PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Queensland government will provide A$180 000 over the next three years, to fund a research project to develop an innovative mining process that could unlock massive, previously untapped, bauxite deposits in North Queensland, within the next five years.
The research is a collaborative project between researcher Dr Hong Peng from the University of Queensland and mining major Rio Tinto. The university was providing an additional A$90 000 in funding, with Rio providing a further A$130 000.
“North Queensland has some of the Earth’s largest known bauxite deposits, but under the current processing system it’s not economically viable to mine all of those areas,” said Queensland Innovation Minister Kate Jones.
“The new mining process being developed in this project is a win-win, not only having economic benefits but also reducing the environmental impact of the mining activity.”
Jones said that not only was North Queensland set to benefit because of the location of the bauxite deposits, but it also is home to facilities near Gladstone that will process the additional ore.
“We are committed to backing Queensland researchers with great ideas. That’s why we’re investing more than half-a-billion dollars in the innovation space; to create the jobs of the future.”
“There are many advantages of the new system, including financial and environmental benefits,” Peng said.
“Successful implementation of this technology may increase the amount of bauxite that can be economically mined. This will increase utilisation of North Queensland bauxite deposits and provide benefits to refineries treating this ore such as the Rio Tinto Aluminium Gladstone refineries.”
Rio’s Aluminium Pacific Operations MD Bruce Cox said that the company was excited the potential benefits of the partnership could reduce refinery operating costs and minimise waste produced during bauxite processing.
“Once industrialised, the process could extend the life of our bauxite mines and improve sales opportunities within Asia,” Cox said.
“This increase in revenues and royalties would benefit all Queenslanders.”
It is expected to take a minimum of five years or more to roll out the technology.