In Technology

Queensland Minister for Innovation Kate Jones

Bauxite Mining Innovation A Win For North Queensland

Victor P Taffa

A collaborative project between researchers and industry to develop an innovative mining process could unlock massive, previously untapped, bauxite deposits in North Queensland within the next 5 years.

Innovation Minister Kate Jones said University of Queensland researcher Dr. Hong Peng had received a $180,000 research fellowship for his work with Australian mining company Rio Tinto.

“North Queensland has some of the Earth’s largest known bauxite deposits, but under the current processing system it’s not economically viable to mine all of those areas.” Minister Jones said.

“New mining process being developed in this project is a win-win, not only having economic benefits but also reducing the environmental impact of the mining activity.”

Palaszczuk Government funding of $180,000 over 3 years to Dr. Peng is backed by an additional investment of $90,000 from the University of Queensland and nearly $130,000 by Rio Tinto.

“Queensland, and particularly North Queensland, will benefit in many ways from this project.” Minister Jones said.

“Not only is North Queensland set to benefit because of the location of the bauxite deposits, but it also is home to facilities near Gladstone that will process the additional ore.”

“We are committed to backing Queensland researchers with great ideas.”

“That’s why we’re investing more than half-a-billion dollars in the innovation space to create the jobs of the future.”

Dr. Lynham said ongoing research and development was key to Queensland’s mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector remaining a world-leader.

“Local access to a world-class METS sector supports Queensland’s ongoing competitiveness as a resources investment destination.” Dr. Lynham said.

Dr. Peng, from the University of Queensland’s School of Chemical engineering, is collaborating with global mining company Rio Tinto in developing the new processing system that has the potential to open up new opportunities for bauxite mining.

“There are many advantages of the new system, including financial and environmental benefits.” Dr. Peng said.

“Successful implementation of this technology may increase the amount of bauxite that can be economically mined.”

“This will increase utilisation of North Queensland bauxite deposits and provide benefits to refineries treating this ore such as the Rio Tinto Aluminium Gladstone refineries.”

“We are excited the potential benefits of the partnership could reduce refinery operating costs and minimise waste produced during bauxite processing.” Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations managing director Bruce Cox said.

“Once industrialised, the process could extend the life of our bauxite mines and improve sales opportunities within Asia.” Mr. Cox said.

“This increase in revenues and royalties would benefit all Queenslanders.”

Dr. Peng said it would take a minimum of five years or more to roll out the technology.

“Project is in the preliminary stages of the research and development cycle.” Dr. Peng said.

“We have proof-of-concept experimental laboratory results regarding all of the key processing stages.”


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