A patent has been filed with partner organisations for this new technology resulting from a PhD project on settling and dewatering in mineral tailing processing. Demonstrated on a laboratory scale, the next step will involve pilot-scale trials on industrial process plant. CRC CARE’s research program identified that applying ultrasonic energy to the tailings from mining operations can save water over and above current conventional technologies. This energy is applied after flocculant addition and enables further compaction of waste materials, thereby releasing more water.
Mining accounts for 2% of Australia’s total water use; small percentage reductions in water use in mineral processing can represent large amounts of water saved. Mineral processing typically needs 0.4–0.6 tonnes, or 500 litres, of fresh water for every tonne of ore ground. It is estimated that the world produces more than 10 billion tonnes of tailings waste every year, typically consisting of 60–95% water. However, it is widely recognised that the processes used to separate liquids from solids are inefficient. sonicCARE™ is at an early stage of commercialisation and is currently undergoing testing in the mining industry.