We developed a way to use powerful x-rays to rapidly and accurately detect gold in ore samples and created a new business is set to lead the world in gold analysis.

The challenge

Finding gold

Australia is the world's second largest gold producer with an annual gold production valued at approximately $15 billion.

Analytical services - worth nearly $1 billion globally - are an essential part of the mining value chain, from exploring for new deposits through to running profitable extraction operations.

In an industry facing declining ore grades, rapid analytical technology has the potential to unlock substantial productivity gains in gold mining and production, and open up a significant new market for real-time analysis services in on-site applications.

For example, gold processing plants may only recover between 65 and 85 per cent of gold present in mined rock. Given a typical plant produces around $1 billion of gold each year, this means hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold is going to waste.

Even a modest five per cent improvement in recovery would be worth around half a billion dollars annually to the industry.

Our response

X-rays for ore samples

We developed a technique that offers a much faster, more accurate way to detect gold than traditional chemical analysis methods.

Internal structure of gold under a microscope

The technique – called PhotonAssay - uses high powered X-rays to bombard rock samples and activate atoms of gold and other metals. A highly sensitive detector then picks up the unique atomic signatures from these elements to determine their concentrations.

Although the basic principles of this analysis method have been known for decades, the complex nature of the technology has meant that the technique has found only limited commercial application to date.

The PhotonAssay is two-to-three times more accurate than the standard industry 'fire assay' technique, which requires samples to be sent off to a central lab, where they are heated up to 1200°C. Not only is the sample destroyed in the analysis but the fire assay results also can take several days to deliver.

The PhotonAssay can deliver results in a few minutes without generating any of the toxic waste products problematic in other assay systems.

The results

New gold analysis company

Recognising the market appeal of PhotonAssay's ability to provide accurate, real-time information for mine operators, we partnered with a network of experienced investors and industry professionals to create Chrysos Corporation Limited (Chrysos ) to bring the technology to market.

Chrysos, named from the Greek word for gold, will initially focus on gold analysis, but the technology will eventually be applied to a wide range of other metals including silver copper and other metals. Delivery of its first high-throughput lab-based analytical unit is due in late 2017, with smaller units for mine-site operations coming later.

Once fully operational, Chrysos will provide mining and exploration companies the opportunity to respond much more quickly to the data they are collecting than they have been able to in the past, with the potential to increase both productivity and profits.

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