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The challenge

Capturing the full economic value of ore

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

X-ray analysis offers rapid turnaround on assays

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

Powerful x-ray analysis

We developed an automated solution that offers mineral analysis data in minutes. It is a reliable alternative to traditional chemical analysis methods that can take days to turnaround results.

Ore samples are sent to the laboratory for rapid analysis using PhotonAssay. ©  Tony McDonough

The technique – based on Gamma Activation Analysis – 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.

Marketed as PhotonAssay, the solution offers a rapid alternative to the conventional, 500-year-old fire assay technique, which involves sending samples off to a central laboratory, where they are heated up to 1200°C and generally destroyed. 

PhotonAssay is non-destructive and can deliver results in just a few minutes without generating any of the toxic waste products that are problematic in other assay systems.

The results

New company Chrysos set to disrupt

PhotonAssay is an innovative solution to drive better and faster decision-making across the value chain.

We partnered with a network of experienced investors and industry professionals to form Chrysos Corporation Limited (Chrysos) in late-2016 to quickly bring the technology to market.

Chrysos, named from the Greek word for gold, is initially focused on gold analysis, but the technology could eventually be applied to a wide range of other metals including silver and copper.

Major mining services company Ausdrill became the first to adopt PhotonAssay in May 2018.

Since then Chrysos has commissioned two further units in the Kalgoorlie goldfields of Western Australia.

Chysos has also delivered a PhotonAssay unit for Kirkland Lake Gold's Fosterville Mine located in Victoria.

Chrysos plans to eventually bring the solution closer to mine sites for near real-time turnaround on assay results directly where critical operational decisions are being made.

[Music plays and an image appears of a machine in operation and the CSIRO logo appears]


[Image changes to show signs on the inside of an office “Chrysos Corporation” and “MinAnalytical” and then the camera zooms in on a computer on a table in the room]


James Tickner: PhotonAssay is a brand-new technology for measuring gold in mineral samples.


[Image changes to show James Tickner talking to the camera and then the image changes to show a machine in operation and text appears: James Tickner, Inventor and Chrysos co-founder]


It uses really high power, high energy x-rays to blast away the sample, activating any gold that might be present and then we can measure a signal that tells us very accurately the concentration of metal.


[Image changes to show James Tickner working on a computer and then the image changes to show James talking to the camera and then James working on the computer again]


The technology has come out of about 15 years’ worth of development work at the CSIRO and that work’s included both basic scientific research, commercialisation and then looking at how we can bring the technology to market.


[Image changes to show a furnace in operation and then the camera zooms in on molten metal being poured into moulds next to the furnace]


Dirk Treasure: The PhotonAssay technology can replace Gold Fire Assay in almost all of its installations.


[Image changes to show Dirk Treasure talking to the camera and text appears: Dirk Treasure, CEO, Chrysos Corporation]


We would like to see the PhotonAssay technology become the main gold analysis technique within Australia and within the gold mining industry around the world.


[Images move through of metal being taken out of the moulds, James working on a computer and a machine with sample pots inside]


Compared to traditional assay methods, PhotonAssay is extremely quick, very accurate and can measure very large samples without destroying them.


[Image changes to show James talking to the camera and the camera zooms in on James’ face]


James Tickner: Once we’ve completed all the research and development on PhotonAssay, then setting up a commercial company was the natural way for us to actually bring this technology to market.


[Image changes to show Dirk talking to the camera]


Dirk Treasure: Chrysos was formed as a collaboration between CSIRO and industry to bring the PhotonAssay technology to market.


[Image changes to show a close-up of a machine in operation]


This first installation is a huge moment for the company.


[Image changes to show a screen displaying diagrams and then the image changes to show sample pots stacked up]


It allows us to showcase the technology to the industry for laboratories and for mining companies alike.


[Image changes to show Dirk talking to the camera and the camera zooms in on Dirk as he talks]


Chrysos’ relationship with MinAnalytical was developed right back when the company was formed back in 2016.


[Image changes to show a cupboard with computer equipment inside and the camera pans up the cupboard to show a touch screen inset in the top and a display screen above]


Ausdrill has been a significant partner to us who’s the owner of the MinAnalytical Laboratory.


[Image changes to show Andrew Broad talking to the camera and text appears: Andrew Broad, COO, Ausdrill Australia]


Andrew Broad: For Ausdrill this is an exciting opportunity to be involved in.


[Image changes to show a view of a machine in operation on a screen]


It provides us a more stable platform for our earnings going forward which enables us to reinvest in the business and to look for how we can apply this technology to the market.


[Image changes to show the Chrysos Corporation sign on the top of a doorway and then the camera zooms downwards to show two males at work inside the room]


Dirk Treasure: In the future we would like to see PhotonAssay deployed directly on to mine sites.


[Image changes to show Dirk talking to the camera and then the image to show a machine in operation and then the image changes back to show Dirk talking to the camera again]


I think that there is a significantly higher benefit to a mine site deployment than for a laboratory, particularly when you can make use of a near real time analysis to improve your process control.


[Image changes to show Andrew talking to the camera]


Andrew Broad: The really exciting thing for us is how Chrysos could change the industry.


[Image changes to show a sample pot being moved along in a machine]


Already we are getting clients talk to us about how they’re going to change their process on site.


[Image changes to show Andrew talking to the camera]


Seeing where that goes is really exciting.


[Music plays and the CSIRO logo and text appears: CSIRO, Australia’s innovation catalyst]


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