The energy-efficiency project targets global mining and mining equipment, technology and services (METS) companies, and is funded through a partnership between the Queensland government, METS Ignited and the Coalition for Energy Efficient Comminution (CEEC) International.
CEEC CEO Alison Keogh said this one-off injection of funds would boost CEEC's capacity to deliver 10 practical enhancements to its suite of free energy curve tools and extend these enhancements into METS companies.
"The energy curves, which are hosted on the CEEC website, enable mining companies to benchmark their energy performance against similar operations worldwide and to strive for best practice," she said.
"The mines are able to contribute anonymously to the database on which the tools are based. The energy intensity of each mine is presented in a graphical form, similar to a cost curve; hence, the name."
Comminution accounts for around 3% of the world's annual electrical energy consumption and up to 50% of a mine's operating costs, she explained.
Accordingly, the focus of the project is on comminution circuits, aiming to help mines find the most energy-efficient steps to break up rocks and release the target minerals or metals.
"CEEC's energy curves are helping mining operations to deliver on their sustainable development targets, particularly in relation to energy, water and carbon footprint," Keogh added.
Dr Grant Ballantyne, senior research fellow at the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC) within the University of Queensland's Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI), has developed the existing tools and will lead the energy curves enhancement work.
Director of SMI, Professor Neville Plint, said the funding agreement would enable some of the world's leading comminution experts, who were based at SMI, to continue their important work.
"Through previous work our researchers configured the energy curves to rank relative energy intensity of mines, taking into account the effect of ore hardness, circuit efficiency, grind size and feed grade," he said.
"As part of the CEEC Advanced Energy Curves Project, the researchers will expand these parameters to include ancillary energy, embodied energy, energy cost, blasting impact, comminution circuit type, global hardness measures, the calibration of fine grinding, liberation and recovery, and the variance in distributions between different commodities.
"This will provide the opportunity for mines to confidentially benchmark their performance within their business and the industry."
In parallel to this research, a series of workshops will be rolled out across Australia to assist mining and METS companies apply the new tools. The first workshop took place in Melbourne in October 2017.
Further workshops will be delivered in Brisbane and regional Queensland in 2018, and in New South Wales and Western Australia in 2019.