CSIRO pours first cyanide-free gold
CSIRO has produced Australia’s first gold using a non-toxic chemical process in an effort to provide an alternative to extracting the metal with cyanide and mercury.
The first gold was the result of early industry trials of CSIRO’s ‘ going for gold’ technology and was produced in partnership with small gold miner Eco Minerals Research at a demonstration plant in the WA town of Menzies.
Cyanide has traditionally been used in more than 90 per cent of global gold production, but producers have faced increasingly tough regulations preventing or restricting its use due to environmental and health concerns, with numerous countries having banned its use.
CSIRO’s technology replaced cyanide with thiosulphate, a non-toxic alternative, and a simple process flowsheet.
The technology could be game changing for Eco Minerals Research, which according to its managing director Paul Hanna, was aiming to become the first Australian producer to go cyanide-free.
“In close collaboration with CSIRO we’ve gone through the design, engineering and fabrication stages and set up a processing facility in Menzies, delivering the first gold pour in just 10 months, which is a fantastic achievement,” Mr Hanna said.
CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall described the innovation as science enabling industry and environment to be partners rather than competitors.
“It has been accelerated through CSIRO’s ON program, and could be a game-changer for small gold producers or those looking to get ahead of increasing market demand for greener commodities,” Dr Marshall said.
“Early industry trials like this are critical to innovation and go to the heart of CSIRO’s mission to tackle big, real-world challenges and unlock a better future for everyone.”
A typical cyanide-based processing plant would cost about $30 million, whereas the new technology could cost as little as $2 million to build.
A 1 ounce gold ingot from CSIRO’s first cyanide and mercury-free gold pour.