Open cut mine

Three decades of research has unearthed a $1.2 billion better way to process minerals

In 1988, UniSA initiated the AMIRA P260 project to help the mining industry improve the way it processes minerals. Who would think that 30 years later, it would be still be finding refinements after already achieving over $1.2 billion in benefits?

Not surprisingly, it’s required a collaborative consortium approach, with the University’s Future Industries Institute now orchestrating the interdisciplinary technical and research teams in partnership with AMIRA International, the organisation representing the major mining companies.

The AMIRA P260 flotation project has created an ongoing impact for the world’s mining industries through technology developed by UniSA researchers that makes it easier, faster, cheaper and more environmentally friendly to extract minerals.

The basic aim was to improve the efficiency of the flotation process miners use to separate precious and base metals. Through three decades of work, the team has scrutinised the problem exhaustively, including examining hydrodynamics, surface chemistry, and how particles and bubbles interact, along with the innovative use of spectroscopies and chemical probes.

As a result, this has not only improved the recovery and grade of the minerals, but optimised the price they subsequently realise in the market, whilst avoiding penalties and reducing operating costs. Financially, that’s delivered the 100+ mining companies, mineral processors and processing technology partners involved a 22:1 return on their investment.

But they aren’t the only winners; it’s also yielded significant environmental and safety benefits from the reduced consumption of energy and water, and process improvements.

AMIRA International sums it up as ‘one of the sector’s flagship projects’. Managing Director, Joe Cucuzza, adds the 30-year partnership with UniSA, ‘has been extremely fruitful… the long-running AMIRA P260 series of projects has significantly improved the efficiency of mineral flotation’.

With each iteration of AMIRA P260 – now into its eighth extension with a ninth already planned – UniSA research creates a higher standard and greater confidence in the global quest for minerals.