A key technological innovation for minerals processing has attracted the praise of the Australian scientific community through the Australian Academy of Sciences and Engineering.
University of Newcastle professor Kevin Galvin was presented with a Clunies Ross science award in Perth last month for his work on the ground-breaking Reflux Classifier, or RC2020.
The Reflux Classifier was first patented by Galvin and his team in 2000, and is presently responsible for around $1.5 billion in export revenue each year.
Galvin said that the future of mineral extraction lies with controlling the effects of particle size, to ensure the most efficient extraction of mineral from mined ore.
“Fine particle processing is going to make a big difference to energy consumption in mining.”
The Reflux Classifier separates fine particles on the basis of density and size, and improves efficiency in processing by combininga conventional fluidized bed with a system of inclined channels to achieve enhanced rates of segregation of high density particles, and enhanced conveying of low density particles.
It can be applied to a wide range of particle sizes, has greater ability for mineral recovery than other water-based extraction methods, and is used to achieve the sharp separations required for recovery of premium metallurgical coal.
“It’s suitable for a huge range of commodities,” Galvin told the ABC in a recent radio interview.
The classifier has been deployed in Australia for coal in the Hunter Valley and Bowen Basin, as well as for chromite in Mozambique, and is presently being rolled out for iron ore in Western Australia, with a new plant under construction worth $200 million, due to begin processing from the middle of this year.
“What it requires is a combination of getting the right flow through a system and getting the right geometry to almost try and eliminate the effects of those particle sizes.
“By achieving that it’s remarkable how much value you can generate.”
The patent for the Reflux Classifier is owned by the University of Newcastle, and generates royalties
The classifier can process up to 100 tonnes of fine solids each hour in a system much smaller than conventional technology.
Image: University of Newcastle