In-Situ Recovery in Hard Rock Applications: Idealistic Notion or Realistic Future Processing Option?

Additonal authors: Vollert, L.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:

Proceedings, Vol. Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019, 2019

Seaman, B.

In-situ recovery of metals is presently experiencing a revival not seen since early applications in amenable copper oxide deposits, uranium and generally applications where neither, porosity and permeability, nor process chemistry have been prohibitively difficult. With ever decreasing grades in current mining operations or Greenfields projects and ever increasing capital and operating costs, in-situ recovery is looked to as the processing option that will both unlock these deposits as well as potentially derive revenue from mineralised waste remaining in the ground once traditional mining and processing methods become uneconomical. In-situ recovery is also being looked to as a mining method that minimises the environmental impact sustained in the application of traditional energy and water intensive mining and processing operations where millions of tonnes of ore are mined from the earth, processed on surface and then disposed of in both waste dumps and tailings facilities. The key challenge facing companies like Newcrest is that these low-grade deposits or remnant mines are generally hard rock applications that require costly methods to liberate the valuable minerals. A further challenge includes identifying suitable chemistries that both facilitate the economic recovery of gold and copper and that may be considered environmentally acceptable. This paper presents a desktop study whereby the issues of access creation and chemical extraction are discussed and evaluated with a view to driving future research in the area and unlocking this application as a real processing option. INTRODUCTION Mining companies are increasingly challenged by low grade, deep and complex ore deposits which are no longer economically exploitable by current methods. The large footprint of current open pit operations can present obstacles for permitting and social acceptance. For these reasons in-situ recovery (ISR) technologies are receiving renewed attention as a technology which could be used to exploit these more complex deposits economically and with less environmental impact. The environmental impact may be further reduced if emphasis is placed on use of renewable energy sources rather than traditional grid power, gas turbine or diesel generators are employed to drive the operation. A potential renewable energy driven ISR mine of the future is shown in Figure 1.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019