separated and extracted, is the single largest consumer of energy in most mining operations. It is also the process which dictates the throughput possible for the mining operation.  As such, comminution is an attractive arena for technical innovation and development of disruptive technologies. High Voltage Pulse (HVP) comminution is such a technology.  Developments in this area have the potential to unlock low grade complex orebodies, currently uneconomic to process.

HVP comminution applies electrical energy directly to ore fragments to achieve selective breakage of particles containing metalliferous mineral grains. In the past 10 years, the SMI-JKMRC has conducted extensive research using HVP electrical comminution technology for the mineral industry and have become the leaders in this field. Three major applications for the mining industry have been identified and explored by the research team to date:

  • Pre‐weakening – HVP generates cracks/microcracks which pre‐weaken ore particles for improved downstream comminution circuit energy efficiency or higher circuit throughput in a particular comminution design. SMI‐JKMRC simulations suggest potential energy cost savings in the order of $19 Mpa for a 2,000 tph operation;
  • Pre‐concentration – HVP selectively fragments particles containing high conductivity/permittivity minerals so can be used in conjunction with size‐based separation to achieve ore pre‐concentration. This selectivity allows for early gangue rejection as well as decreasing the economic cut‐off grade, by turning waste into ore;
  • Enhanced Liberation – HPV results in preferential liberation of minerals resulting in improved recovery in the downstream separation processes. HVP can potentially enable alternative separation technologies, such as coarse particle flotation, to be viable.

The SMI-JKMRC believes HVP is a disruptive technology that has the potential to create a step-change for the mining industry and research in this area is imperative. This research program, if successful, will produce benefits in line with the Complex Orebodies Program’s key focus and research areas including Low Footprint Processing (i.e. alternative processing), Variable and Flexibility (i.e. flexible processing) and Energy and Efficiency (i.e. novel comminution and separation). The proposed HVP research will be a cross-collaborative study involving the fields of geology, mining and minerals processing and will involve all relevant stakeholders – Research Institutions, Miners & METS – to take this technology from the laboratory to industrial application.