Enhancing unit operations for mineral processing

We're boosting efficiencies for the minerals processing industry with significant and tailored improvements to the performance of existing unit operations and by developing new process designs for different mineral commodities.

The Challenge

Efficient mining and mineral processing

Several steps called 'unit operations' are used in minerals processing to extract minerals or metals from ore. These broadly cover particle size reduction, particle size separation, concentration and dewatering.

Industrial equipment is used at each step. Processes can also be energy, water and chemical-intensive.

Sub-optimal unit operation performance costs companies money. The challenge is to identify opportunities to improve unit operations and implement solutions.

Our Response

Technological solutions

We can help lower a company's operating costs by optimising their unit processes so that less resources, energy, maintenance or downtime is required to achieve the same, if not better output.

We draw on our world-leading expertise to develop and deliver a range of technological solutions to improve unit operations.

Advanced mineral characterisation technologies

Our advances in mineral characterisation include:

  • the commercialisation of a fully integrated cathodoluminescence detection system into electron microprobes for enhanced light element detection and mapping
  • development of expanded mineral libraries for mineral liberation studies using QEMSCAN
  • advanced understanding of uranium deportment in a wide range of Australian ores to assist the development of new processing options.

More efficient suspension pumping

We developed a comprehensive software program that predicts the pressure loss, settling conditions for complex combinations of solid properties, rheology and pipe configurations. As a result, we can reduce water consumption used in slurry transport, pumping energy costs and capital costs, and improve safety and reliability.

Modelling is used to improve thickener technology.

Improving thickener technologies

We have enhanced the performance of over 200 thickeners, washers and clarifiers, using our knowledge of how suspension properties, process conditions and engineering designs collectively determine thickener performance, and our sophisticated computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling capabilities. This has resulted in improved overflow clarity and operational stability; significantly increased throughput (avoiding the need for new capital installations) and higher underflow densities (increasing water recovery and improving washer performance).

Use of acoustics for monitoring mills

We developed a method that uses acoustic waves to cut through the noise generated by heavy machinery to 'hear' how well it is running. The technique uses an online analyser that monitors passive acoustic waves to sense machine performance.

Modelling of flotation cells

Our CFD model determines the effect of cell design and operation conditions on flotation performance. The model can be used to optimise the flotation process, aiming to improve recovery, energy consumption and capital utilisation.

New agitation technologies

Our knowledge of solids suspension, solids/liquid mixing, gas dispersion, liquid/liquid mixing and blending of high viscosity slurry has been used to develop full-scale retrofitttings on over 100 mixing tanks at mineral processing refineries to improve product consistency, increase throughput, and reduce tank downtime and cost on oxygen usage.

Our improvements to solvent extraction processes can save companies millions of dollars a year.

Enhanced solvent extraction technologies

Our synergistic solvent extraction (SSX) technology provides alternative and improved selectivity of solvent extraction processes to the point where, for example, cobalt and nickel can be separated cost-effectively from typical process solutions.

Reducing multiphase erosion

We use CFD modelling to improve the design of slurry flow equipment and gas/solids flow pipe work to reduce erosion. This increases the service life of the equipment and reduces the cost of more expensive materials.

Improved electrowinning

We developed a CFD model for a copper electrowinning cell that predicts solution flow and copper transport. The model can be applied to any system to optimise throughput and plating quality.

Case study

  • Reducing the drag in slurry pumps

    Our water and energy efficient technology for reducing the problematic 'drag effect' experienced in pipes during industrial pumping has been adopted by Glencore's Minara Resources.


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