Tag Archives: Curtin University

Curtin Uni to tap new acoustic sensing tech for Australian resource extraction

A Curtin University research team will work to bring leading broadband fibre optic acoustic sensing technology to the Australian mining, oil and gas and environmental monitoring industries, offering, the university says, a more cost-effective and safer resource extraction process.

As part of the Australian Government’s Global Innovation Linkages Program, the team – led by Professor Roman Pevzner from Curtin’s WA School of Mines: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering – will partner with international collaborators to test the viability of the technology in the Australian landscape.

The project will seek to produce a suite of passive and active geophysical data acquisition and analysis techniques based on broadband fibre optic sensing that aim to significantly reduce the cost of geophysical characterisation of the subsurface and develop a safer resource extraction process, it said.

Curtin University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor, Chris Moran, said the Curtin research project sought to ensure Australia was not left behind by the latest global advances in fibre optic acoustic sensing technology.

“Despite Australia’s leading role in the deployment and application of fibre optic sensing for research, the current uptake of this technology in the Australian industry lags behind world leaders such as the USA and the UK,” Professor Moran said.

“Demonstrating the benefits of fibre optic technology in Australian conditions in cooperation with our major oil and gas producers will help accelerate the uptake of this technology in the sector, as well as the wider mining and environmental monitoring industries.”

Professor Pevzner said the project would develop technologies that use ambient seismic energy and physical phenomena, including remote earthquakes, ocean microseisms and human activity, through laboratory and field studies.

“Our Curtin team has developed, patented and commercialised a forced-oscillation stress-strain method and equipment for measuring different properties of rocks at seismic and sub-seismic frequencies,” Professor Pevzner said.

“As part of this new project, we will integrate fibre optic sensing technology into our apparatus with the ultimate aim of delivering cost-saving and safer resource extraction processes to Australia’s critically important resources sector.”

As part of the project, Curtin will work with CSIRO, Santos, Woodside and global leaders in seismology and fibre optic sensing in the application to geosciences such as Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, Iowa State University, Class VI Solutions and Silixa Ltd.

New Kalgoorlie metals research lab to pave the way for mining’s greener future

Curtin University is to open a new research lab geared towards carbon-neutral metal production paths at its Kalgoorlie campus in Western Australia.

Curtin’s WA School of Mines: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering Head of School, Professor Michael Hitch, said the Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory would explore cleaner alternatives through teaching and research that would pave the way for a greener future for the industry.

“The Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory will provide undergraduate students with practical education in carbon-neutral metal production paths, which is particularly important given they are the generation that will help decarbonise the mining industry in the most challenging area of pyrometallurgy,” Professor Hitch said.

Iron ore processing expert, Dr John Clout, has been appointed the Professor of Practice in Pyrometallurgy at the lab with Curtin’s WA School of Mines Kalgoorlie Director, Sabina Shugg, saying he would oversee a high-tech laboratory, fitted with experimental high temperature furnace equipment, capable of simulating the complete industrial process to test renewable energy and green hydrogen sources in the metal extraction process of pyrometallurgy, which currently require fossil fuels.

“Highly respected in the field of pyrometallurgy, Professor Clout will bring real-world experience to the laboratory’s teaching and research, ensuring we contribute to a sustainable future for the Western Australia resources industry,” Shugg said.

Professor Clout said he was thrilled to support the new research hub’s development as an internationally-recognised laboratory and pilot-scale pyrometallurgical research facility for undergraduate teaching and applied research.

“The Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory will aim to develop end-to-end production paths that set new standards for efficiency, value and carbon neutral management, which will ultimately support a cleaner future,” he said.

“After working in the gold, iron ore and nickel industries for more than four decades, I am especially excited to be working with the future leaders of the resources sector to find the most efficient renewable energy sources and processes for pyrometallurgy.

“There is significant potential for industry to be extracting and producing critical metals right here in Western Australia, especially in the Goldfields where there is significant scope for renewal energy production, untapped critical mineral resources, an existing infrastructure network and workforce.”

The Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory has been established as the result of a A$600,000 ($443,697) grant from Curtin University.

The new research facility is also seeking support from industry and private donors for the purchase of additional equipment and ongoing industry-funded projects.

