Congratulations on 100 years of supplying chemical reagents to the mining industry! How have they evolved during that time?
Thank you very much – we are very proud to be celebrating this important milestone.
Mining chemicals have come a long way in 100 years. Most mine operators recognise today that a ‘one size fits all’ solution is no longer an option. In the past, a standard set of reagents were applied, regardless of other factors such as mineralogy, water quality or processing conditions.
Today, operators understand that a suite of reagents specifically chosen for their mine site will allow the highest level of productivity. This becomes even more important at the current generation of mega-mines, where the large capital cost requires that every kilo of metal is recovered.
Additionally, we have moved beyond the days when reagents could be sold with little service or application support. Today, mining companies are relying on companies such as Cytec to ensure that products are applied and adjusted continuously to achieve the maximum benefit.
What do you think are currently the main trends?
The industry is faced with challenges related to ore-grade declines, scarcity of resources such as water and energy, and increasing restrictions to the miners’ licence to operate.
Regarding ore-grade declines, operators require more effective and selective reagents that recover not just the primary metal or mineral, but also the other value metals contained in the ore. Additionally, the current ores are more complicated and difficult to process. Our solutions allow such ores to be processed, resulting in good returns for our customers.
In terms of scarcity of resources, we are working with customers on solutions that reduce energy in the grinding circuit and, particularly in Latin America, to commercialise flotation reagents that can be used with seawater. We also have several solutions that inhibit or eliminate the development of problematic scales that reduce heat transfer, thus reducing energy, in those operations.
Finally, the industry is under increasing pressure to improve the safety, health and environmental impact to the environment and their workers. To some extent this can be improved through the application of mining chemicals with a ‘greener’ profile. We have worked with customers to replace some existing hazardous chemistry, and provide the most transparent information to our customers on the profile and the application of the products we sell.
Has the downturn in the mining industry affected the demand for chemicals?
Certainly, there has been a pause in the construction of new mines, and this has severely impacted parts of the industry. We supply our products as the industry produces metal and minerals – since the demand for those outputs have continued, we have continued to see solid growth.
Additionally, during the lower cycle in metal prices, there is an increased focus on optimising the efficiency of mining production assets, and chemicals play an important role in that. Cytec has been working with several customers in providing differentiated chemicals to improve the return of their assets.
We feel that our business model is well suited to the challenges faced by our customers. This is particularly true at new mine sites, and in remote parts of the world where we have added significant dedicated resources over the last several years.
Are there any exciting new formulations in the pipeline?
We have a very exciting pipeline of recently released and soon-to-be-commercialised products that are all geared to addressing the industry’s unmet needs. We continue to develop new reagents that target the solvent extraction of new metals, replacement of hazardous chemistry, and more robust and selective processing of difficult ores – including the control and removal of penalty elements.
Do you have any recent examples of mining operations where Cytec’s products have been used?
It is interesting to see how far our reach has extended in the last 20 years. We have always had a strong presence in the traditional mining regions. However, today a significant percentage of our business comes from customers based in locations such as Kazakhstan, Mongolia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Peru, Bolivia, North Africa and the Middle East. Customers in these countries really appreciate the supply-chain reach, as well as the capabilities of our local and global staff.