CODES, together with its research partners, has been awarded one of the Australian Research Council's (ARC) Industrial Transformation Research Hubs. The ARC has allocated nearly $4 million over the five-year life of the Hub, with a further $4 million of matching funds being pledged by participants within the minerals industry. Professor David Cooke has been appointed as Hub Director, and will be supported by a team of world class researchers from within CODES, plus industry partners.
In addition to a consortium of global companies coordinated by AMIRA International, the Australian partner organisations are Newcrest Mining, BHP Billiton – Olympic Dam, and the service company Corescan. Other organisations affiliated with the initiative include Laurin Technic, RWTH Aachen University (Germany), and National Information Communications Technology Australia (NICTA).
The role of the Hub
The Hub is entitled Transforming the Mining Value Chain (TMVC) and encompasses a wide array of activities from exploration, discovery, ore deposit characterisation, and environmental assessment, through to mining, ore processing and waste rock disposal. The main objective is to improve efficiencies within this value chain, focussing on areas that will have a marked impact on the value of Australia's mineral resources, thereby benefiting the nation's economy. The minerals industry will benefit greatly through advanced mineral characterisation methods, and innovative technologies for their implementation, which will be able to be applied much earlier in the mining value chain. This will enhance decision making and maximise productivity and profitability at Australian mine sites.
The Hub will focus on the country's highest earning precious metal gold, the base metal copper, and the main energy metal uranium. Each of these commodities has its own scientific challenges, which the Hub will tackle through three principal research themes:
Theme 1: Detecting proximity to ore (footprints).
Theme 2: Quantifying geometallurgical characteristics.
Theme 3: Predicting geoenvironmental behaviour.
The Hub is set to resolve some of the greatest challenges currently facing the minerals industry. The aims are to:
- Achieve real-time automated acquisition and interpretation of detailed mineralogical, textural and geochemical data in mine site coresheds that can be used immediately for 3D-modelling of geometallurgical and geoenvironmental parameters and ore zone footprints.
- Move the mining industry from the data-rich, but comparatively knowledge-poor, environment that they currently work in to a data-rich, knowledge-rich environment that allows for rapid decision making during the exploration and development phases of mining operations.
- Develop tools and protocols that allow near instantaneous identification of proximity to ore zones, together with geometallurgical and geoenvironmental characterisation of ores and waste through automated core logging and spectral analyses of drill core. This will enable 3-D exploration, mining and geometallurgy models to be developed that are continually updated as the exploration or resource drilling program continues.
By helping to develop more efficient and environmentally sustainable practices throughout the mining value chain, it is anticipated that the Hub will extend the lives of mines and create employment opportunities across Australia's regional mining centres.