Fortescue backs Pilbara mine site rehabilitation CRC project

The Cooperative Research Centre for Transformations in Mining Economies (CRC TiME), along with partners Fortescue Metals Group (Fortescue), University of Western Australia (UWA) and Curtin University (Curtin), have announced a new project focusing on increasing plant nutrients in iron ore waste, enabling improved mine site rehabilitation in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

The 12-month project is centred around the Fortescue’s Chichester Hub mine site and includes experimental glasshouse-based and laboratory testing undertaken at UWA, along with microbiology expertise from Curtin.

“The Pilbara region has a very thin layer of top soil which is essential for plant growth and is disrupted through mining,” CRC TiME said. “This project will formulate a process to increase plant available nutrient levels, specifically nitrogen for this study, in mineral waste (waste rock and tailings) and stockpiled soils (subsoils and topsoil) using novel plant-microbe systems, to improve the rehabilitation post-mining.”

Kirsty Beckett, Principal of Mine Closure at Fortescue, said: “This project is addressing a critical issue for the mining industry as available topsoil is a key limiting factor in the rehabilitation of large tracts of mining affected land. These areas can cover up to half of some of the Fortescue’s mine sites.”

CRC TiME CEO, Dr Guy Boggs, added: “Post-mining landscapes require the establishment of self-sustaining ecosystems over heavily altered landscapes constructed from mineral waste. Effectively and efficiently converting these landscapes into self-sustaining ecosystems delivers both environmental and financial benefits and provides more certainty on ecosystem resilience.”

CRC TiME receives grant funding from the Australian Government through the Cooperative Research Centre Program.

Gekko installs OLGA, Carbon Scout solutions at Gruyere as part of collaborative project

Gekko Systems, as part of a collaborative project to collect and analyse real-time gold reconciliations and automate gold processing plants, has installed its OLGA and Carbon Scout solutions at the Gruyere gold mine in Western Australia.

In October 2020, METS Ignited Industry Growth Centre announced the consortium of Gold Fields, Orway IQ, CSIRO, Curtin University and Gekko Systems as recipients of the Tranche 4 Collaborative Project Funds. The METS Ignited funding will assist the development of this project.

In a world-first, the project draws together a range of technologies, including the Gekko OLGA and Carbon Scout, and skill sets that are the first step to truly understanding what is happening in a gold production plant in real time and will eventually lead to a fully autonomous gold plant, Gekko said.

Gekko recently installed the OLGA and Carbon Scout at Gruyere (a joint venture between Gold Fields and Gold Road Resources), the site where the project will become reality.

“The Gekko OLGA and Carbon Scout will revolutionise the industry’s ability to measure gold circuit inventory and recovery in real time, move it into the digital world and provide opportunity for full automation,” Gekko said.

OLGA is a world first on-stream analyser designed to continuously read low grade gold grades in slurries and solutions, giving operations the ability to see and control their plants in real time, the company says. The alternative traditional sampling methods involve significant delays – of up to one or two days for feedback.

The Carbon Scout is a self-contained, ground-level sampling system to improve carbon concentration measurements in carbon-in-leach and carbon-in-pulp circuits to an accuracy of ±0.5 grams of carbon per litre of pulp. Uniquely, multiple other data points include slurry density, pH, DO and gold loading on carbon, Gekko explained. Data profiles are provided in every tank, every hour.

“The combination of OLGA and Carbon Scout, supported by the Gekko Sample Delivery System, means all CIL/CIP sampling can be done conveniently and safely at ground level,” it said. “Each tank is sampled by a patented pumpless delivery system. All samples in the plant including leach feed and tails will be delivered through this system to potentially alleviate the need for expensive cross-cut samples.”

The team of Orway IQ will deliver the data through the Trinity program. With the MillROC data system and the Gekko technical team using the data for system analytics.

The ultimate aim of the project is to have gold process and recovery data being analysed within minutes rather than days from anywhere in the world and for production to be adapted to reflect this data, Gekko said.

Curtin University ups glycine gold leaching rates with permanganate agent

Curtin University researchers say they have improved their award-winning glycine leaching technology by “significantly enhancing” the leaching rates for gold ore by using a low concentration of a strong oxidising agent known as potassium permanganate.

