2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM


HOAL, Karin O., Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, 1516 Illinois St, Golden, CO 80401, MCNULTY, Terry P., T.P. McNulty and Associates, Inc, 4550 North Territory Place, Tucson, AZ 85750 and SCHMIDT, Roland, Hazen Research, Inc, 4601 Indiana St, Golden, CO 80403, khoal@mines.edu

Innovation through problem solving is a driving force in metallurgy but historically the benefits take years to affect exploration. Through geometallurgy initiatives, geology and the extractive sciences are integrated to optimize mineral projects. Beginning with target identification, the exploration geologist must learn to apply developments in processing and to think in terms of mineral extraction. Economic benefits include reducing downstream costs related to knowledge drop, repeat testing, and assay-based metallurgy. Awareness of advances in process mineralogy, mineral processing, and extractive metallurgy enhances the value of the geologist in downstream processing and development. Metallurgical core logging identifies processing-related features such as silicification, friability, and the presence of clay, carbonates, halides, and accessory minerals that must be identified prior to significant expenditure. Materials characterization through process mineralogy integrates geology and mineralogy with mineral processing and utilizes advances in analytical and image analysis instrumentation, e.g. QemScan or MLA, that can transmit interpreted results to remote exploration teams. Mineral processing advances include HPGR, ultrafine grinding, superconducting HIMS, and flotation bubble technologies; metallurgical advances include potential lixiviant alternatives, use of pressure leach vessels, and bacterial leaching. These developments aim to reduce capital, operating, and energy costs as well as environmental, health, and safety effects. They also change the nature of targeted ore deposits and the potential return from ores previously difficult to process. Future developments may include underground processing and in-situ leaching, leading to exploration for small, high-grade deposits instead of large, low-grade ones. University students would be better served by exposure to such integrated programs to enhance their value to industry and their own employment prospects.