UQ partners with seven Australian universities to advance sustainable mineral processing

3 Dec 2019

The University of Queensland is one of seven universities tasked with championing sustainable minerals processing through a federally-backed $35 million Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Enabling Eco-Efficient Beneficiation of Minerals, hosted by The University of Newcastle, aims to achieve a step-change in mineral processing by doubling energy and water productivity and reducing the amount of high value metals lost during processing by up to 90 per cent.

UQ Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) and ARC Chief Investigator, Dr Liza Forbes, said the mining industry needs to develop innovative and sustainable solutions.

“With the support of the world’s leading resources universities and Australia’s mining industry, the Centre is perfectly placed to develop the tools to ensure sustainable progress,” Dr Forbes said.

“Research will focus on the core of minerals processing - particles size - and how coarser particles can increase robustness, efficiency, and speed of separation and, therefore, energy efficiency.

“New methods of reducing tailings and maximising water recovery will also be developed, which will not only save energy and reduce the loss of high-value minerals but also significantly reduce the industry’s environmental footprint.”

UQ Sustainable Minerals Institute Director Professor Neville Plint said the Centre is an invaluable opportunity for Australia’s mining sector to collaborate on building sustainable and leading capability in selective mineral processing technologies.

“Collaboration with industry, government and universities across disciplines is core to SMI because of its demonstrated success in developing innovative solutions,” Professor Plint said.

“One of the most exciting aspects of this project is it is bringing together experts from the country’s leading universities, companies, and international research partners to advance sustainable mineral processing.

“The industry is developing economically and environmentally sustainable technology to meet the growing demand for metals, which itself is driven by the need for low carbon energy technologies required to address climate change.

“This is a space that SMI’s Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC), the largest minerals processing research centre in Australia, is uniquely equipped to contribute with applied industry impact.”

The UQ team includes SMI’s Associate Professor Kym Runge, Dr Liza Forbes and Dr Susana Brito e Abreu, the School of Chemical Engineering’s Professor Anh Nguyen and Professor Yongjun Peng, and Associate Professor Chun-Xia Zhao from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology as Chief Investigators, and Professor Neville Plint, Dr Angus Morrison and Dr Cathy Evans from SMI as Associate Investigators.