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Microprobe to closely examine minerals

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The University of South Australia will develop synchrotron-based technology that can determine the structure and chemical composition of mineral samples at microscopic levels.

The planned multi-analysis synchrotron X-ray facility Beamline 11 is for implementing on the Australian Synchrotron.

UniSA’s Applied Centre for Structural and Synchrotron Studies (ACeSSS) will use Beamline 11 to shed new light on factors that constrain recoveries of copper and gold from typical copper ores.

ACeSSS director Professor Andrea Gerson is working with an international team and the Australian Synchrotron on the design of Beamline 11.

According to Gerson, there is scope to improve processing and/or increase recoveries in copper, gold and valueless pyrite either through separation, smelting, leaching or electro-processing.

Using synchrotron technology, researchers will determine the structure and chemical composition of mineral samples to understand the fundamental behaviour of these materials in order to identify process and environmental benefits.

Three different strategies will be employed: tracing the movement of gold through the mineral processing chain to optimise and increase gold recovery; examining the surface layers formed when copper is leached from the mineral, chalcopyrite, to enhance the understanding of this surface layer formation and ultimately maximise copper recovery; and improving environmental remediation by understanding the mineralisation process during acid-rock drainage.

ACeSSS will work with the minerals and environmental remediation sectors, building on the establishment of the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment, and cementing close collaboration with UniSA’s Ian Wark Research Institute.

Contributions from the SA Premier’s Science and Research Fund, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto , synchrotron partners Advanced Light Source (USA) and the Canadian Light Source Funding totalling $1.38m are available for the project.

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