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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.

Compared to twenty years ago, a pound of copper, for example, produced today generates more than 60 per cent more tailings waste and uses nearly the same in extra electricity, fuel and water.

This presents a significant challenge to future mining productivity, as demand for raw materials and metals increases.

Selective mining and ore sorting technologies offer a solution.

If miners could selectively mine and sort ore by identifying high value ore and separating it from waste in real-time, low-grade ore deposits could become more economically- and environmentally-viable to mine.

Our response

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

Inside the magnetic resonance analyser.

We developed the world's most advanced sensor system for large-scale ore sorting to rapidly determine ore quality (grade) in order to reject large volumes of waste rock before it enters the plant.

The advanced sensor system applies magnetic resonance technology which detects signatures from many minerals and is particularly effective for copper, iron, arsenic and gold-bearing ores, among others.

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.

It has an advantage over other ore sorting sensors that can often only go "skin deep" to detect mineral particles on the surface of ore, producing less reliable results.

The results

Step-change productivity gains, plus signficant water and energy savings

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.

The company estimates that 35 per cent of global copper mines are suitable for the application of magnetic resonance technology – where the analyser could be applied to increase productivity, extend mine life and reduce the environmental footprint.

The benefits for producers vary depending on the orebody being mined but have the potential to more than double the average ore quality. This could represent as much as a 20 per cent reduction in processing costs in some copper mines.

Since NextOre was launched, three magnetic resonance analysers have been sent to mine sites where site-specific trials are being undertaken. This includes two top-tier producers. Another two-to-three analysers are to be delivered before the end of the year.

Early results from a NextOre trial at a mine site in Latin America have demonstrated the analyser is capable of accurately measuring ore grade in two seconds. This allows rapid separation of low and high grade ore with a high degree of confidence.

NextOre is another recent commercialisation success story for CSIRO and RFC Ambrian, who together established Chrysos Corporation in late-2016 to market an X-ray based gold analysis solution.

NextOre was acknowledged by industry leaders by achieving first place in the METS to Miners and Engineers' Pitch Battle award at the International Mining and Resources Conference 2018.

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