We developed the world's first sensor system for large-scale ore sorting rapidly determines ore grade to cost-effectively sort minerals of value from waste. The technology can significantly boost productivity for mining companies and is available to the international market through NextOre.

The challenge

Mining lower grade ores economically

The world's high-grade mineral ore deposits are depleting and new mineral ores are increasingly lower in quality. These lower-grade ores, particularly in large quantities, are considered uneconomic to mine and process. As demand for resources increases, this is a significant challenge for the industry's productivity into the future.

New tools to selectively mine ore and to identify and sort high value ore from waste can make low-grade ore deposits economically viable. While some sorting technologies for relatively low tonnage rates have been successful, effective sorting rates of thousands of tonnes per hour have not been achieved.

While there are significant technical challenges to overcome in sensing and sorting the required large tonnage rates, the benefits from this would be enormous.

Our response

Magnetic resonance tech to sort high value from low-grade ore

Inside the magnetic resonance analyser.

We have developed a new cost-effective and sustainable sensor system for large-scale ore sorting. The sensor blasts batches of the ore with short pulses of radio waves, assessing ore grade and enabling high rate sorting.

Our ore sensor has the ability to rapidly measure the grade of selected ore minerals along short, consecutive sections of a production conveyor. Each section carrying about a tonne can then quickly be sent for processing or be rejected because of low quality.

The results

Step-change boost in productivity, plus water and energy savings

By assessing the grade of ore, previously uneconomic sites can become viable, leading to greater use of the natural resource and enormous energy and cost savings.

We successfully completed a trial of the technology with Newcrest Mining, where ore sensor technology demonstrated rapid detection of ore grade on a primary conveyor.

In partnership with RFC Ambrian and Advisian Digital, we created new company NextOre in 2018 to bring the magnetic resonance technology to the global market.

While the productivity benefits vary depending on the characteristics of the orebody, the analyser has the potential to more than double average ore grades once sorted.

It could represent as much as a 20 per cent reduction in processing costs in some copper mines.

NextOre is initially focused on marketing the technology in South America and Canada.

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