CMIC wins Crush It! Challenge grand prize

CEEC congratulates the Canadian Mining Innovation Council (CMIC) on winning Natural Resources Canada’s Crush It! Challenge grand prize.

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is the department of the federal government of Canada responsible for areas including natural resources, energy, and minerals and metals. The C$5 million (A$5.6 million) prize was awarded for the best energy breakthrough in comminution, which is one of the most energy-intensive processes in the mining industry.

NRCan stated that improving the energy efficiency of Canada's mines is an important part of the transition to a net-zero future, and that finding and advancing innovative solutions that lower energy use throughout the mining process will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve productivity and help the Canadian mining industry become more competitive.

CMIC's winning cleantech solution, CanMicro, combines microwave-assisted comminution and multi-sensor ore sorting technology designed to selectively break particles and sort waste from desired minerals, reducing crushing and grinding requirements. Copper, nickel and gold ores are exposed to high-power microwave radiation for short times at large particle sizes (up to 150mm).

The treatment selectively heats value minerals, resulting in micro-fracture along grain boundaries that 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 that contain value minerals are subjected to fine grinding. NRCan noted that CanMicro exceeded challenge guidelines, reaching over 35% energy savings across several commodities.

Dr Erin Bobicki from the University of Alberta is the technical lead of the CanMicro project. She told CIM Magazine: “This is a technology that I have believed in for a long time. I've worked on this for over 10 years now, since I did my PhD. So for me, it's very, very validating that we were able to prove that that it works. My team did an excellent job.”

Sepro Mineral Systems and Glencore Canada were also project participants, while Corem, Queens University, Kingston Process Metallurgy (KPM) and the Saskatchewan Research Council provided subject matter experts.

The grand prize announcement follows a four-year intensive program that was launched in October 2018 with the goal of finding innovative solutions for cleaner, more efficient rock processing in the mining sector. Through a national call and expert selection process, six finalists were chosen from nearly 65 applicants, receiving C$860,000 to advance their technologies. NRCan stated that the grand prize winner of the Crush it! Challenge was selected through a competitive and rigorous process.

Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s federal minister of natural resources, said: “The Crush It! Challenge presented innovators with a unique opportunity to develop a solution to the challenge of energy-intensive comminution in Canadian mines. Improving energy efficiency supports increased productivity and decreased costs at mining sites, while also reducing environmental impacts and harmful emissions. I want to congratulate the Canadian Mining Innovation Council for their impressive CanMicro technology. Our government is pleased to support initiatives such as this through the Impact Canada Challenges.”