The ARC Research Hub for Australian Copper-Uranium can now undertake state of the art minerals processing research, thanks to its partnership with the University of Queensland.
The newly-established extensive and well-equipped minerals processing laboratory means researchers can replicate the majority of operations used in processing plants, with the aim of investigating cost-effective and reliable ways of separating non-target metals from the copper ore.
Processing of minerals is key focus
“Our work in the lab is concerned with the processing of minerals” said Dr Chris Plackowski, researcher at University of Queensland.
Mined ore is first reduced in size from large rocks down to very fine particles using crushing and then grinding processes. The aim is for each particle to be almost entirely one type of mineral so that different mineral types can be separated from each other.
Froth flotation is then used to separate copper minerals from other types. The results are carefully analysed to build our understanding of where the different mineral types go, with the focus on separating out non-target metals, since these are not wanted in the copper mineral product.
The researchers are also working with other parts of the Research Hub to build a detailed understanding of the ores so they can better understand how to process them.
Investigating new processing approaches
The next step is to identify and test different processing approaches and technologies to enable more effective mineral separation.
Along with the physical processing of minerals, the new facilities mean that chemical (hydrometallurgical) and high temperature processing can also be investigated.
About the Hub
This work is part of the research being conducted by the Research Hub. The Hub brings together a team of research and industry scientists, engineers and regulators focussed on increasing the sustainability of copper production from Australia’s iron oxide-copper-gold-uranium resources. The research aims to build a better understanding of large scale copper deposits and develop new, economically sustainable processes and technologies to locate, quantify and separate non-target metals from copper-uranium ore.