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Strategic R&D investment can really help to benefit bottom line

03 February, 2009

Despite the unprecedented downturn facing Australia’s minerals industry, now is the time to invest in strategic research and development, according to CSIRO Minerals Chief Dr Bart Follink.

Wise investment in R&D can improve operating efficiency and environmental sustainability, thereby improving mineral processors’ bottom line – today,” says Dr Follink.

“For example, our researchers have identified that reducing the viscosity of smectite slurries could translate into nickel production gains of up to 20 per cent.”

Long term investment in R&D remains crucial so that when the current crisis eases and demand for minerals increases (as it inevitably will), the Australian minerals industry has the technology and expertise to respond and remain competitive in the global marketplace.”

Long term R&D will also help processors reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which, given the likely introduction of carbon pricing, is becoming both an environmental and economic imperative for the industry. ”

The February issue of Process looks at the latest research in hydrometallurgy and how it is helping alumina, base metals and gold processors. Stories in this issue include:
Slurry holds keys to productivity gains: CSIRO researchers working through the Parker Centre have discovered that modifying slurries being processed can help high pressure acid leaching (HPAL) operations increase nickel production from low-grade nickel laterite ores.

Single analysis solution tracks cyanide: new analytical methods have helped the Cowal gold mine in central New South Wales met stringent environmental conditions and become the first operation in Australia to comply with the International Cyanide Management Code.

Explosive find for Bayer process: investigations into ways to reduce the impact of organic compounds in the Bayer process have lead to an explanation of how and why hydrogen is produced when wet oxidation is used during the process. This finding has important safety implications given the risk of hydrogen-oxygen mixtures exploding in the presence of a spark or catalyst.

Bigger is not always better in gold adsorption: researchers using computer microtomography have overturned a long-held theory about the role of carbon’s macro pores in gold adsorption; a discovery that has the potential to improve this important step in gold production.

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