Resource Efficient Mining Processes of Tomorrow

In the face of increasing energy costs, limited water resources, more stringent legislation and lower feed grades, the mining industry is searching for more sustainable technologies and practices.  Metso Process Technology and Innovation (PTI) is undertaking a research project, “Improving the resource and eco-efficiency of mining operations”, to help the industry meet these challenges.  The project is investigating alternatives in mining and processing that reduce energy and water consumption, minimise emissions and waste, and maximise the value recovered from the deposit.  The targets are to reduce energy usage by more than 30 per cent and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 per cent compared to current practice.

Key areas of interest were identified across mining and processing operations.  These were grouped into the following interrelated work areas for investigation: high intensity selective blasting, in-pit crushing and conveying, pre-concentration, energy efficient comminution circuits and technologies, coarse particle flotation and water recovery optimisation. Investigations have included reviews of industrial data, modelling, simulation, and laboratory and pilot scale trials.  In some areas industrial scale trials will commence shortly.  This paper discusses the investigations ad key findings from the project so far; highlighting the possibilities for reducing energy consumption, water usage and carbon emissions. A particular mining process may incorporate any combination of the alternatives identified and requires tailored solutions based on a detailed understanding of the ore deposit, the process and local conditions.  The focus is on improving resource efficiency; creating more value with less impact and consequently a better economic return from the available resource.  Technologies exist today that can transform mining into a more efficient industry tomorrow.

This paper was presented at the Third International Future Mining Conference, Sydney, NSW, 2015. For more information contact the authors.