Two headline technologies for the mining sector are optimising the mining process for individual deposits and unlocking additional value for mining operations, Brendan Fitzpatrick reports.
To stay profitable and environmentally sustainable, mining faces the challenge of extracting efficiency through technological and process innovation. Grade Engineering® and the Integrated Extraction Simulator (IES) are innovations developed by the CRC for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE) to assist mines improve the recovery of valuable ore.
A range of mining companies, plus mining equipment, technology and service suppliers, and research organisations collaborated on the development of these technologies with funding from the Federal Government. It comes at a critical time for the industry, which faces increasing pressure to become more profitable and environmentally sustainable.
Conventional extraction methods are becoming harder and more expensive to implement as ore quality drops, mines get deeper and water becomes scarcer.
In an ideal scenario, miners could target the mineral they are after. However, mineral-bearing ores are heterogeneous with different levels of concentration. The challenge is to find ways to extract and process the ores and reject waste early in the extraction process.
Bringing tech to the process
Grade Engineering is an integrated approach to extracting metal more efficiently and improving the overall recovery of valuable ores from individual deposits. “It goes beyond the industry mindset that simply increasing throughout will bring more profit for a mining operation,” says Dr Ben Adair, CEO of CRC ORE. “It factors in the ore quantity and quality.”
Rejecting waste as early as possible in the mining process can significantly decrease the operating costs of a mine. Grade Engineering utilises a range of techniques and strategies that sorts and separates mined materials throughout all stages of the mining process.
Adair says the power Grade Engineering offers is a targeted assessment tailored to specific ores, which determines what lever has the potential to best maximise mine performance. Benefits include decreased costs; improved investment rate of return; reduced energy and water use with fewer emissions; delivery of higher feed grades and lower capital expenditure for start-up or expansion.
The next generation of mining simulation
CRC ORE’s Integrated Extraction Simulator provides insight into the entire process, from the mine to the mill. It combines existing industry standard simulation models with new models from diverse research and development sources. “It is the next generation of fast, reliable and accurate simulation across the value chain,” says Adair.