Over the past 25 years researchers at the UBC Geophysical Inversion Facility (GIF) have generated forward modelling and inversion codes that deal with most types of data of interest to a consortium of mining companies. This proposal moves the research to applications in their corporate environments, and to advance the tools and understanding about how to use the research to date in an efficient manner to extract maximum information from their geophysical data. GIFtools, the computing software for carrying out advanced inversion, was developed for this purpose.
Recently at one of its mines, the partner has experienced a period of unprecedented production. Through its automated production data gathering systems, huge volumes of data are generated on a moment by moment basis at the mine. The goal of this project is to see whether data from this period hold an understanding of the root factors that led to the high production levels and indicate best practices to be implemented on an ongoing basis. This is a big data analytics project. The project will involve applying data and advanced business analytics approaches to analyze the mines production data.
This project will combine filtration characterization and advanced 3D imaging and modelling of material structures to find ways to improve the recovery of process water from difficult-to-treat tailings that are the by-product of mining and mineral processing. This process is called solid-liquid separation and it is a critical area for the reduction of oil sands tailings volumes. Due to the chemistry and solids composition of oil sands tailings, they are extremely resistant to dewatering.
Since energy is the major concern in current and future mining operations, energy efficient technologies are a major focus for research and development. The CAHM machine was developed based on principals of energy efficient particle breakage by compression. The machine design was based on computer simulation and modeling results indicate the potential to reduce comminution energy requirements by 50% as compared to present technologies. CAHM simulations show that the technology can achieve high reduction ratios, consuming less specific power, which translates into energy efficient operation.
Cu and Ni minerals that have great economic value mostly exist in the form of sulfides, making them difficult to extract using hydrometallurgical processes. Currently, heap leaching is the most economical way to extract these metals from low grade ores. Copper recoveries of many chalcocite heap leaches report around 70% copper recovery. However, the chalcocite leaching reaction has several stages. The first stage leach is characterized by 50% copper extraction and the conversion of chalcocite into a second stage of covellite (CuS) which is very difficult to leach at ambient temperature.
Bio-heap-leaching is a hydrometallurgical process used to process low grade chalcopyrite ore as the cost of alternative routes of processing and refining are not economically viable. The limitation however of the heap leaching process is the long time it takes to leach the metal and the low total recovery that can be achieved. As heap leaching being a large scale atmospheric leaching process, neither temperature nor pressure can be changed.
The research program is aimed at developing operating systems that enable grinding mill speeds to be controlled in responses to variations in ore properties. Although there are studies that show speed control can improve productivity and significantly reduce energy requirements, mines presently used fixed speed systems for their ball and tower mills. With development of new variable speed drive systems that can retrofitted to the fixed speed systems, there is an opportunity for mines to introduce the technology for their operation.
This research project seeks to improve the process which is used to recover fine phosphorous particles from mine tailings. Phosphorus based fertilizers are important for plant growth and essential to large-scale, high-efficiency farming methods. However, the processing method used to obtain phosphate from phosphate-bearing ore is not very efficient. Upward of 13 % of the available phosphate is lost to the waste stream during processing, which represents a major inefficiency and creates a large environmental problem.
Most of the gold that is produced by hydrometallurgical processes is recovered by cyanide leaching. However, the reactive nature of some minerals questions the applicability of cyanide technology for selected applications. The current research is designed to evaluate the cyanide technology as well as an alternative processing path for a particular material through extensive experimental program. The project will yield the mathematical models describing all chemical processes in each circuit, as well as mass and energy balances based on laboratory data and scientific reasoning.
The uGPS Rapid Mapper is a laser system mounted on a mining vehicle which acquires 3D images of tunnels in underground mines. Currently, engineers use the images for mine design and operations. This research project will create two new applications for the images acquired by the system: mapping of the geology of the tunnel walls (identifying different rock types, minerals veins and fractures) and making a tally of man-made objects (such as rock bolts, pipes and ventilation tubes).