Electrochemical interactions between base metal sulphide mineral surfaces

Project Leader: George Franks
Collaborators: Liza Forbes(CSIRO)
Primary Contact: George Franks (gvfranks@unimelb.edu.au)
Keywords: mineral processing
Disciplines: Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Domains: Optimisation of resources and infrastructure
Research Centre: Particulate Fluids Processing Centre (PFPC)

Base metal sulphide minerals are vital sources of industrial metals such as copper, lead and zinc. One of the primary steps in extracting these valuable minerals from mined ore bodies is mineral flotation. This process makes use of the differences in the surface properties of different mineral constituents to make efficient and selective separations.

One of the long standing challenges in devising effective separation processes is that base metal sulphide surfaces exhibit different behaviours when present in a mineral mixture, as opposed to individually. This is due to the electrochemical interactions (oxidation/reduction) that take place between the surfaces of adjacent mineral species.

The proposed project makes use of novel, state of the art in-situ Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy techniques to study these interactions in both synthetic and real ore systems. The new instrument allows one to study the surface electrochemical properties of the minerals in solution with the same properties as in the flotation cell. The work has a direct impact to industrial practice, specifically in relation to the selective removal of arsenic mineral species from copper and gold bearing ores. Removal of arsenic is important because it is a toxic metal which should not be released into the environment. The research project will develop knowledge useful in minimising release of arsenic.

The project offers a great opportunity to conduct fundamental research that has a direct relevance to industrial practice, with the potential to directly interact with industry representatives. CSIRO also offers a competitive scholarship to promising applicants that provides a $7000 stipend per annum to the student and a further $10000 operating budget for the project.

Scholarships for the base stipend are available to Australian Citizens and Permanent Residents and to international students through the University of Melbourne. Note students must also apply for admission to the University see the following website for information on application.

Further information: http://futurestudents.unimelb.edu.au/admissions/applications/research You must also apply to the CSIRO for the top up scholarship as below. https://jobs.csiro.au/job/Various-CSIRO-Postgraduate-Scholarships-Mineral-Resources/363485100/