Renowned chemical engineer, Laureate Professor Kevin Galvin, and colleague Dr Jamie Dickinson are behind the development of the Reflux Flotation Cell (RFC), which is designed to recover valuable mineral particles from mining waste streams that would otherwise be sent to tailing dams.
Professor Galvin explained: “Following mining, valuable minerals are mixed up with low-value minerals that need to be separated, via either a gravity or flotation process. The RFC has immediate application in processing material currently being sent to tailings dams.”
The RFC can process materials 5-10 times quicker than current technologies, providing the industry with an economically viable solution, for example to separate fine coal from tailings waste.
Professor Galvin added: “One of our units about two metres in diameter would process the equivalent of 15 domestic swimming pools per hour (1,000m3/h), extracting the desired materials. Conventional systems would require up to 10 of these units to manage the same volumetric flowrate. The RFC also generates a much cleaner product. This additional product is then dewatered and combined with the other product from the plant.”
Two full-scale RFC units will be installed at a mine site in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales this year, following six years of fundamental research and pilot trials carried out by the University of Newcastle researchers and industry partners.
Professor Galvin’s related technology, the Reflux Classifier, has already been deployed worldwide, delivering major benefits to the Australian mining equipment, technology and services (METS) industry sector worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
UON was one of nine grant recipients announced under the Global Innovation Linkages programme supporting the development of products that address a range of industry challenges.