Research tipped to improve COPPER production

Mount Isa Mines is tipped to benefit from a $300,000 research project that aims to enhance copper production.

The Queensland Government is providing Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship funding to Doctor Liza Forbes from the University of Queensland's Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre, to investigate ways to extract copper from ore reserves that are considered too difficult to process because of their high levels of pyrite.

The project will focus on the mineral flotation process and developing new technologies to better separate pyrite from copper ore minerals to enable them to be processed.

The Minister for Innovation Kate Jones says the $300,000 project could well enhance copper production for many years to come, not only in Queensland, but worldwide.

Dr Forbes will carry out the research in collaboration with Queensland's largest copper producer Mount Isa Mines, along with mining technology companies Magotteaux Australia and Solway Technologies.

The project brings together world class expertise says Dr Forbes to develop new processing solutions for better separation of pyrite from copper bearing minerals to recover more of the base metal for processing, and reduce the amount lost to tailings.

Mount Isa Mines processes about 6.5 million tonnes of ore every year, providing employment for about 2,700 people across its copper production operations, including its Mount Isa copper smelter and Glencore's Copper Refineries Ltd in Townsville.

Dr Forbes says it may also lead to the ability to reprocess historical mine tailings which normally contain large amounts of pyrite.

"In the past, copper recovery technologies were not as efficient as they are today. This means that many historical mine tailings contain more valuable material than new ore bodies currently being mined," says Dr Forbes.

"If we can extract metals such as copper and cobalt from mine tailings, we can change the way we view tailings dams – instead of being a waste dump they can become a valuable resource. However, more technological developments are needed to enable efficient re-processing of historical tailings."

Metallurgy Superintendent Copper Concentrator at Mount Isa Mines Jaime Illanes Treswalt says the research could reduce operating expenses and improve production with greater copper recovery rates.

"We are very excited to support these innovation initiatives which fully align with the entrepreneurial approach that Mount Isa Mines has been well known for," says Jaime.

"We will be collaborating closely with the University of Queensland's Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre on this project and providing feedback to students conducting this important research."