The Curtin team is currently working with minerals industry partner, Mining and Process Solutions Pty Ltd (MPS), to commercialise the new process.

The research, published in Hydrometallurgy and led by Professor Jacques Eksteen and Dr Elsayed Oraby both from the Western Australia School of Mines: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering, found that adding potassium permanganate to the process could solve the problems currently associated with leaching gold with glycine (in the absence of cyanide), such as the need for higher temperatures, glycine concentrations and oxygen addition levels.

Professor Eksteen said the research team evaluated various oxidants for their new alkaline glycine gold leach system, with the most successful results observed with potassium permanganate.

“Traditionally, leaching or separating gold and other precious metals from an ore deposit or e-waste materials requires the use of cyanide – a highly toxic chemical compound that is known to have detrimental effects to the environment and to the human body,” Professor Eksteen said. “Industrially, it is very expensive to detoxify cyanide, but it still does not eliminate the risks associated with transporting, handling and processing the chemical.”

Professor Eksteen said glycine is naturally produced by the human body and is essential for life, while cyanide, on the other hand, is dangerous.

“Permanganate and glycine partially decompose to form insoluble manganese dioxide, insoluble calcium oxalate, and nitrogen all of which are naturally occurring, low-toxicity chemical compounds,” Professor Eksteen said. “Whereas cyanide retains its toxicity, even in the waste solution of the extraction process.”

With low concentrations of potassium permanganate being added to the alkaline glycine system, the researchers were able to leach 85.1% of gold from the ore deposit (similar to the extraction by cyanidation) at ambient temperature and using a substance known as a benign reagent, according to Professor Eksteen. This is “quite an achievement” compared with the industry standard, he said.

Dr Oraby said the new process builds on Curtin University’s important work in this space, which has been ongoing for the past eight years.

“Researchers at Curtin University have spent years developing a new leaching process and our work broadens the use of this patented technology, making it more suitable for extracting gold deposits,” Dr Oraby said. “We believe this new process will bring many benefits to gold extraction industries, which, from an environmental point of view, is a much friendlier extraction method.”

The full paper from Hydrometallurgy is titled: ‘Gold leaching from oxide ores in alkaline glycine solutions in the presence of permanganate’.

Collaborative project featuring Gold Fields looks to revolutionise gold plant data analysis

Gold Fields, Orway IQ, CSIRO, Curtin University and Gekko Systems have come together to commercialise a complete solution package for collecting and analysing gold plant data in real time.

This is a process that will revolutionise the industry’s ability to measure circuit inventory and recovery in real time, move it into the digital world and provide opportunity for full automation, according to Gekko.

Earlier this month, METS Ignited Industry Growth Centre announced the consortium as recipients of the Tranche 4 Collaborative Project Funds. The METS Ignited funding will assist the development of a system to collect and analyse real-time gold reconciliations and automate gold processing plants by providing the technology, software, skills and expertise to the miners as an integrated package.

“In a world-first, the project draws together a range of technologies and skill sets that are the first step to truly understanding what is happening in a gold production plant in real time and will eventually lead to a fully autonomous gold plant,” Gekko said.

METS Ignited CEO, Adrian Beer, said the project funding is supporting the commercialisation of innovation developed in partnership with industry, research and Australia’s mining equipment technology and services (METS) companies.

“The METS Ignited Collaborative Project Funds are a catalyst for industry collaboration to enable commercial pathways for Australian technology to deliver global results,” he said.

Gold Field’s Processing Projects Coordinator, Matt Dixon, said the value of this collaboration was having information available in real time to make decisions.

“The METS Ignited project is looking to integrate multiple technologies to achieve a step change in the automation and optimisation of gold processing,” he said. “Recent innovations by CSIRO and Curtin University, in partnership with Gekko Systems, are now making the potential to monitor gold in real time a reality.”

Gold Fields has chosen the Gruyere gold mine (owned 50:50 with Gold Road Resources) as the site to install and test these technologies, according to Dixon.

“Combining the OLGA (OnLine Gold Analyser, pictured) and Carbon Scout, with newly developed data capture and analytics technologies, aims to provide a step change to how we measure, monitor and optimise gold recovery,” he said.

