Analytical services are an essential part of the mining value chain, from exploring for new deposits through to running profitable extraction operations. CSIRO’s lead inventor of the technology and Chrysos CTO, Dr James Tickner, said this new approach fills an important market gap by providing real-time information for mine operators.
“Existing analysis methods can take a day or more to return a result, which can be a real problem if miners need information right now to manage their operations,” Tickner said.
“Our patented PhotonAssay will be a game changer, capable of delivering accurate results in just a few minutes without generating the toxic waste products which have been problematic in other assay systems.”
The PhotonAssay method uses high powered X-rays to bombard rock samples and activate atoms of gold and other metals. A highly sensitive detector picks up unique signatures from these elements to determine their concentrations.
CSIRO said that although the basic principles of this analysis method have been known for decades, the complex nature of the technology has meant that the technique has found only limited commercial application to date.
In an industry facing declining ore grades, rapid analytical technology has the potential to unlock substantial productivity gains in gold mining and production, and open up a significant new market for real-time analysis services in on-site applications.
“We have focussed on improving the accuracy, sensitivity and simplicity of the technology to make it useful for low-grade Australian operations,” Tickner added.
Chrysos’ chairman, Anthony McLellan said the PhotonAssay technology has the potential to revolutionise the industry by giving clients valuable and accurate information in real time and at a lower cost than other approaches already on the market.
“By giving our clients reliable and fast information we are increasing their potential to maximise their profits and increase productivity, even on lower quality ores,” McLellan said.
Although development has initially been focussed on gold, the technology can be applied to a wide range of other metals.
Chrysos is set to deliver its first high-throughput analytical unit later this year before rolling out smaller systems for mine-site operations in 2018.
Chrysos will be headquartered in Adelaide and CSIRO will hold a 34%t stake in the company.
Validation of the PhotonAssay technology has been supported by industry partners including Newcrest Mining and Gannet Holdings. BHP Billiton and the South Australian Government have provided funding to support the commercialisation.