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UON engineers a solution to mining waste

The University of Newcastle (UON) has attracted $1 million in funding to test a new technology that will boost efficiency across the minerals processing industry by reducing the amount of valuable resources currently being lost in extraction processes.
Renowned chemical engineer, Laureate Professor Kevin Galvin, and colleague Dr Jamie Dickinson are behind the development of the Reflux Flotation Cell (RFC), which is designed to recover valuable mineral particles from mining waste streams that would otherwise be sent to tailing dams.
“Following mining, valuable minerals are mixed up with lowvalue minerals that need to be separated, via either a gravity or flotation process,” explained Professor Galvin.
“The RFC has immediate application in processing material currently being sent to tailings dams,” he added.
The RFC can process materials 5 to 10 times quicker than current technologies, providing the industry with an economically viable solution, for example to separate fine coal from tailings waste.
“One of our units about two metres in diameter would process the equivalent of 15 domestic swimming pools per hour (1000 m3/h), extracting the desired materials. Conventional systems would require up to 10 of these units to manage the same volumetric flowrate. The RFC also generates a much cleaner product. This additional product is then dewatered and combined with the other product from the plant,” explained Professor Galvin.
Two full-scale RFC units will be installed at a Hunter Valley mine site this year, following six years of fundamental research and pilot trials carried out by the University of Newcastle researchers and industry partners.
Professor Galvin’s related technology, the Reflux Classifier, has already been deployed worldwide, delivering major benefits to the Australian Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) industry sector worth hundreds of millions of dollars. UON was one of nine grant recipients announced under the Global Innovation Linkages programme supporting the development of products that address a range of industry challenges.