Rio Tinto and The University of Queensland have announced the formation of the Rio Tinto Centre for Advanced Mineral Sorting, to be located at the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre in Brisbane, Australia. According to Grant Thorne, an alumnus of the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre and until very recently Rio Tinto’s group executive for Technology and Innovation, “The $11 million center will focus on the development of advanced technologies for the separation and upgrading of important minerals, such as copper and nickel, with increased energy efficiency. Today’s announcement cements a long-term research relationship between Rio Tinto and The University of Queensland. This center complements and integrates with our wider Mine of the Future™ work.”
Valuable metals such as copper and nickel are becoming increasingly hard to find and recover using traditional processing techniques. New copper deposits typically contain lower ore grades with more complex geology than those found in the past, making recovery of target minerals more costly and energy intensive.
“The latest developments in advanced mineral detection systems and rapid data processing capability now make automated mineral sorting a very attractive processing option,” said John McGagh, Rio Tinto’s head of Innovation. “Our work with The University of Queensland will develop state-of-the-art approaches to sorting across a range of strategically important minerals.”
“Rio Tinto and The University of Queensland have a rich history of research collaboration, and a long-term commitment to the center solidifies this relationship,” said University of Queensland Professor Ben Adair, newly appointed director of the Rio Tinto Centre. “The center has a mandate to explore the most innovative ideas in the field of mineral sorting, and to work with Rio Tinto to develop them into new industry-changing technologies. This new partnership is seen by both parties as an exciting opportunity to translate novel ideas into the state-of-the-art in mineral sorting worldwide. We have already started to scale up one concept, and more are planned.”
The Rio Tinto Centre for Advanced Mineral Sorting will run for an initial five-year period and complements other existing Rio Tinto centers, which are located at the University of Sydney (automation) and Curtin University (sensing and materials) in Australia, and Imperial College (mineral processing) in London. The centers will work together to provide considerable and ongoing capabilities in mining and mineral processing.
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