JKMRC to commercialise HVP rock breaking

Staff reporter

Australia’s Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre is looking to commercialise High Voltage Pulse (HVP) mineral processing technology developed over the past 15 years, with the JKMRC’s Kym Runge suggesting there is “wide industry interest” in the technology.

Funding from the Australian government’s Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Trailblazer initiative, part of its wider A$370 million Trailblazer Universities Program, and industry is helping push HVP into the commercial arena.

Gold major Newmont is among “several mining industry partners” supporting the Trailblazer project.

JKMRC Separation Group leader Runge said: “They are very interested in the role HVP technology could play in decarbonising operations, and a key part of this project is showing our partners that the technology can feasibly be added to their plants.

“We will build a business case for HVP usage that will quantify its benefits, then we will design a HVP unit integrating our technology and progress that to commercialisation.

“Ultimately the plan is to build a pilot plant and demonstrate the benefits of HVP at one of our sponsor’s sites.”

The JKMRC is part of the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI).

Senior research fellow and HVP project leader Dr Christian Antonio said the technology, which used short-pulsed high voltage discharges akin to lightning strikes to selectively break rocks, offered industry a meaningful step towards decarbonisation.

“Mineral processing is the most energy intensive part of the mining value chain and is a significant consumer of energy globally,” Dr Antonio said.

“By applying HVP before conventional processing begins, you can reduce the energy required to process that material at later stages.

“These savings come by separating barren rock from the valuable mineralised rocks, which prevents energy being wasted on it, and weakening the material that is left behind so it is easier to process.

“Our research indicates that this leads to a notable decrease in processing time and energy consumption, with grinding alone seeing a reduction of approximately 30%.

“The combined advantages contribute to a more efficient process, a reduced process footprint, and ultimately, a significant decrease in energy usage.”

HVP research at the JKMRC started under emeritus professor Fengnian “Frank” Shi in 2007.

“As Frank famously claimed, if you are in a thunderstorm with someone that is holding a metallic umbrella, it is much more likely that the lightning will strike them than you’,” Dr Antonio said.

“This same concept is at work with HVP technology – electrical energy automatically targets the conductive mineral particles within a rock and breaks the rock up as it makes its way to them.

“To deliver this energy we have electrified a conventional piece of mineral processing equipment that sorts rocks by size, meaning we are both zapping the rocks and sorting the fragments simultaneously.

“We see this as a more efficient way to deliver the energy while achieving the over one hundred tonne per hour throughputs required by the mining industry.

“During the process you can visibly see lightning arcs targeting mineralised rocks.”


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