Mineral processing – two projects focused on flotation and leaching processes.
Heap and in situ leaching
Leaching is another process for extracting economic minerals from ore. It involves a fluid known as a leachate flowing through heaps of crushed ore. The leachate and leaching conditions are chosen so that the valuable minerals will dissolve into the fluid, while the other minerals are left behind in the heap. Further processes are then used to extract the dissolved minerals from the solution. Rio Tinto is considering the use of heap leaching in several copper deposits under study, including La Granja in Peru.
The nature of the projects is that they will work at different speeds.
Computational modelling and verification to establish a fundamental understanding is at the heart of all the projects and has been the focus of the early stage work. The scientists are now beginning to move into experimental work and will eventually go on to industrial scale trials.
Some of the projects have also started to use real operational data from Rio Tinto sites.