Mining technology company Acrux Sorting Technology wants to use its sensor-based sorting technology to help local miners improve their environmental, social and governance (ESG) processes, as well as their bottom line, through resource enhancement, states Acrux Sorting Technology chairperson Sean Browne.
“Resource enhancement means getting the most out of your extracted resources with the least waste possible. There’s an opportunity for us to use this technology to treat discard dumps. Miners will have to sort through uneconomical material according to conventional recovery processes. We can take that material and process it through our sorting technology.”
Acrux Resources is a commodity resource specialist that provides investment opportunities through physical trading, deal-by-deal investments, ultrafines recovery and sensor-based sorting.
Its subsidiary, Acrux Sorting Technology, provides bespoke sensor-based sorting solutions that reduce the environmental footprint and liability of the mining sector while improving recoveries and reducing costs for resource owners.
By unlocking additional value from uneconomical ore in a sustainable way, resource owners can enhance recovery, and therefore profits, while improving their ESG impact.
The effects of Acrux’s sorting technology are twofold, says Browne.
Firstly, Acrux pays for all capital and operational expenditure to provide a technology solution, generally at the point when a client has already extracted a material; this helps clients to improve their per-product carbon footprint, with clients able to produce more product for the same amount of mining.
Secondly, Acrux is materially reducing the waste-disposal footprint.
“If we’re treating a million-ton discard dump and we’re getting a 50% mass yield, what’s left is a 500 000-t discard dump that’s cleaner”
Coal and Manganese
“Sensor-based sorting has been used globally in industries such as the recycling and food and beverage industries, and has then migrated to the diamond industry, where it has become the go-to technology in the recovery process. It’s not new from a technology perspective, but it is new in terms of its application in other commodities,” explains Acrux Sorting Technology MD Karel Potgieter.
Browne says that, locally, in the short term, Acrux is focused on two commodities in particular – coal and manganese.
He stresses that Acrux wants to play a role in cleaning up local coal dumps, as well as cleaning the coal material, to ensure that there is better-quality coal, which is burnt more efficiently.
Potgieter emphasises the benefits of using the company’s sorting technology for coal, as the technology does not require using water and enables an operator to see what is transpiring inside a particle of material.
While other types of sorting technology use the relative density of particles to separate materials, Acrux’s technology uses X-ray transmission (XRT) sorting technology to send a repulse signal through a particle, which provides visibility inside that material.
This technology has enabled Acrux to target the pyrite in coal, which is also a host for sulphur.
“We’ve been able to reduce sulphur by up to 70% in the organic portions of coal. This is significant, as none of the other technologies available have the ability to reduce sulphur to this extent. In a single step, we reduce sulphur and destone coal to beneficiate it, which is better for the miner and the long-term sustainability of the mine and discard dumps.”
Potgieter explains that the company also has a solution using a multi-sensor technology for sorting manganese, consequently allowing for the addition of more than one data collection point for the mineral recovery process.
“With a combination of surface-characteristic and -detection equipment, as well as XRT, we can identify particles of economic value and separate them from the stream of extracted materials. We can only do this using a multisensory sorter – an exclusive technology,” he elaborates.
Browne acknowledges that, while this technology has had success in processing applications in the diamond sector, the adoption of the technology in other mining commodity sectors has been muted, particularly for dry bulk commodities.
Potgieter, however, claims that the company is confident that it will be able to roll this technology out to local commodity sectors, including bulk commodities, owing to recent technological developments in multisensory technologies, as well as the technology’s success globally in commodity sectors such as tungsten, gold, chrome and copper.
“There’s a responsibility for the mining sector to focus on sustainability, and this doesn’t have to be at a cost. If we focus on sustainability through new technologies, we can do this in a profitable manner. To roll this technology out in the local mining sector, we have to do this on a fully funded basis with our own operational teams, and that’s our offering.”
In the long term, Acrux aims to roll out the technology in other regions, such as Europe, and South and North America, Browne concludes.