Stirring the ore pot with Chaos theory

Apr 16, 2010
Stirring the ore pot with Chaos theory
Experimental results (pink and blue colours) showing the development of stirring of the leaching solution in a laboratory model of an in-situ leaching operation. Green lines show what theory predicts, which matches well with the results. (CSIRO)

(PhysOrg.com) -- Chaos theory could hold the key to making the in-situ leaching process a more effective ore extraction technique, according to a team of CSIRO Minerals Down Under Flagship scientists.

In a paper published in the latest edition of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, researchers working on the Flagship’s Towards the Invisible Mine project say that a major drawback to employing the in-situ leaching process (injecting leaching solution into and then extracting the resulting ore-rich liquid) is that the solution does not always penetrate fully into the ore deposit.

"This can be due to ‘short-circuiting’ where the solution takes a path of least resistance," says the paper’s lead author, Dr Guy Metcalfe. “In addition, the mineral can dissolve into the leaching solution too slowly.

"What is needed is a way to ‘stir’ the solution while it is underground and that’s where comes into the equation."

The method involves a carefully orchestrated switching on and off of the leaching solution flow between various inlet and outlet wells.

"While the method is simple, the best solution is different for every orebody so CSIRO has developed to optimise the solution for different orebody configurations," Dr Metcalfe says.

"These solutions have been demonstrated to work in laboratory settings."

He says that, in some cases, the laboratory demonstrations of the chaotic stirring methods have doubled mineral extraction rates.

"It is very exciting for us to move from relatively abstract theory to practical solutions."

"A dramatic rise in efficiency of in-situ leaching means that large numbers of Australian marginal deposits may now become economic. That would be a very satisfying result."

A number of Minerals Down Under papers were published in this issue of Philosophical Transactions, which is the oldest scientific journal in the world. Notable authors have included Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday and Charles Darwin.

Explore further: New device could spell the end of no balls

Related Stories

New analyzers to unlock mineral value

Oct 06, 2009

Scientists are working on a new range of materials characterisation analysers and techniques that could help unlock the value contained in Australia's mineral deposits and improve processing performance, according ...

Greener extraction of one of nature's whitest minerals

Feb 11, 2008

From medicine to make-up, plastics to paper - hardly a day goes by when we don't use titanium dioxide. Now researchers at the University of Leeds have developed a simpler, cheaper and greener method of extracting higher yields ...

Recommended for you

Defusing bombs by color

May 22, 2015

This March, Cambodia held its first national-level science festival at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, attracting over 10,000 young students to the science booths over the course of three days. At one ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.