The Canada Mining Innovation Council’s cleantech solution, CanMicro, has been named as the grand prize winner of the Crush It! Challenge, being awarded a C$5 million ($3.9 million) grant to further develop the solution.
CanMicro combines microwave-assisted comminution and multi-sensor ore sorting technology to selectively break particles and sort waste from desired minerals, reducing crushing and grinding requirements. CMIC says the CanMicro technology can provide over 35% energy savings across several commodities.
The Crush It! Challenge was announced in October 2018 by Natural Resources Canada (NRC) with the aim to realise an innovative breakthrough in the mining industry’s most energy-intensive and inefficient processes: crushing and grinding.
The primary objectives of the challenge are to fight climate change by creating innovative technologies that reduce energy consumption and pollution, increase competitiveness by developing world-leading clean technologies, and transform the mining cycle to establish a new “future in mining”.
Semi-finalists (up to 12) received C$10,000 to help them pitch their ideas to the Challenge Jury, with up to six finalists being granted up to C$860,000 to build and test their clean technologies. The winner and innovator demonstrating the most superior energy breakthrough to crush and grind rocks was awarded a C$5 million prize to fully develop and roll out their solution.
The grand prize winner of the Crush it! Challenge was selected through a competitive and rigorous process designed and delivered by NRC.
Crush It! is one of six initial clean technology challenges led by NRC under the Impact Canada Initiative – a government-wide approach to introduce innovative approaches to help solve Canada’s biggest economic, environmental and social challenges. NRCan invested C$75 million in its cleantech challenges: Crush It! Challenge, Charging the Future Challenge, Indigenous Off-diesel Initiative, Power Forward Challenge, Women in Cleantech Challenge and The Sky’s the Limit Challenge.
CanMicro is the only technology to combine microwave-assisted comminution and sorting, according to CMIC. The treatment selectively heats value minerals, resulting in micro-fractures along grain boundaries that help reduce ore competency and increase mineral liberation after grinding. It also generates a thermal signature that can be used to sort ore particles so that only those containing value minerals are subjected to fine grinding.
Aside from the potential energy savings, which the team – made up of CMIC (Project Administrator), Dr Erin Bobicki (Technical Lead), Sepro Mineral Systems (Project Participants), Glencore Canada (Project Participants), COREM (Project Participants) and Queens University (Subject Matter Experts) – believe could be up to 70%, this has significant environmental implications for tailings.