INTERCEPTS Tue 29/07/2014

New extraction technology may make marginal operations profitable

Mark Mentiplay, 24th Apr 2012
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LONDON, Apr 24 – Mining technology company Alexander Mining has completed the world’s first AmmLeach copper/cobalt demonstration pilot plant in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The AmmLeach cobalt/copper process is claimed to be simpler than conventional acid/SO2 process technology and requires fewer unit processes to produce cobalt and copper metal cathode in two circuits, resulting in significantly reduced capital and operating costs.

Established in collaboration with South African engineer MC Process PL, the pilot plant will be used initially to test bulk representative samples from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the majority of cobalt is currently produced as an intermediate product.

The AmmLeach process has particular relevance to the DRC, which accounted for around 53% of world cobalt/copper mine production in 2011 and has 45% of world reserves, according to the US Geological Survey January 2012.

Given the inherent high costs associated with operating within the DRC, using conventional technology, Alexander claims AmmLeach has the potential to process a significantly greater number of deposits previously considered marginal or uneconomic.

The new process may also be able to economically treat high carbonate and acid consuming ore bodies prevalent in the DRC, and which may not be economically treated using acid leaching.

The results from the pilot plant commissioning tests are expected to answer these questions and extend its applications to other minerals and orebodies.

Alexander is already using the AmmLeach technology to test recovery of copper from samples provided by Altona Mining from its Blackard deposit, part of the Roseby Project in northwest Queensland, Australia.

The test work is being carried out on samples from the oxide ore zone at Altona's Little Eva deposit, part of the Blackard deposit, which has a resource of 46.3Mt at 0.63% copper (291,000t contained copper), of which about 60% is in the native copper mineralisation zone, below the oxide ore zone. AmmLeach results for the various mineralised zones to date have shown copper recoveries into solution of more than 80%.



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