Mineral research lab extension at Tasmanian university

Newcrest Mining has teamed with the University of Tasmania (UTAS) to build a $3 million extension to a minerals research laboratory.

The gold miner has contributed $2.5 million for the extension at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Ore Deposits (CODES), with UTAS and the ARC funding the remainder.

The university secured a $2.5 million grant from Newcrest last year to develop the mineral research facility

The two signed an agreement whereby Newcrest would contribute $1 million to the development of the research facility and a further $1.5 million in ongoing support over the next five years.

Other companies supporting the CODES research include BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, AngloGold Ashanti, Barrick Gold, Vale and Freeport.

The gold research facility was erected to use micro-analytical techniques developed at the ARC CODES to help crack ore definition issues.

Vice-Chancellor of the University Professor Peter Rathjen opened the expanded facility on August 6th.

“This is a major extension to the existing laser analytical facility, which is already considered to be one of the best in the world,” he said.

“CODES is leading the world in the application of laser ablation analysis to sulphide ores and mineral exploration targeting.

“There are very few facilities as well equipped as the Newcrest Laser Analytical Facility to undertake this type of highly advanced and technological research.”

Director of CODES Professor Bruce Gemmell said the expansion shows “a major vote of confidence” in CODES by Newcrest.

He added more than 30 companies are using technology developed by CODES.

“These include companies operating in Canadian Yukon, Peru, the great Witwatersrand Basin in South Africa and here in Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia.

The facility’s manager UTAS Distinguished Professor Ross Large said the expansion is an opportunity to further develop CODES-led breakthroughs to answer many questions in earth science.

“For example, a CODES team is using the laser technique to track trace element concentrations of gold, nickel, copper, arsenic and other metals in the oceans over the past three billion years.

“A significant breakthrough has also been made in developing a new theory about four of the major mass extinction events on earth over the past 500 million years,” Large said.

Large told Australian Mining last year the facility was erected because CODES had developed new technology for laser ablation in mineral testing and analysis.

“This technology will allow us to look at the full range of gold deportment in sulphide minerals, unlocking previously hidden or unobtainable gold.”

He pointed out gold deposits tend to have “invisible gold”, which are either trapped in other minerals or deposits. They are so tiny they cannot be uncovered.

"With Newcrest's backing we will be able to put into the lab technology that will be able to get right down to a nanoparticle level, and see the gold that may be hidden in silver or copper.

"The result may be more economic mineral discoveries in a shorter time frame with lower upfront costs."