- Could you tell us more about the technology you are developing?
Argo Applied Technologies in conjunction with the University of Leicester is developing and commercialising the use of Deep Eutectic Solvents for the processing of mined ores and concentrates. Deep Eutectic Solvents are formed by combining Ionic Salts together. Ionic liquids are salts that are liquid at low temperature. These anhydrous liquids are composed of ions and are electrolytes and powerful solvents. In contrast to aqueous liquids, where the solubility of metals is limited by the tendency for water to combine with metal ions and precipitate oxides and hydroxides, in anhydrous ionic liquids much higher metal concentrations can be achieved. These high metal concentration allowing much greater control on metal speciation in solution and provide potential for high metal selectivity in both dissolution and recovery.
ARGO’s key criteria is that any new processing solution be low cost, readily available in large quantities in all mining jurisdictions, be chemically stable to allow prolonged reuse and be environmentally benign. The DES group of Ionic Liquids satisfies all of these key criteria. All DES are Ionic liquids, but not all Ionics exhibit the qualities of DES. DES are a mixtures of salts, such as choline chloride, using hydrogen-bond donors from stable agents such as urea or citric acid. These are zero toxicity, environmentally stable, with highly adjustable, have selective dissolution properties, and recyclable in a closed circuit
- How foresee emerging technologies shaping the mining industry?
The mining industry has always been looking for new technologies that reduce costs, and the environmental impact of their projects, but many of these advancement have often been based on small changes to existing technologies. More recently the rapid advances in the digital and electronic technologies outside the mining industry are being imported in process and mining operations, as highlighted by the increasing talk of big data, drones and autonomous haul trucks.
Part of the issue now is that external digital and electronic technologies are being advancing quicker that the mining industry can often adapt the changes. The industry in meantime is developing the building blocks that will be used to construct the bigger technology advances. For example in development of autonomous haul trucks packages have been developed that improve truck spotting and loading that improve haul truck efficiency.
What is rare in the industry is material disruptive changes in technology, and that is where DES technology positions itself. Processing of mined ores and concentrates are based currently on hydrometallurgy and pyro-metallurgy routes, which are often have environmental impact, including the use of cyanide and generation of SO2. In contrast to aqueous liquids, where the solubility of metals is limited by the tendency for water to combine with metal ions and precipitate oxides and hydroxides, in anhydrous ionic liquids much higher metal concentrations can be achieved. Also DES has the potential to avoid pyro-metallurgy completely.
- What can delegates expect from your session at MOTA?
DES is a disruptive technology that changes the way we process metals. DES represents key benefits for the mining industry, namely;
- Environmentally Safe: DES is represents non-toxic, and biodegradable salts. In the gold industry; this removes the need for cyanide and mercury, and for copper the potential to remove copper smelting.
- Improved Transparency: The potential to process mined ores and avoid the shipment of concentrates, producing final metal at the mine site. This represents the possibility if improving in country/ on site beneficiation and value addition, which would be expected to having a positive social impact on communities and regions. Represents the ethical sourcing of minerals.
- Simplification and Scale: Potential to use less process to recover more products – major resource and cost efficiencies. Scaleable for all sizes of operations.
- Improved Recovery: High selectivity in dissolution and recovery from solution. Recovery of by-product refractory ores. Ideal for high grade and complex ores.
- Dry Processing: Powerful anhydrous solvents that are recycled, hence reducing water consumption.
- What are you most looking forward to at MOTA?
MOTA represents an excellent opportunity to present DES to a knowledgeable mining audience. Equally as important at MOTA provides a Africa mining companies and governments a great venue to set out the incredible investment opportunities of mining on the continent.