This is a “world-first project”, creating a technological capability that does not yet exist anywhere else in the gold sector, according to Dixon.

The project will address current difficulties in accounting for gold during production, lag times in assessing data and adapting procedures to maximise production from the data provided and the safety around a number of those procedures.

The ultimate aim is to have gold process and recovery data being analysed within minutes rather than days from anywhere in the world and for production to be adapted to reflect this data, Gekko said.

CRC ORE’s Kal Hub integrated into Curtin University’s WA School of Mines

The Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mining Innovation Hub, an initiative of the Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE), has, this week, transitioned to be part of Curtin University’s Western Australian School of Mines (WASM).

The Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mining Innovation Hub has been operating out of the Chamber of Mines and Energy (CME) office in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, since 2018. It was established in the renowned Goldfields mining community thanks to a partnership between CRC ORE, Curtin University, the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia, the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and CME.

CRC ORE Chief Operating Officer, Dr Luke Keeney, said he was pleased that the Kal Hub has become part of WASM and will continue this collaborative innovation.

“We are proud of what has been achieved through the Kal Hub since its inception and look forward to seeing great things under its new stewardship,” Dr Keeney said. “It is an optimal outcome that Curtin University, one of our valued Research Participants and key partner in the hub to date, is ensuring the future of the Kal Hub as a centre of mining innovation for Western Australia and beyond.”

Curtin University Kalgoorlie Campus Director, Sabina Shugg, said the Kal Hub is a welcome addition to the local campus.

“The Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mining Innovation Hub is growing in stature and already has strong ties to the University, WASM and the local community,” Shugg said. “It is fitting that the Kal Hub is now operated locally to focus on innovations and solutions for the local mining industry.”

Reflecting on the hub and its achievements while operating as a node of CRC ORE, Dr Keeney said the flagship Integrated Screening and Particle Sorting project was a standout.

“This collaborative study with Australian mining companies BHP, Norton Gold Fields and Saracen on the integration of screening and particle sorting techniques is delivering benefits across the resources sector,” Dr Keeney said. “Run through the hub, this study developed a robust and scientifically rigorous framework for collecting, testing and reporting results for integrated screening and particle sorting techniques in a variety of ore domains.”

Dr Keeney said the hub creates opportunities for innovation, collaboration, employment and education.

“We’re particularly proud of being able to engage students – mining’s future brightest minds, with the hub through the vacation student program,” he said.

As part of the transition, Kal Hub Technical Adviser, Dr Laurence Dyer, now works full time for Curtin University. He divides his time between hub projects and his existing role as Curtin’s Discipline Lead for Metallurgical Engineering.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to support collaborative innovation throughout the Goldfields region and beyond,” Dr Dyer said.

Curtin University is planning several new initiatives for the Kal Hub including scaling up an existing major water management project and new partnerships with leading mining technology providers.

Fortescue to bring automation expertise to Curtin University WASM curriculum

A new partnership between Fortescue Metals Group and Curtin University’s WA School of Mines (WASM) will, FMG says, help shape the future of Australia’s mining workforce through a new forward-looking curriculum that meets the needs of the modern resources sector.

Fortescue Operations Improvement Manager, Dr Rob Solomon (pictured), has been appointed to the newly created role of Professor of Practice in Mining Automation and Data Analysis at WASM, leading a range of research initiatives and shaping undergraduate curriculum to drive the application of data science in mining, according to Fortescue.

In his current role with Fortescue, Dr Solomon leads a team looking into the operational efficiency of the company’s autonomous mining operations using data sets and advanced analytics.

Fortescue Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, said: “At Fortescue, we have a proud history of embracing technology and innovation which has been fundamental to driving sustained productivity, cost savings and improvements in safety across our business.

“The Australian resources sector is already among the most innovative in the world and through this partnership with Curtin University, we look forward to building a pipeline of job-ready graduates who are ready to challenge the status quo and help guarantee the long-term success of our industry.”

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor, John Cordery, said the Mining Automation Professor of Practice will be integral to embedding WASM’s new future-focused curriculum.

“Dr Solomon brings a wealth of practical experience in operations, impressive academic credentials and a passion for ensuring that new technologies deliver a sustainable industry future,” Professor Cordery said. “His appointment will see us better able to deliver both content and teaching in mining automation and data analytics.

