Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Minerals processing costs likely to rise

An interesting little article in the Australian-based web site Minerals Processing highlights some of the challenges facing mineral processing at the moment, some of which will be addressed at forthcoming MEI Conferences.

Damian Connelly, an engineer at Minerals Engineering Technical Services (METS) discusses how the Global Financial Crisis has had a major impact on the mineral industry with a sharp decline in commodity prices and profitability.

Banks are more cautious lending to new resource projects following the global financial crisis. They also require better researched and optimised projects with more robust economics before approving project finance.

There is little doubt some form of carbon tax will be introduced and our energy sources will have to change. Energy is a major cost for processing minerals and the comminution processes we use are inefficient and large consumers of energy. The development of new grinding technologies is long overdue (these topics form an important part of the programme for Comminution ’10).

There will be an increasing trend to hydrometallurgical processing and a decline in pyrometallurgical processes. Desalination as a water source for processing will become more common for projects.

The tougher environmental constraints being placed on new projects will mean that some projects will not be allowed to proceed on environmental grounds. Exploration activities will be curtailed in sensitive areas and even excluded altogether.

Water is going to become a scarce resource and access is going to be difficult with an emphasis on conservation and re-use.

Social and Political issues are impacting on new projects like never before. The common cry “not in my back yard” makes it more difficult to win hearts and minds and gain acceptance for new projects.

Mining companies will be called on more and more to provide schools, hospitals and services where governments fail to do so particularly in impoverished areas.

Mining projects are only now starting to implement sustainability policies and understand the full impact of such policies. The mining industry could become a global leader in sustainable development (the subject of next year’s SRCR ’11 event).

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