CSIRO pours first cyanide-free gold

The Australian Mining Review - - NEWS: TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION - AMY BLOM WA

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.

Im­age: CSIRO.

A 1 ounce gold in­got from CSIRO’s first cyanide and mer­cury-free gold pour.

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