Research Hub investigating new ways of removing lead from copper ore

A team of scientists, engineers and regulators are working to increase the sustainability of copper production from Australia’s iron oxide-copper-gold (IOCG) resources.

Work is underway at the ARC Research Hub for Australian Copper-Uranium to investigate new process technologies that are cost-effective and reliable for separating non-target metals from the copper ore.

“Cost-effective ways to remove non-target metals from copper concentrates will increase the industry’s economic and environmental sustainability” said Professor Stephen Grano, Director of the Research Hub.

Lead removal looking promising

Lead is one of the non-target metals being investigated. Working with OZ Minerals, members of the Research Hub undertook a field trip to Prominent Hill to investigate if it was possible to increase the lead removal by regrinding ore in the first cleaning stage. Due to the finer size of the reground lead sulphide, more was expected to be transported in liquid and so removed during this stage.

Initial results showed noticeable improvements in the amount of lead removed and the appearance of the froth in the first stage of cleaning.

What’s next?

Further investigations will look at whether the extra grinding has changed the floatability of the lead. This will involve Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, a technique used for the detection of trace metals, and further technical analysis to see if the lead itself has changed.

About the Hub

This work is part of the research being conducted by the Research Hub, which aims to build a better understanding of non-target metals in the rocks, and translate this into developing new processes and technologies to separate them from copper-uranium ore.

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