CRC ORE staff David La Rosa and Eiman Amini at the production trial site at Minera San Cristóbal in Bolivia.
Globally, conventional mining methods are becoming less efficient and more expensive. Fewer high-grade ore pockets remain and they are increasingly difficult to access.
The Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE) aims to use innovation to improve value and reverse declining productivity in the mining industry.
CRC ORE’s Grade Engineering technology will help miners improve the recovery of valuable ore by identifying which separation process is most effective for the specific ore’s characteristics. Less energy and water will be used by rejecting most of the waste material at the beginning of the value chain, then only milling the higher-grade material to extract the desired mineral.
A full-scale production trial of Grade Engineering is currently underway at Minera San Cristóbal S.A. (MSC) in Bolivia — a major global producer of zinc, lead and silver.
The trial involves CRC ORE and its participants, mine owner Sumitomo Corporation, and equipment supplier Metso.
Dr Ben Adair, CRC ORE CEO says initial results of the trial are impressive. “So far, results show that by applying Grade Engineering to areas previously designated as ‘mineralised waste’, the feed grade to the mill can be increased more than 2.5 times,” he says, adding that waste material can potentially be converted into high-grade ore feed.
“In this case, the big benefit of Grade Engineering is its potential ability to extend the life of the mine and add up to $1 billion to its value,” says Dave King, MSC operations director.
Australian mine operators are keenly watching the trial and CRC ORE is currently working with Australian participants to secure equivalent trials at their production sites.
— Brendan Fitzpatrick
This article was published in KnowHow Issue 9.