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Integrated Modular Plant and Containerised Tools for Selective, Low-impact Mining of Small High-grade Deposits

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - IMPaCT (Integrated Modular Plant and Containerised Tools for Selective, Low-impact Mining of Small High-grade Deposits)

Période du rapport: 2018-06-01 au 2019-05-31

The current resource production paradigm supports large-scale and low-grade mining of world-class ore deposits. Global financing models are not suited to the extraction of the specialist metals required in small quantities for technological innovation, because it will not generate a large enough return. A diversity of mining solutions is required that continue to scale up extraction for bulk metals, find new mechanisms for by-product recovery, or facilitate extraction of technology metals from small-scale and high-grade ore deposits. However, in all cases, mining must operate to minimise negative environmental, social and economic impacts, to reduce waste, energy and water consumption.
The IMP@CT project proposes a solution that develops a new switch on-switch off (SOSO) mining paradigm to improve the viability of small complex ore deposits. Our whole systems approach centres around technological innovations in mining equipment design and mine planning that would reduce the feasibility studies required, throughput of extracted material, infrastructure, land use, resource consumption and waste. Successful business models for SOSO mining require that mining and processing technologies can be adapted to multiple deposits and commodities. Risks that are associated with the approach concern geological uncertainty, metallurgical variability and social acceptance. Within the reporting period, we have work to demonstrate that the concept of SOSO mining is viable using case studies in the West Balkans, and to understand the wider settings in which it can work globally.
1. The front end of data generation concerns the nature of feedstocks.
A methodology to define suitable small complex deposits in terms of their geology, metallurgy and resource potential now forms the basis of a framework for exploration of deposits suitable for SOSO mining operations. Field sampling campaigns utilise new geometallurgical sampling protocols and approaches to enhance resource estimation practice utilise geostatistical methods for small and variable ores. The efficiency of different rock comminution technologies was simulated and experiments used determined their particle size distribution. The methodology for predicting water quality based on thermal imaging was fully resolved and a geo-environmental model was developed for inclusion in an Environmental Impact Assessment for one of the casebook studies. The environmental approaches are transferable and will be applied to other sites.
2. Metallurgical variability controls the design of minerals processing flowsheets and modular mining solutions.
Flowsheets for adaptable processing were refined using simulation tools, testwork on gravity separation methods, assessment of flotation reagents, and the hydrometallurgy of lead cerussite and antimony deposits. Test results were translated into case study flowsheets and designs for a modular processing plant taking 5tph of feed. Pilot tests for technological solutions to process industrial water have started, and criteria for the selection of legacy deposits amenable to rapid-onset mining activities were established.
3. Mobile modular mining comprises underground selective cutting equipment, comminution and ore sorting modules, and a minerals processing test facility.
All parts of the mobile modular mining solution are constructed, partly or completely commissioned, and either deployed to the first test site or awaiting shipping. Initial tests using the comminution module and ore sorter were completed. The logisitical requirement for first deployment includes manuals, safety documentation, handling protocols, organizational charts, packing manuals, export licensing and shipping. On site preparations to receive the modular mining plant (MMP) included civil works, electrical and water supplies and waste handling capability.
Energy demands for the mining tool and MMP were compared with conventional mining systems. These were placed in the context of renewable energy availability and containerised renewable energy solutions. The ability of renewable energy solutions to power IMP@CT mining solutions was simulated and a methodology for determining the economic feasibility of low carbon mining established.
4. The social sustainability of IMP@CT mining depends upon social and environmental impacts, social acceptance and the performance of mining operators.
In-depth thematic interview techniques were used to investigate social acceptance at the first test site in Bosnia. Preparations have been made to undertake additional social sustainability research, including in Serbia. The study showed that there is a need to differente between ‘types’ of mining and a new research framework to study social acceptance and welfare impacts of short-duration mining is also applicable to larger conventional mining projects.
Definition of the concept of modern non-artisanal small-scale mining has informed framings for policy developments in mining practice to minimize negative environmental and social impacts. A social Life Cycle Analysis (sLCA) screening assessment of the mining sector in the Balkans showed that environmental load, particularly relating to energy, is dominant. A new concept for management of environmental and social issues associated with mining has been developed using safety culture maturity models. Heath and safety standards applicable to short-duration mining will ensure the safety of personnel while maximising productivity and efficiency.
5. Project integration for business modelling focuses on optimization of mining processes and definition of applications.
Key Performance Indicators for overall simulation of adaptable short-duration mining systems are defined, as a means to optimize operation strategies. A commercialization strategy is essential for a small-scale mining market with a total new mining and mining equipment paradigm. A study was conducted on the selection of a suitable business model and its application to the IMP@CT system in an unknown business environment with unknown market borders. Surveys have been designed to delineate the potential take-up of small-scale mining and the whole systems contexts in which this could succeed have been investigated.
The concepts of switch on-switch off mining and rapidly deployed adaptable, integrated selective and small-scale mining will be tested on active mine sites within the time-frame of the project. The entire mining system will produce lead concentrate in Bosnia and Herzegovina, at the Olovo mine site operated by IMP@CT partner MINECO and then antimony concentrate from an ore deposit in Serbia. By the end of the consortium project the economic viability of the mining system and the conditions necessary for its success will have been established. Industrial consortium partners on the project have their own commercialisation plans for parts of the integrated rapidly deployed system, which include patents. A dissemination and commercialisation plan is underway to demonstrate the validity of the mining approach for different European (and global) ore deposits to mining companies, the academic community, the public and policy-makers.