“The school’s mining and mining engineering courses are already considered among the world’s very best (ranking second in the world by subject) and we are confident Dr Solomon’s input as Professor of Practice in Mining Automation and Data Analysis will see us continue to be global leaders in those fields.”

BHP and Curtin University to explore ‘environmental DNA’ in latest partnership

Curtin University and BHP have joined forces in a new partnership to develop research and innovation projects and, Curtin says, support the higher education of emerging leaders.

BHP has committed to working side-by-side with Curtin to apply innovative thinking, world-class expertise and novel solutions to shape the future of the resources and energy sector and produce job-ready graduates to focus on some of the big challenges of the future, the university said.

One of the initial BHP-Curtin alliance projects involves five research studies that will use environmental DNA (eDNA) to help the preservation of species and conservation of important marine features.

Named the eDNA for Global Environment Studies (eDGES), the projects include research to improve monitoring of the endangered/rare Pilbara Olive Python and high-altitude wetlands of international importance in Chile, and develop new tests to detect invasive marine species relevant to closure of infrastructure in the marine environment.

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor, Deborah Terry (pictured on the right with BHP Head of Corporate Affairs, Meath Hammond), said the wide-reaching partnership will deepen an already proven relationship.

“BHP has been a generous supporter of Curtin and Curtin students for more than a decade through a range of successful scholarship and partnership programs,” Professor Terry said. “This new BHP-Curtin alliance builds on that established mutual respect and shared commitment to innovation through collaboration.

“This partnership will allow industry to interact with students, researchers and academics to produce job-ready graduates. In partnership, we are committed to leading the world with our research and study programs to achieve sustainable, positive change across industries and sectors.”

She added: “Our researchers are already working to find solutions to our real world challenges. Our experts in science, engineering and data science are at the forefront of new materials, new manufacturing methods and artificial intelligence. It’s this expertise, innovative thinking and vision for the future that Curtin will bring to our alliance with BHP.”

BHP Acting Asset President Western Australia Iron Ore, Tim Day, said the company was looking forward to working closely with Curtin across a wide range of projects.

“We each have global footprints and proud histories of driving innovation and this partnership gives us both the opportunity to learn from each other to genuinely make an impact,” Day said.

“This is a great opportunity to advance technology together, as we look to the future of work.”

The scope of the BHP-Curtin alliance is broad and will also include scholarships and alumni programs, enabling programs to position BHP as an employer of choice and support access to education from remote areas, internships, work-integrated learning opportunities, professional development opportunities for BHP staff, as well as community programs and research initiatives focusing on mining modernisation, automation and sustainability, Curtin said.

PYBAR encourages next generation of miners with scholarship program

PYBAR says it has introduced a new scholarship in partnership with the Curtin University Western Australian School of Mines (WASM) to support a full-time student doing a resource-related undergraduate degree.

The PYBAR Scholarship for Engineering Excellence will be offered to an eligible second-year student studying either a Bachelor of Engineering (Mining Engineering) or Bachelor of Science (Mining) delivered at the WASM campus in Kalgoorlie.

The scholarship is worth A$10,000/y ($5,761/y) over a maximum period of three years and will be awarded to a suitable applicant this year, the contract miner said.

The scholarship furthers PYBAR’s commitment to facilitating skills development and training in the mining sector, which has experienced a decline in the number of engineering students or graduates in recent years, it said. PYBAR has sponsored the WASM Graduates Association for the past four years, prior to converting to this new scholarship arrangement.

PYBAR Chief Executive Officer, Brendan Rouse, said: “This new scholarship forms part of our efforts to contribute to the long-term future of the mining industry in Australia.

“We believe we have a responsibility to nurture future generations of mining professionals and we take this very seriously. WASM has a strong reputation for excellence with many of its graduates employed in the Australian mining sector. We would like to give a deserving student a similar opportunity.”

PYBAR has several other skill development initiatives in place, including an active graduate program and annual vacation work opportunities for students at its various sites, it said. The new WASM scholarship enhances and supports these activities.

In 2019, PYBAR established the Australian Institute of Mining (AIM), a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) providing nationally-accredited training to support people and services improvement across the underground mining sector.