Profitable mining with minimal environmental impact
Many rich mineral deposits lie deep in the earth and are uneconomic to mine due to the cost of reaching or extracting them through traditional mining techniques.
In many situations, a desire to access valuable mineral resources may exist but the prospect of an open cut or large scale excavation may not be feasible or desirable.
In-situ recovery, or ISR, is an approach to mineral extraction which combines drilling, rock fracturing and chemical leaching directly at the drill site, creating minimal surface disturbance of the landscape.
Sometimes called in-situ leaching or solution mining, ISR initially involves drilling holes into the ore deposit. Fracturing technologies may then be used to create open pathways in the deposit for leaching solution to penetrate. The solution is pumped into the fractured ore body, dissolving the metals into the leach solution, which is then pumped to the surface and processed.
ISR has been applied widely in uranium mining and to a lesser extent in gold and copper mining operations in Australia and the USA, yet has the potential to be more widely applied to other minable ores.
Building industry in Australia
We are working with the research and technology community to develop ISR approaches for a broad range of metals and mineral systems.
We are mobilising our considerable expertise in geology, hydrology, hydrometallurgy, environmental and social impacts, techno-economics to advance specific ISR capability and deployment in Australia.
We are addressing key challenges and knowledge gaps, such as:
- identifying and evaluating ore deposits suitable for ISR
- techniques and technologies for creating direct access pathways to target minerals, and
- demonstrating and gaining acceptance of ISR as an environmentally friendly and sustainable process.
With a range of partners in the mining and energy industries, research, METS sector and regulatory bodies, we are beginning to unlock the opportunities that ISR presents.