Ausenco sponsors Disrupt Mining

By Paul Staples & Ken Murray

4 min read

The mining industry has been lamenting for years that it lags behind other industries when it comes to innovation.

There has been a large amount of discussion on how to drive innovation but in the end, as with most things in life, action is what counts. Taking action requires courage, dedication and an unrelenting belief in a vision. In that light, it is admirable that one of the world’s largest gold miners, Goldcorp, is taking a lead role in driving innovation in the mining industry. Ausenco has experienced this first hand through collaboration with Goldcorp on several innovative initiatives where we have witnessed their dedication to drive the mining industry into a new era of efficiency and effectiveness. The #DisruptMining event being held during the PDAC is one such initiative and Ausenco is proud to sponsor this event.

In order to understand the likely impacts that new technologies will have on the market in the future, Gartner (a technology research firm) has posited a theory that most emerging technologies follow a predictive cycle of maturity which is reflected by the amount of ‘Hype’ (expectations, media and promotional attention) that these technologies attract.

Correspondingly, they have created what they term a ‘Hype Cycle’. The Hype Cycle is a branded graphical tool for representing the maturity, adoption and social application of specific technologies (Figure 1). The Hype Cycle map shows how technologies move through different phases of maturity which can be used somewhat to predict their impact on the market.

Their view is that emerging technologies go through the following phases (Gartner, 2018):

Innovation Trigger: A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.

Peak of Inflated Expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories — often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.

Trough of Disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.

Slope of Enlightenment: More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallize and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.

Plateau of Productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology's broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.

With all the media coverage, it is no surprise that a technology like blockchain is currently listed by Gartner as being in the ‘peak of inflated expectations’.

The Gartner Hype Cycle (Wikipedia, 2018)
Figure 1 - The Gartner Hype Cycle (Wikipedia, 2018)

Historically, Ausenco has embraced innovation. Over the last few decades Ausenco team members have developed several technologies that are now “entering the plateau”. These include:

  • Semi-Autogenous Grinding (SAG) and ball mills - Installed some of the biggest mills seen in the mining industry:
    • 20 MW mill at Cadia was a first for the industry
    • 13 MW twin pinion Wound Round Induction Motor (WRIM) Slip Energy Recovery (SER) SAG mill for Phu Kham
    • 16 MW ball mill at Cadia was a first for the industry
    • Cadia HPGR/SAG/ball circuit (is more energy efficient than the old Cadia SAG, Ball, Pebble Crushing (SABC) circuit)
    • Large mill evaluation studies (to 35 MW) for a major mining house
  • High Pressure Grinding Rolls (HPGR):
    • Pioneered the use of the HPGR in hard rock ore applications (incl. gold and diamonds)
    • Initial Cerro Verde HPGR evaluation and benchmarking studies
    • Mina Justa HPGR circuit for leaching
  • Energy efficient comminution systems – studies and evaluations
  • Thiosulfate leaching process for Barrick at Goldstrike
  • Implementation of Staged Flotation Reactors (SFG) in large copper concentrators
  • Sepon Pressure Oxidation (POX) circuit to generate ferric for oxidative leaching
  • Layout optimisation for cost effective design and minimisation of green-house gas emissions in the construction cycle
  • Development of novel flowsheets for the treatment of lithium-rich clay ore bodies
  • Flowsheet design for maximising flake size in graphite beneficiation

​Currently, the information published for innovative technology in the mining space isn’t classified per the “Hype Cycle”. However, we’ve attempted to provide some guidance as to where the various nascent mining technologies are in terms of maturity in a very similar manner.

The Ausenco Mining Hype Cycle
Figure 2 - The Ausenco Mining Hype Cycle

Ausenco is already involved in a number of the above technologies, either in the form of studies or pilot plant operations. Some of the most exciting areas we are investigating in the minerals processing field involve ore sorting, HPGR circuits and tailings management.

If you would like to discuss how these technologies may be able to provide additional value to your project / operation, please contact Paul Staples.