The Australia Government says it has backed a new research centre to develop more selective and faster methods for the separation of valuable minerals.
Minister for Education Dan Tehan, earlier this week, said the government would provide A$35 million ($24 million) to establish the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Enabling Eco-Efficient Beneficiation of Minerals.
The centre, a partnership between ARC and the University of Newcastle, will be led by Professor Kevin Galvin and based at the university.
The centre will see the University of Newcastle collaborate with researchers from seven Australian universities, CSIRO, industry partner organisations, as well as leading international researchers, according to the university.
“Some minerals are becoming difficult to access and extract, while high usage of energy and water in processing make it expensive and environmentally demanding,” Professor Galvin said. “These pressures make it urgent that we transform the value addition of mineral processing, known as beneficiation, to achieve a step-change reduction in the environmental footprint.
“Through this investment, more than 70 PhD students and 15 post-doctoral researchers will work towards achieving ‘transformational’ solutions, working across multiple research disciplines. For the students, it offers a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to be part of a world-first project that can make a practical difference to the future of this planet.
“This new dawn will ensure a sustainable and competitive future for a critical Australian industry, involving a whole new generation of scientists and engineers.”
University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor, Alex Zelinsky AO, believes the research will lead to a sustainable future for Australia’s mining industry.
“We’re delighted to receive this significant funding, which will enable us to carry out world-leading research into developing more efficient and environmentally-friendly mining processes,” Professor Zelinsky said.
“The work of the centre can help propel us closer to zero-emission mining by doubling energy and water productivity and reducing the loss of high value metals during processing by up to 90%, helping secure the future of the metals we depend on for modern living.
“This is a prime example of how our university is at the forefront of providing solutions to major environmental issues.”