A research partnership between UniSA and China’s Central South University (CSU) has the potential to revolutionise process control in mineral processing, and ensure the Australian and Chinese mining sectors remain operable and profitable.
The project is one of six Australia-China Science and Research Fund (ACSRF) innovation partnerships worth a total of $116 million.
UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd says a healthy and profitable mining sector equipped with the tools to enable continued extraction of core resources is essential for the economies of both Australia and China.
“The aim of the joint research centre is to develop powerful sensing platforms for mineral processing, by bringing together experts in mineral processing chemistry, analytical chemistry, and spectroscopy and photonics,” Prof Lloyd says.
Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research, Professor Tanya Monro says the joint centre is significant recognition for a group of UniSA researchers ready to partner with key stakeholders to tackle the challenges faced by the Australian and Chinese mining sectors.
“The common objective of pursuing research that has relevance to industry and society sets this partnership on the path to success, with the possibility of generating significant commercially applicable intellectual property,” Prof Monro says.
“The outcomes of this research will be developed into practical technology by industry partner Magotteaux Australia, a world leader in applying sensing platforms for monitoring the chemistry of mineral processing.”
UniSA Associate Professor David Beattie says contributing to solving the problems faced by the mining industry is central to the mission of UniSA and CSU.
“With the challenges of decreasing ore grades and restrictions on fresh water use, the effectiveness and profitability of mineral processing are being pushed to the limit,” Assoc Prof Beattie says.
“If miners are to continue to extract minerals effectively and profitably, they need better information to control the separation processes, and effectively deploy the necessary chemicals.
“The ability to process ore with water of lower quality, which will allow for effective and useful recycling of process water, will be of significant value to miners in both countries, and will improve the public perception of the industry sector.
“The other key outcome will be human capital – the training and mentoring of many PhD students and postdoctoral researchers that will make them uniquely valuable to mining and mining services companies.
“These graduates and scientists will then contribute to the growth and sustainability of an industry that will need to undergo a revolution to survive in a global/geopolitical context of change.”
Assoc Prof Beattie leads the UniSA team, which includes core experts in mineral processing from the Future Industries Institute - Dr Marta Krasowska, Professor William Skinner and Dr Craig Priest. It also boasts an internationally recognised research team in optics and photonics from the UniSA School of Engineering, spear-headed by Professor David Lancaster and Associate Professor Shahraam Afshar Vahid with support from Prof Monro.
The partnership between UniSA and CSU also brings together researchers with complementary skills and experience from the University of Tasmania.